Gem-quality pyrope garnet faceted from rough collected at Butcherknife Draw near Green River, Wyoming.
Colored gemstones were almost unheard of in Wyoming prior to 1977 other than some fabulous cobbles and boulders of jade, some petrified wood, a few agates and a couple of tiny diamonds that required a microscope to see. After I was hired as the Senior Economic Geologist at the Wyoming Geological Survey, I began first to search for diamond deposits, then gold, and along the way, I got interested in gemstones, their geological settings and necessary conditions for formation (chemistry, pressures and temperatures) (Hausel and Sutherland, 2006). It soon became clear that several variety of gemstones should be found in Wyoming but few were ever reported.
So I went looking and was amazed at all of the gems, diamonds and gold that had been overlooked in the Cowboy State: I kid you not – some sitting right along the highway! And I can guarantee there is a lot more, but it seems like nothing is being done since I left Wyoming in 2007 even though I had found evidence for hundreds of more diamond deposits, gold deposits, a few palladium deposits, several ruby deposits, more iolite deposits and possibilities for emeralds and other beryl deposits (aquamarine and helidor) just to name a few.
A beautiful lady with transparent jade in necklace.
Over the years, I mapped more than 1,000 km2 of complex Precambrian geology along with mapping some younger volcanic terrains: it became clear that Wyoming should have a wide variety of gemstones – but there were few reports of gems being found in the State and little evidence that anyone had been or was looking. After I formulated some ideas on what to look for I soon started making discovery after discovery. Along with my discoveries, some rock hounds were also making interesting discoveries. If only I could have been allowed to continue searching, I would have made many more discoveries.
I found dozens of gemstone deposits and possibly the largest colored gemstone deposit on earth. I recovered the largest iolite gemstones on earth (one weighing >24,000 carats) and left some in the outcrop that would dwarf these giant gemstones. A few I estimated would weight >100,000 to 1,000,000 carats and would require jackhammers and a dump truck to get them out! Yet these and other giant gemstones remain where they are all because of one corrupt state geologist and his governor buddy.
I also found evidence for additional ruby and sapphire deposits in the central Laramie Range, Granite Mountains, Owl Creek Mountains and southern Wind River Mountains after finding seven previously unknown ruby deposits. And I began chasing more opal deposits where ever the countryside had been blanketed by Tertiary to Recent ash falls from past eruptions from the Yellowstone caldera (I had already found one of the largest opals on earth that weighed more than 77,000 carats with larger stones left in the field and also found a large deposit of fire opal). I was searching for other gems including possibilities of emeralds in the Sierra Madre and Overthrust belt, investigating enormous amounts of sky blue kyanite, looking for more iolites, rubies, sapphires and aquamarines, and I had verified Colorado, Montana and Wyoming was underlain by a major diamond province.
Gem kyanite from Laramie Range
It was clear, due to the unusual geology of Wyoming being a craton that was underlain by (1) very old Archean rocks (rocks greater than 2.5 billion years in age) that were subjected to very high pressures and temperatures resulting in their recrystallization and (2) some younger Proterozoic (2.5 billion to 600 million years in age) schists
and granites that had a wide variety of mineralogy and chemistry that were also subjected to high pressures and temperatures, (3) younger Phanerozoic (less than 600 million years old) sedimentary rocks, (4) Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic rocks and ash falls and (5) rare kimberlites, lamproites and lamprophyres (subjected to extreme pressures), that Wyoming had many potential favorable host rocks for a large variety of gemstones – but no one had bothered to look.
I began to search for different gemstones keeping in mind the geological environments and the rock chemistry. I started to make lists of what I might find and kept extensive files on various gemstones and their geological environments worldwide. While I was mapping, I was also searching for gold, base metals, strategic metals, gemstones and decorative rocks. Soon I was finding many gemstones on my list. Here is the list of what I started searching for and finding in many cases:
A 12-carat, nearly flawless, rough pink sapphire recovered from the Palmer Canyon deposit by Vic Norris.
The more I searched, the more I found. I also spent time educating rock hounds, prospectors, companies, geologists and mineral collectors in Wyoming and nearby states by providing lectures, short courses and field trips on how, where and what to prospect for. I also wrote many articles and books on prospecting: it was working. Soon I was not the only person looking for gemstones and others began searching and finding gems in the Cowboy State. Over 3 decades, I found nearly 75% of the gemstones on my list and I suspect if I would have been able to continue my research, I would have found many more deposits and possibly as many as 85 to 90% of the gems.
Flawless pyrope garnet I collected at Butcherknife Draw, Wyoming and sent to Sri Lanka for faceting.
