Wyoming is one of the states in the US that is known for it rich deposits of gold and gemstones. One of the most popular minerals in Wyoming is jade.
All jade in Wyoming is of a type called nephrite. Wyoming is best known for a variety of gemstone but it has been known better for its ability to host tons and tons of Wyoming nephrite jade or the Wyoming jade.
Jade can be challenging to identify because there are a number of look-alike minerals, so it is important to arm yourself with the right knowledge in the different characteristics of various rocks, more especially for prospectors who want to explore them in Wyoming.
Rockhounding Wyoming – On the Hunt for Jade
Early Discovery of Jade in Wyoming
The first discoveries of jade in Wyoming were at around 1937 in central regions of the state in the Granite Mountains.
In the recent past there has been is overwhelming interest in Wyoming jade. Serious and intensive exploration dates back to the 1940s and currently there has been an increased mining of jade in the Granite mountains, and may be to be precise, geological investigations are ongoing to ascertain the specific types of gemstones in the said state including high concentration of nephrite jade.
Where to Prospect for Jade
Nephrite jade can be found in several regions but at the moment the areas that are known to have it are around central Wyoming at the Sage Creek basin along Sierra Madre near the town of Lysite.
Another part that the Wyoming’s Jade can be explored with high optimism is within the Wind River Range, heading towards the western part in the Platte River. Some can also be traced at Jeffrey City and Crooks Gap. These are the primary regions that have been identified to be rich in the deposits of Wyoming’s jade, and prospectors have been flocking these regions for decades.
Differences between Jadeite and Nephrite Jade
Gemologists have identified two distinct types of gem that look very similar but are in fact very different minerals. The two species are the jadeite and the nephrite. The two are very similar to the extent that it is difficult to tell the difference at hand, and most casual prospectors cannot tell the difference.
The distinction of the two requires a series of tests by experts which have already been done, the major factor that has contributed largely in the distinction of the two is the geological origin. Tests such as the petrographic test, specific gravity, chemical tests, X-ray have given productive results in the distinguishment of the two similar but unrelated Jade.
Due to different species of the Jade minerals that have been introduced in the market, and the fact that the number of people who have the knowledge to identify real jade are very few, it is important to reiterate here the distinctive features of genuine Wyoming’s Jade. Many have been fooled while rockhounding Wyoming by thinking they had made a valuable discovery that was actually not jade at all.
Identification of Jade from other look alike Minerals
The physical characteristics of jade are very specific from how and where they are deposited. Jade comes with different colors and irregular shapes, the colors range from green, yellow, orange or white.
Jade is a valuable stone and it can be very expensive, and due to this there are many fake or misidentified jade specimens on the market . These specimens may be accidentally misidentified, or may be intentionally misrepresented by the seller to get a high price out of a worthless mineral. Proper examination and testing is very important to verify if a jade specimen is genuine.
Most importantly, there are specifications about the stone that cannot change whatsoever. The gravity of jade is and always will be 2.85 to 3.03.
The chemical composition of the Wyoming nephrite has shown little amounts of sodium and can contain other elements depending on the environment where it is formed. The coloration of the nephrite depends too on the chemical elements present in the Jade, for instance the deep green Wyoming nephrite/jade contains large amounts of iron where as the emerald green color is due to presence of chromium. On the other hand, in the absence of iron the Wyoming nephrite/jade is always cloudy white but the professional term to refer to this is colorless because of its high micro fibrous nature structure.
The most confusing and challenging type is the black Wyoming nephrite, a type of jade that you may encounter while rockhounding Wyoming. In this case you will find that it cannot easily be isolated from the other rocks. The first test that should be done is to establish the amount of iron in it, if the iron elements are found to be of high levels and its dark black, the probability of having jade is high. Black colored jade contain high levels of iron.
A few basic tests you can do to evaluate a potential jade specimen:
*Upon holding the stone against light, you will observe that there are small granules interweaved together; this can only be observable with the aid of a 30x loupe.
*Real jade can be identified through carrying out a scratch test. True Wyoming jade when scratched will not respond to the scratch, the process will appear slippery and on the point of scratch, it might appear white, this is the pilings of the blunt material that was used to perform the test.
*Jade is one of the gemstones that are formed through tectonic forces, very strong indeed, the particles forming the jade are held together by strong bonds thereby the compactness is high, this makes it possible absorb heat and retain it for long ,it can also take time to take the room temperature. When it held in the hand, the holder will feel cold and the condition will take time for the jade to fluctuate with your body temperature.
*Because of its fibrous nature and structure, they lack cleavages and when broken it breaks with no uniformity. Jade can sometimes show the point of separation if they underwent or developed schistosity.
*If two pieces of jade are hit together they are likely to produce a high pitched sound that is uniform and pleasant. The obvious and easy method of jade identification is by observing it should have a uniform texture, without perforations, true Wyoming jade as we have said, the Wyoming nephrite does not have air bubbles in any way then you don’t have jade.
Also Read: South Pass City – A Look into Wyoming’s Past
Rockhounding Wyoming – Other Gems & Minerals
Some of the valuable gemstone that have been proven to exist in the state are; opal, sapphire, diamonds, agate, quartz crystal and petrified wood. This is a very diverse state from a geological perspective, and it has a lower population than any other state in the USA, which means the likelihood of undiscovered mineral deposits is quite high.