idaho star garnet

Hunting For Idaho Star Garnets

Idaho star garnets are a rare and beautiful gemstone that can be found only in the state of Idaho, in the United States. These garnets are known for their deep, purplish-red color and their bright, star-like shine when they are cut and polished.

The Idaho star garnet is the state gemstone of Idaho, and it is most commonly found in metamorphic rock in the Emerald Creek Garnet Area of the St. Joe National Forest in the Bitterroot Mountains.

The beauty and rarity of Idaho star garnets make them a highly sought-after gemstone by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts. They are often used in engagement rings, earrings, and other types of jewelry.

Hunting For Idaho Star Garnets

The best place to hunt for Idaho star garnets is the Emerald Creek Garnet Area, which is located on the St. Joe National Forest in the Bitterroot Mountains. The garnet deposits in this area were formed during the Cretaceous period, approximately 70 million years ago, and are mined by hand using pickaxes and shovels.

Hunting for Idaho star garnets can be a fun and rewarding activity for gemstone enthusiasts, collectors, or for a truly unique Idaho experience that the entire family can enjoy. These beautiful, rare garnets are found only in two places in the world, Idaho and India.

In addition to their beauty, Idaho star garnets are also known for their durability and hardness. With a rating of 7.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, these garnets are resistant to scratches and other types of damage, making them a great choice for everyday wear.

Star Garnet Hunting Permit

At the Emerald Creek Garnet Area in northern Idaho, visitors can pay a fee of $15 per day to search for and keep up to five pounds of their own star garnets. Children aged 6-12 pay a discounted rate of $5, and those under 6 years old can participate for free, making this a fun activity for the whole family.

The area is located near St. Maries, and offers a unique opportunity for rock collectors to dig for these beautiful gemstones. PERMITS MUST BE PURCHASED AHEAD OF TIME AND AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY. You can learn more and purchase permits HERE.

Emerald Creek Garnet Area Campground

Although the dirt road leading to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area is 7 miles long and may be a bit bumpy, most vehicles should be able to make the journey without any issues. Just before the dig site is the Emerald Creek campground, which offers 18 campsites, potable water, and plenty of shade. This campground is a convenient base camp for those who come from a distance and want to spend an overnight or more digging for garnets. The area is ideal for passionate rock collectors who want to spend multiple days searching for these beautiful gemstones.

The Hunting Process

Once you have your permit and equipment, you can begin your search for Idaho star garnets. The garnets are most commonly found in metamorphic rock, and are often buried beneath the surface. To find the garnets, you will need to carefully dig through the dirt and rock, searching for any signs of the gemstones. Once you get to the site you can meet with the park rangers who are available to help you through the process.

Step 1 – The Dig

The first step is the dig site where you will grab a shovel and load some buckets with potential pay dirt. The area is rich with Garnets and suitable digging locations are easy to find.

Step 2 – Sifting

idaho gemstone hunting

Next you head to the sifting area where you’ll run your diggings through a screen to separate out the larger rocks from the fine dirt. Here you will start to see the potential Garnets amongst the normal soil and rock.

Step 3 – The Sluice

The sluice is where the magic happens and is a really fun part of the process. The sluice is basically running water over your sifting grate. This washes away the finer dirt so you can distinguish between ordinary rocks from the Star Garnet crystals.

From here you just repeat the process again and again until you gather your prized collection or reach your 5 lb limit, which is a lot of crystals by the way.

Cutting and Polishing Your Idaho Star Garnets

The crystals have a natural beauty to them but many folks opt to have their gemstones professionally cut and finished. Idaho star garnets are known for their unique, six-pointed star-like shine, which is caused by light reflecting off of the gemstone’s many facets. This characteristic is known as “asterism,” and it is highly prized by collectors and gemstone enthusiasts.

While there are many suitable jewelers that can do this it’s worth finding someone that has experience with Star Garnets. We recommend the family run shop Stewart’s Gem Shop in Boise. They have a lot of experience with Garnets and will make your collection shine.

For more information on visiting the Emerald Creek Garnet Area, visit the Forest Service website.

1 thought on “Hunting For Idaho Star Garnets”

  1. The permits for US Forrest Service Emerald creek Garnet site is $15. They release tickets 30 days in advance from Memorial day to Labor day. They are sold out for 2023.

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