There are a lot of rockhounding opportunities in the state of Nevada.
The state is the #1 producer of gold and silver, but you’ll also be pleased to know that the state is home to a wide variety of gems and minerals that are still waiting to be found.
Of the many minerals in Nevada, the most valuable and well-known include the opal varieties and turquoise. For the amateur collector, the state offers a lot of opportunities to go out and find some on your own.
Opals in Virgin Valley
Virgin Valley is home to a lot of opals, the volcanic ash beds contain some of the most spectacular black opals in the world. There is a problem here, though, which prevents the opals from being mined for commercial use in a lot of cases: their unusually high water content.
Water makes up a small percentage of a lot of opals, but in these unusually high cases of 10%+ it’s actually a huge detriment to using the stone in jewelry or for unprotected display. As the stone loses water into the atmosphere the tendency is for them to begin to crack and “fail.”
This means that most of these beautiful stones are only really available for display, and specimens which have been cut into jewelry will need some special care.
While the valley itself is crisscrossed with mining claims, there are a couple of areas where you can pay to get some prospecting done. These include Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Royal Peacock Opal Mine, and Bonanza Opal Mine. You’ll have the option of digging through pre dug-out rock or directly along the banks after paying the fee in these areas.
Most of the commercial mining in this area is done with bulldozers, which allow for the mines to pull a huge amount of material at one time that rockhounds can sift through it.
There’s always a chance to really strike it big in these areas, of course, the opals are generally casts of fallen, prehistoric tree limbs and other semi-fossilized causes. This makes for both beautiful stones, and the possibility of unique forms which collectors will pay handsomely for.
Other Opals in the Silver State
Virgin Valley in northern Nevada is undoubtedly one of the most talked about areas to find opal in Nevada and there’s no arguing that it produces some of the best material, but the conditions which form opal aren’t only found there and there are a few other places that differing types of opal can be found.
If you are rockhounding Nevada and want to potentially find an opal then some other places include Firestone in Humboldt County, Gabbs which is fifteen miles north of the town of Gabbs itself, and the Webber Claims in Lincoln County. Most of these areas are privately worked, but a prospector may be able to find new undiscovered opal sources near these existing claims.
Recommended: Guide to Gold Prospecting in Nevada
Mining Turquoise in Nevada
Unfortunately, there’s not really anywhere left for hobbyists to mine turquoise in Nevada. The commercial mines themselves are dwindling in number and the stones which are coming out seem to be of lesser and lesser quality as time goes. This is, of course, in the areas where the mines haven’t been completely mined out.
Turquoise is a tricky stone to mine at the best of times, it is often found in ancient clay seams and following these can be something of a labor-intensive chore. The seams can go from being thick and full to disappearing entirely in a matter of feet and then the miner will have a choice to make: try following or look somewhere else.
Rockhounding Nevada turquoise is challenging to say the least.
The turquoise-laden seams can reappear just as suddenly as they disappeared, so many miners will follow for a distance. This can result in a lot of wasted effort, as there’s no guarantee that the seam itself hasn’t permanently terminated in that spot.
For the most part, the mining of turquoise is limited to small-scale operations run by only a few people for part of the year. The Godber Mine is an example of this and produces some of the best turquoise found in Nevada.
Turquoise itself has a unique formation process, it’s a secondary mineral which is formed by the breakdown of other minerals and it requires some pretty specific conditions to form. When the conditions are right, an aqueous solution of the components of the stone precipitates turquoise in empty areas in the surrounding rock.
Also Read: Finding Gold Nuggets at Rye Patch, Nevada
Nevada is home to a number of beautiful minerals and gorgeous opals are readily available to be looked for by pretty much anyone who has the time and money to head out to Virgin Valley. Unfortunately, areas, where amateurs can look for turquoise, are quite rare and the state’s commercial industry is beginning to falter as well with the better known deposits being worked out.
Either way, Nevada is a great place to stop when you’re on the hunt for the next specimen to add to your collection. Rockhounding Nevada is a pleasure if you take the time to research areas that are likely to be productive.
Although it is rare to find unknown mineral deposits, I am always reluctant to tell interested prospectors that they shouldn’t bother looking. Who’s to say that there aren’t some undiscovered sources of opal or turquoise in Nevada that are still waiting to be found?
Searching for rare mineral deposits of any kind requires research. Any source of material is most likely to be found adjacent to past or existing claims. Go prepared and have an adventure! Whether searching for unknown sources or going to a pay-to-dig operation, you can have great fun digging for opals, turquoise, or any number of minerals that are found while rockhounding Nevada.