Rock Discoveries

Treasure Troves: Rocks and Minerals of the Pacific Northwest

Hidden deep within the Pacific Northwest are treasure troves of rocks and minerals that are coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike. From the rare multi-colored

Oregon Sunstones to beautiful agates and jasper, these stones tell the geological story of the region and provide a glimpse into the centuries of volcanic activity that have shaped the Pacific Northwest.

In this article, well take a closer look at some of the fascinating rocks and minerals found in this region.

Oregon Sunstone

If youre looking for a rare and stunning stone,

Oregon Sunstone sure fits the bill. Known for its gorgeous shades of copper, gold, and salmon pink, this plagioclase feldspar has gained in popularity in recent years.

But it’s not just the color that makes

Oregon Sunstone unique. This gemstone has an effect known as Schiller Effect, which causes a metallic luster to appear on the stone’s surface.

The effect comes from light reflecting off microscopic copper inclusions within the stone.

Oregon Sunstones cousin, labradorite, also possesses this effect.

Still, the Oregon variety is even more special because of the unique copper inclusions that create colors in the stone. But don’t let the term sunstone mislead you into thinking it’s only beautiful in sunlight.

Oregon Sunstone is one of the few gemstones that display this effect in all light conditions. The gemstone’s biggest market is in jewelry as the stone’s perfect cleavage and color make unique, eye-catching pieces.

Extra excitement about the Sunstone erupted when famous jewelry designer John Dyer used it in his work, further popularizing this unique gemstone.


Formed from rapidly cooling lava, obsidian is like glass in that it has no crystal structure. It was used extensively by native tribes for its ease of flaking and shar-pness to make cutting tools and arrowheads.

Its a popular stone of choice for many craftsmen and artists, as the rainbow variety displays an iridescent spectrum of colors. Glass Butte, located in Central Oregon, is a great place to find colorful obsidian rocks.

Some obsidian rocks have even been used in surgical knives because of the bacteria-resistant nature of the stone.

Petrified Wood

Over time, wood can petrify, turning it into stone. Petrified wood comes in a variety of browns, reds, and in rare cases, colors like opal and chalcedony.

Iron and copper create color bands in the petrified wood, signifying different regions of an ancient forest. Hampton Buttes, a section of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Eastern Oregon, is a great example of a vast field filled with petrified wood.


Jade derives its color from minerals like pyroxene, nephrite, and jadeite. The famous Oregon

Jade deposit comes from the opal and green jasper of the Pacific Coast beaches.

It is a popular material used in carvings and jewelry, as its specific gravity makes it harder than most stones. Another fine location for discovering jade is the northern part of Whidbey Island, near Anacortes, Washington.


Opal is an amorphous form of silica occurring in microscopic spheres, creating a scintillating internal fire when viewed in sunlight. Precious opal displays this effect of fire, highly desired for use in jewelry.

When the opal is more uniform, its known as common opal. Oregon has two famous opal mines for visitors to check out, the Spencer

Opal Mine and the Juniper Ridge

Opal Mine.


Quartz and amethyst can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest in colors such as white, gray, purple, and smoky. Quartzs pyramidal termination sets it apart as a collector’s piece.

It’s also a popular choice for carving and jewelry. Moganite is often mixed with iron to create deep red variations as well.

The mother lode of amethyst can be found in Boise County, Idaho, and the surrounding areas of Washington and Oregon. Agate/Jasper/Chalcedony

Agate, jasper, and chalcedony are all varieties of chalcedony, looking waxy and smooth.

Hampton Butte and Owyhee Mountain are two significant areas for collectors to gather a wide variety of these stones. Through the use of a rock saw, you can cut through these rocks to see vividly colored and patterned insides, known as thundereggs.

Geodes, as theyre also referred to, can be found in several regions of the Pacific Northwest, but Bruneau Canyon in Ochoco National Forest is an excellent spot known for their pink opal thundereggs.

Placer Gold

Gold often hides in the creeks and streams of the Pacific Northwest as a secondary deposit, originating from erosion over time. The Skagit River in Washington is one of many hotspots in the region for panning for gold.

While not nearly as abundant as the gold fields of Nevada or Alaska, the purity levels of the gold can be exceptionally high, great news for those looking to sell.


With so many different types of rocks and minerals found in the Pacific Northwest, there is no shortage of options for enthusiasts and collectors. Whether you’re after aesthetic beauty or scientific intrigue, the Pacific Northwest region has something to offer.

These rocks and minerals tell the geological tale of this region and provide insight into the natural history of the Pacific Northwest. So dive into these treasure troves and see what hidden gems are waiting for you.

Obsidian: The Volcanic Glass

Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed by the rapid cooling of magma.

Obsidian is primarily composed of silica, but it may contain other minerals as well.

The physical properties of obsidian vary, depending on the regions from where it originates. The color of the obsidian usually appears black, but it can also be brown, green, red, gray, and even transparent.

The most remarkable attribute of obsidian is that it will fracture with very sharp edges, often referred to as “conchoidal flakes.”


Obsidian in the Pacific Northwest

Rainbow obsidian, a type of obsidian with rainbow-like reflections, is also present in the Pacific Northwest. The rainbow-like reflections in the stone are sometimes referred to as chatoyancy.

Rainbow obsidian forms when gas trapped in the lava creates air pockets, which then cool down and form a pearl or a sheen over time, creating the effect. Rainbow obsidian can be found at Yellowstone National Park, California, and in the Pacific Northwest.

Uses of


Obsidian has been used for centuries for various purposes, including tools, weapons, and jewelry. Due to its smooth texture and edge, it is ideal for cutting, slicing, and peeling, making it useful as a surgical blade.

