sapphire rough - Eldorado Bar
sapphire rough - Eldorado Bar

Sapphire Mining in Montana


What’s sapphire mining like? Follow Jeff Moriarty of Moriarty’s Gem Art as he travels to Montana in search of amazing gem rough.

3 Minute Read

My father, Steve Moriarty, is not only a jeweler but also a gem cutter and explorer. I grew up listening to his stories of mining throughout Africa and Asia. That’s why I always look forward to taking trips with him. Going sapphire mining in Montana isn’t such a long trip, but it’s still an adventure. I was excited about going on this trip with my father and brother Michael Moriarty, a bench jeweler.
sapphire rough - Eldorado Bar
Sapphire rough we mined at Eldorado Bar. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

Have RV Will Travel

We flew into Bozeman, Montana, which has the largest airport in the area. That’s also where we chose to pick up the RV we would be sleeping in during our sapphire mining trip. This is the best lodging when mining. Usually, we have to set up in the middle of nowhere, at least 30-45 minutes from civilization. Driving back and forth between the mines and a hotel would just waste time. We also have a nice bathroom, a fridge filled with drinks, and an oven to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you plan on digging a mine for a few days, I highly recommend getting an RV.

A Return Trip

During this trip, we visited the Eldorado Bar and Spokane Bar mines. We visited these mines last year and did very well, not only in terms of sapphire mining but also selling. That’s why we decided to return to this area.

Video by Moriarty’s Gem Art. Used with permission.

For a day back in 2021, we took over the Blaze-N-Gems mine. This year, we decided to take our chances at doing the work on our own at the mine. This wouldn’t be as easy, but it would still be fun. Spending time with my family while sapphire mining is just a blast. If you haven’t done it, try it sometime!

    The Eldorado Bar

    It was hot with no shade this year, so we were thankful we had the RV parked near us. We could rest when necessary. Between the three of us, we ended up filling twenty buckets. That was the most anyone had done all year, according to the owners of the Eldorado Bar at Blaze-N-Gems. However, we didn’t find much sapphire, even with that many buckets. So, this trip wasn’t as successful as last year, but we still got some great stones from those buckets. Steve would end up cutting them for a good profit.

    • sapphire mining area
      We found the majority of our sapphire rough at this mine. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
    • sapphire mining machine
      One of the machines used at the mine to sift through rock. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
    • sapphire mining - rough stones
      The sapphire rough we found after mining for a few days. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
    • steve moriarty holding sapphire rough
      Steve Moriarty with one of his finds. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

      We also had the opportunity to buy rough directly from the mine owner. Steve has an eye for rough and purchased some fantastic sapphire. You pay more but don’t have to spend days mining for it yourself.

      shield-cut green sapphire - Eldorado Bar
      Shield-cut green sapphire from Eldorado Bar, cut by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

      More Montana Sapphire Locations

      We visited other mines in the area. We took tours and worked with the owners to buy some great rough but didn’t get the mining experience there. Hoping to buy more rough, we also traveled to the historic sapphire mining town of Philipsburg, Montana. Although we didn’t have any luck with the store owners, we saw some amazing finished stones set in jewelry. They gave us some ideas.

      The entire trip lasted five days. We came back with some beautiful rough for Steve to cut.

      • Potentate Rock Creek rough and cut sapphires
        Potentate Rock Creek sapphire rough and cut gems by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
      • Rock Creek blue sapphire
        Round blue sapphire from Rock Creek, cut by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
      • Cushion-cut Rock Creek sapphire
        Cushion-cut orange sapphire from Rock Creek, cut by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
      • Emerald-cut teal sapphire, Rock Creek
        Emerald-cut teal sapphire from Rock Creek, cut by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

        Is Going Sapphire Mining Worth it?

        Some may say it’s easier to go to a gem show such as the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show or the Denver Gem and Mineral Showcase. However, you won’t have the story behind the stone, and customers love stories. For example, a close friend used one of the sapphires I found on this trip for his engagement ring. My father cut the sapphire, and my family designed the ring. This made the engagement ring extra special for him and his fiancée.

        • prepped rough sapphire
          Rough Montana sapphire before cutting but after prepping. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.
        • cutting machine and finished gem
          Sitting at his cutting machine, Steve Moriarty holds the finished sapphire. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

          These days, spending time doing things you love with your family is hard. If you love gem cutting or prospecting, it’s worth doing this with your family. My family and I are looking forward to traveling to Montana again next year.

          finished sapphire
          Closeup view of the finished Montana sapphire shown above, cut by Steve Moriarty. Photo by Moriarty's Gem Art. Used with permission.

          Take a look at more of our finished sapphires from our trips to Montana.


          Jeff Moriarty

          Jeff Moriarty has been in the family jewelry business for over 25 years. His family has a jewelry store in Crown Point, Indiana, as well as an ecommerce website.  He travels the world with his father in search of amazing gemstones and new discoveries.

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