I was in demand to give talks all over the country and many people were showing up to my lectures carrying all kinds of minerals and rocks previously unreported in Wyoming including things like gem-quality labradorite found in road bed material from Albany County 11 and 12 where I had recently found a breccia pipe with limestone xenoliths adjacent to a significant kimberlitic mineral indicator anomaly that we had identified prior to 1988. Others found diamonds in anthills in the Green River Basin and a few showed up with beautiful specimens of gold nuggets (one person had more than a hundred high-quality nuggets from South Pass and another showed me ball jars full of gold nuggets and dust from the same region), jasper and agate.
I had found many previously unreported kimberlites and kimberlitic indicator mineral anomalies in the Iron Mountain district near Chugwater and this attracted prospectors to dig for diamonds. I visited the Great Diamond Hoax site in northwestern Colorado where I recovered diamonds, rubies, and pyrope garnets salted by scam artists in 1872. But then I was told by Dr. Tom McCandless that Diamond Peak actually had conglomerate containing gem-quality pyrope garnet and chromian diopside (both diamond indicator minerals). What was the chance of this happening?
Diamond companies started to show up in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. And the Kelsey Lake diamond mine opened on the border south of Laramie – but soon closed due to legal problems. Other companies picked up other properties in the same area and found enough diamonds for commercial production. Between 2004 to 2006, the Wyoming Geological Survey was decimated by a sociopath who is still on the loose. For ethical and a reasons, I decided to take early retirement and run US exploration for DiamonEx Ltd, an Australian Mining Company with interests in Botswana. And I had a wonderful time until the market crash of 2008, which put several small mining companies out of business.
Gem kyanite cut into cabochons from Palmer Canyon, Wyoming. There are literally hundreds of billions of carats of this gemstone in eastern Wyoming at Palmer Canyon, Cooney Hills, Grizzly Creek and likely in other areas of the state (Hausel, 2009). These and other aluminum-rich minerals are often found in what geologists call metapelite (mica-rich schists) that was subjected to moderately high pressures and temperatures. Using this information, I found dozens of these deposits around Wyoming. The colors and fractures in these gems actually enhance their appearance. I am very surprised that someone has not tried to market these as they are relatively easy to cut. They are a low value gem, but when there are billions of carats – who cares.
While at the Wyoming Geological Survey on the University of Wyoming campus, I had received regional and national awards for communication skills including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists President’s Certificate and the Wyoming Geological Association’s Distinguish Service Award for my research on Wyoming’s geology and for the dozens of talks I had presented at that society. I had also been twice nominated for the Dibble Mapping Award by two former directors of the Wyoming Geological Survey – Gary Glass and Dr. D.L. Blackstone, Jr. The Laramie Lyceum had presented me Distinguished Speaker of 1994 and the University of Wyoming Department of Geology & Geophysics included me as Distinguished Lecturer and these were just some of the national and international recognition I had received over the years for being a great communicator. When I was in college at the University of Utah, I had been employed as an astronomy lecturer at the Hansen Planetarium because of communication skills. But what the heck, what did all of these people know including Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Science, Who’s Who in the World, 2000 Notable American Men, etc.
I was considered to be one of the few specialists in Archean gold deposits, diamond deposits, colored gemstone deposits, greenstone belts and more. I was told by the chairman of the Geology Department at UW, that it was only because of my work and research that geologists had a good grasp of the Precambrian Geology. I had been awarded and inducted into two different Halls-of-Fame (nominated for a third) for my geological research, education efforts and communication skills, something that I suspect no other geologist in Wyoming (and possibly the US) could claim.
Giant ruby found in the Granite Mountains. This was at one time the largest ruby ever found on earth – but unfortunately, much of the ruby (purple red) was replaced by zoisite and fuchsite (green matrix). However, it suggests that exploration of this deposit will potentially result in discovery of some of the largest rubies on earth.
It was time to move on, so I went to work as VP of US Exploration for DiamonEx Ltd, where I found some diamond bearing kimberlites, identified several hundred possible kimberlites for the company to explore and drill. After DiamonEx, Ltd, I worked as a consultant for other mining companies including Black Range Resources, Giant King Gold, Strathmore Resources, Wyoming Gold, Saratoga Gold and others. Personally, I love geology and I love hunting for new mineral deposits.
Transparent blue barite from Shirley Basin, Wyoming.
Cape Emerald from State Line district, Wyoming
Banded Jasper from Tin Cup district, Wyoming
1.1 carat faceted ruby from Palmer Canyon, Wyoming
Enormous ruby faceted from rough collected in the Laramie Range, Wyoming
Cabochon of specularite with copper from Charter Oak mine, Wyoming
Gem labradorite from Sybille Canyon, Wyoming.
Malachite with specular hematite from the Hartville area, Wyoming