Obsidian is also a popular material for fine arts, as sculptors and artists can use its smooth, sharp edges and beautiful colors in unique applications. Finding

Obsidian in Glass Butte

One of the most popular locations to find obsidian is Glass Butte, located in central Oregon.

Glass Butte has a vast supply of colors and variations, including different shades of black, white, brown, and green. For those who are interested in mining their own rocks, Glass Butte has several sites where enthusiasts can dig for obsidian.

Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is another natural treasure that can be found in the Pacific Northwest. Petrified wood is a type of fossil in which all the organic material has been replaced by minerals, leaving behind a rock-hard duplicate of the tree.

The minerals that replace the wood determine the color and pattern of the fossil. Petrified wood has a distinct look, with the patterns of the wood still visible in the rock.

Colors and Types of

Petrified Wood

The colors and types of petrified wood vary depending on the mineral composition of the soil. In general, brown and red shades are more common than other colors, but petrified wood can also have green, purple, or blue hues.

Opal and chalcedony, minerals with finely divided silica, are commonly associated with these unique petrified wood colors. Petrified wood can be found in a variety of types, including agatized, opalized, and silicified wood.


Petrified Wood

Green-colored petrified wood is a rare and highly sought-after variety. It is due to the presence of copper minerals in the soil where the tree once stood.

Copper imparts the unique green hue to the wood. The copper and iron minerals may also create a crystalline texture to the surrounding rock, adding to its beauty.

Locations to Find

Petrified Wood

The best place to find petrified wood in the Pacific Northwest is Hampton Buttes, located in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Eastern Oregon. The area is famous for its exceptional quality and abundance of petrified wood.

Another location where petrified wood can be found is in the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, which is located 13 miles from Vantage, Washington.


The Pacific Northwest is a treasure trove of rare and beautiful natural gemstones, and obsidian and petrified wood are just two examples that highlight the region’s unique geological history. These stones have been coveted for centuries for their aesthetic and practical purposes.

Obsidian’s versatility and sharpness make it the perfect material for a range of applications, from cutting tools to fine art, while petrified wood’s colors and patterns are stunning and unique. If you’re looking for a piece of geological history to add to your collection, the Pacific Northwest is an excellent place to start.

Jade: The Stone of Royalty

Jade is a distinct type of mineral made up of two separate types of stones: jadeite and nephrite.

Jadeite is the rarer of the two and is not typically found in the Pacific Northwest.

Nephrite is the more common variety and can be found throughout the region.

Jade is a hard, tough stone with a smooth texture, often used in carvings, jewelry, and other decorative objects.

Types of


Jadeite and nephrite are the two types of jade, but there are many variations within each type. Both stones can range in color from pale green to deep emerald green, with some stones also featuring brown or yellow tones.

The color and quality of jade are primarily determined by the minerals present in the stone. Identifying


Identifying jade can be tricky as there are many look-alike stones that can be easily mistaken for jade.

The best way to identify jade is by its specific gravity.

Jade has a specific gravity that’s greater than most other stones, which means it’s denser and therefore heavier for its size.

You can also look for the smoothness and coolness of the stone.

Jade has a silky-smooth texture and will feel cool to the touch.


Jade in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest has a rich history of jade mining, and there are several locations in the region where jade can be found. The northern part of Whidbey Island, Washington, and the beaches of Oregon are two popular spots for finding jade in the region.

Opal: The Stone of Miracles

Opal is a beautiful and unique mineral formed from tiny spheres of silica. It naturally occurs in two forms: precious opals and common opals.

Precious opals are highly sought-after and prized for their stunning internal reflections and iridescence. In contrast, common opals are translucent to opaque with a milky white or pale blue color.

Types of


Precious opal is divided into three types: white opal, black opal, and fire opal. White opals have a more translucent or milky white appearance, while black opals are the most valuable and feature a darker, more intense background color with colorful flashes.

Fire opals have a red, yellow, or orange background color and exhibit vivid cherry-red flashes. Common opals are typically found in varying shades of white, gray, and blue.

Rarity of Precious


Precious opal is incredibly rare, making it highly valuable and sought-after by gemstone collectors and jewelry designers alike. Only about five percent of all opals mined are classified as precious opals, and the majority of those come from Australia.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its common opals, but precious opals have also been found in small quantities. Finding Precious

Opal in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho

The Pacific Northwest is a well-known location for finding opals, but precious opals are much rarer than common opals in this region.

The Spencer

Opal Mine in Idaho and the Juniper Ridge

Opal Mine in Oregon are two of the areas best known mines for opals. Another location where precious opals have been found is the

Opal Queen mine near Denio, Nevada, which is close to the Oregon border.


The Pacific Northwest is a land of natural treasures, and jade and opal are two of the region’s most beautiful gems.

Jadeite and nephrite are both types of jade found in the region, revered for their durability and beauty.

Precious opal is a rare and highly sought-after gemstone, valued for its unique characteristics and internal iridescence. Whether you’re a collector or a jewelry designer, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to search for these gorgeous stones.

Quartz/Amethyst: Crystals of Clarity and Protection

Quartz is a mineral made up of silicon and oxygen atoms, and its many varieties are some of the most widely used gemstones in the world. Amethyst is a variety of quartz with a purple color due to the presence of iron.

Together, these stones are known for their clarity, protection, and healing properties.

Characteristics of Quartz and Amethyst

In its purest form, quartz is colorless and transparent, but it can also come in other colors such as pink, yellow, and brown. Amethyst is mainly known for its purple color, but it

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