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Geology Of Gemstone Deposits –Exploration Models for Wyoming
Much of Wyoming is underlain by Archean cratonic basement rocks and cratonized Proterozoic rocks that provide favorable geological environments for a variety of gemstones –notably diamond, iolite, ruby, sapphire, garnet, kyanite, andalusite, sillimanite, labradorite, jewelry grade gold, platinum and palladium nuggets, emerald, aquamarine, helidor, tourmaline, spinel, clinozoisite, zoisite, apatite, jasper, specularite, etc. Thick Phanerozoic sedimentary rock successions with lesser Tertiary volcanic rock cover large portions of the basement terrain. Some of these Phanerozoic rocks provide favorable hosts for other gemstones including opal, placer diamond, placer gold, placer platinum, placer ruby, jasper, agate, emerald, varisite, etc.
Using traditional exploration and prospecting methods, dozens of gem and precious metal deposits were discovered over the past 3 decades, including major discoveries and geological and mineralogical evidence for significant undiscovered deposits. Major swarms of mantle-derived kimberlite, lamproite and lamprophyre, many of which have proven to be diamondiferous, also host colored gemstones including pyrope garnet (Cape Ruby), spessartine garnet, almandine garnet, chromian diopside (Cape Emerald) and chromian enstatite. One lamproite also yielded peridot.
Favorable conditions for crystallization of metamorphogenic gemstones during regional amphibolite-grade metamorphism occurred during the Precambrian. In this terrain, metapelite in the central Laramie Range hosts kyanite, sillimanite and andalusite. These three minerals provide evidence of favorable pressures and temperatures needed for crystallization of aluminous gemstones including ruby, sapphire and kyanite. Cordierite (iolite) another aluminum-rich gemstone, formed during a later thermal event. This later event was responsible for deposition of world-class iolite (Water Sapphire) gemstone deposits.
Evidence for undiscovered gemstone deposits is predicted based on mineralogical anomalies detected during various research projects from 1977 until 2005. These include ruby, sapphire, gold and aquamarine found in stream sediment samples as well as favorable geological terrains that remain unexplored. Other anomalies include pyrope garnet (several with G10 geochemistry), picroilmenite, and some chromian diopside that provide evidence for hundreds of undiscovered diamond deposits. Elsewhere, detrital diamonds reported by various prospectors provide direct evidence for undiscovered diamond deposits. Other geological and mineralogical evidence suggest the presence of additional undiscovered opal, cordierite (iolite) and kyanite deposits. Wyoming could potentially become a major source for gemstones including diamond, gold, platinum, palladium, Cape ruby, Cape emerald, iolite and opal.
I dedicate this paper in memory of a friend and former colleague at the Wyoming State Geological Survey who greatly advanced the State’s knowledge in industrial minerals and decorative stones. Ray E. Harris former Industrial Minerals and Uranium Geologist passed away too soon.
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