Rock Discoveries

Unearthing Idaho’s Hidden Gemstones: A Guide to Rockhounding

Discovering Idaho’s Hidden Gems: A Guide to Finding Gemstones in Idaho

Idaho is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, from clear blue lakes to rugged mountains and vast forests. However, this hidden gem of a state is also home to a variety of precious and semi-precious gemstones.

If you’re a collector or simply interested in the natural wonders of the world, then allow us to take you on a journey through the gemstones of Idaho. Star Garnets- Idaho’s Unique Gemstone

The star garnet is a unique gemstone found only in Idaho’s panhandle region.

This rare variety of garnet exhibits asterism, a distinctive six-rayed star that appears to glide across the surface of the stone when moved. The star garnet is formed in a metamorphic rock called schist when two types of garnet grow together in a single crystal.

Idaho is the only place in the world where star garnets are found in any quantity, making them a desirable addition to any gemstone collection. The most famous source for star garnets in Idaho is the Emerald Creek Garnet Area, situated in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

This public site allows visitors to search for their own star garnets, making it an exciting adventure for rockhounds of all ages.

Opal – A Sparkling Gemstone from Idaho

Spencer, Idaho, is home to one of the few operating opal mines in North America. The Opal Mountain Mine produces high-quality opals in various colors, including white, pink, and blue.

Found mostly in volcanic rocks, opals have a unique structure that allows them to diffract light and produce a variety of colors. Opals are a popular choice for jewelry due to their stunning and unique appearance.

If you’re interested in mining your own opals, the Gem Trails of Idaho book by Garret Romaine provides excellent information and maps of the state’s opal locations.

Gypsum- A Rare Beauty Hidden in Road Cuts

Gypsum may not be the most widely known gemstone, but it is certainly a beautiful and sought-after mineral. Selenite, a transparent variety of gypsum, forms beautiful clear crystals that reflect light and create a stunning visual effect.

Gypsum is formed by the evaporation of saltwater, and Idaho has several locations where this mineral can be found. One of the best places to find gypsum in Idaho is in Bannock County, where road cuts along Hwy 95 expose layers of this beautiful mineral.

While collecting is not allowed in these areas, there are several quarries in the county where selenite crystals can be purchased.

Pumice – A Volcanic Stone with a Unique Appearance

Pumice is a lightweight, porous rock formed in volcanoes when frothy lava cools rapidly and traps gas bubbles inside. This creates a unique texture that is sought after by collectors and used in various industries, such as horticulture and construction.

Idaho is home to several pumice mines, with the most notable being near Mount St. Helens. The white color of Idaho’s pumice makes it an attractive addition to any collection, and its porous nature makes it useful in various ways, such as in exfoliating beauty products.

Petrified Wood – An Ancient Treasure

Petrified wood is a fossilized form of wood, where the organic matter has been replaced with mineral substances over time. This process can take millions of years, resulting in a unique and beautiful gemstone that reflects the natural beauty of Idaho’s forests.

Challis and Spar Canyon are two locations in Idaho where agatized petrified wood can be found in great quantity. The agate infusion of the petrified wood creates a stunning pattern of colors, making it a valuable addition to any collection.

Agate/Jasper/Chalcedony – A Trio of Gemstones

Agate, jasper, and chalcedony are all mineral forms of quartz, each with its own unique appearance. Agates often feature striking banding patterns, while jasper generally has a solid coloration and chalcedony is translucent.

One of the best places to find these gemstones in Idaho is along the streams and in the gravels of the creeks. Graveyard Plume agates, in particular, are highly sought after by collectors due to their unique patterns and colors.

Aquamarine – A Gemstone from the Wilderness Area

Aquamarine is a blue variety of beryl, the same mineral that produces emeralds. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain Range is home to a significant deposit of gem-quality aquamarine, making it a desirable location for collectors.

The area where aquamarine can be found is within the wilderness area, meaning it is only accessible to experienced hikers and rockhounds. Additionally, due to the location’s protected status, collecting is not allowed, making it a precious treasure for any collector lucky enough to hold one.

Feldspar – The Clear Crystal

Feldspar is a common mineral found all over the world, but in Idaho, several locations produce a unique variety of clear crystals that make them a valuable addition to a mineral collection. Orthoclase is the name for this clear variety and can be found in several areas, including Camas and Latah counties.

One of the most notable locations for collecting feldspar is Corral Creek, where the mineral can be found in large crystals. Feldspar is often used in the making of ceramics, jewelry, and electrical components, making it a valuable and useful mineral.

Garnet – Panning for Buried Treasure

Alluvial deposits in Idaho are the source for Almandine garnets, a beautiful deep-red gemstone. Collectors can find these treasures by panning the creeks and streams that run through the area.

Garnets are formed in metamorphic rocks, just like the star garnets, but without the unique asterism.

Final Thoughts

Idaho may be known for its wild natural beauty, but it’s also home to a variety of precious and semi-precious gemstones. From the rare and unique star garnets to the sparkling opals and the beautiful petrified wood, Idaho’s hidden gems are a treasure worth discovering.

Start your own rockhounding expedition today and begin your collection of precious natural treasures found throughout this beautiful state. In conclusion, Idaho’s diverse landscape is not only awe-inspiring but also holds a treasure trove of precious and semi-precious gemstones waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re a collector or simply interested in learning more about the natural wonders of the world, Idaho’s gemstones offer a unique and beautiful glimpse into the state’s geological history. As you set out on your own rockhounding expedition, remember to respect the environment and follow local regulations to ensure that these treasures remain available for future generations to enjoy.


1. Are gemstones plentiful in Idaho?

Yes, Idaho has a diverse range of precious and semi-precious gemstones, and some are unique to the state. 2.

Can anyone visit and collect these gemstones? Some locations are open to the public for collecting, but it’s essential to follow regulations and respect the environment.

Private land is off-limits, and trespassing is illegal. 3.

Are there any dangers when collecting gemstones in Idaho? There may be various hazards, such as unstable rock formations, wildlife, and weather conditions.

Always come prepared and informed, and never venture into prohibited areas. 4.

Can I sell the gemstones I collect? It depends on the location.

Some sites permit the removal of a certain volume of stones, while others prohibit it altogether. 5.

What equipment do I need to collect gemstones? The type of equipment needed depends on the location and the type of gems you’re looking for.

Basic tools include a rock hammer, gloves, safety glasses, and a container to hold your finds.

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