Gold was discovered nearly a
century ago at Yogo Gulch in
(picture of the mine on right).
While looking for gold, these
prospectors noticed little
translucent, blue pebbles.
Thinking these pretty blue
pebbles might be worth
something, one prospector
packed some of the stones in a
cigar box and sent them to
Tiffany's & Co.
The cigar box was never returned
to Montana. In its place came a
check, for the amount of $3750.00
along with a letter from Tiffany's & Co.
stating the stones to be "sapphires of
The search for gold was forgotten and the search for these beautiful blue natural
Hoover formed the New Mine Sapphire Syndicate in 1894. A London jewelry firm
purchased all the shares and changed the name to the English Mine.
Charles Gadsden, began work at the English Mine in 1902. He re-worked the old
mining tailings, installed timbers, and organized bucket brigades. He determined
the most efficient manner was to allow the rock time to weather for a year or so,
which was all very time consuming. Basically, this allowed mother nature and those
harsh Montana winters to wear away the host material and leave the sapphires.
Blasting only fractures the sapphire crystals. Burke and Sweeney filed claims west
of the English Mine and formed the American Gem Syndicate in 1901, which was
sold to the American Sapphire Company in 1904 The English Mine purchased the
American Mine in 1908 . The English Mine was in production until it sold in 1922 .
During a server storm cloudburst the English Mine was flooded in 1923. The
holding dams and the weathering pies were washed away. The mine closed in
1927. In 1965 Siskon,Inc purchased the yogo mine. They promoted the area to
California investors in 1968 as a “sapphire village” a vacation tourist spot.
Chikara Kunisaki, one of the sapphire village partners, purchased the Yogo Mine
and formed the Sapphire International Corp. in the early 1970’s. He invested in
constructing a 3,000-foot-long tunnel going eastward into the dike at the old
American Mine site. Sapphire International Corp. closed in 1976. Intergem
contracted to purchase the Yogo Mine in 1981 from Sapphire International Corp.,
now Roncor, Inc. However, Intergem failed to make their payment deadlines, and
ownership reverted back to Roncor, Inc. With much of its inventory going to
Citibank as partial repayment for a loan .
Sapphire-Yogo Mines, Inc., headed by Victor di Suervo, leased the Yogo Mine
property in 1978. He attempted to make the Yogo sapphire the official American
gemstone. Many complications led to his subsequent failure.
Other individuals and companies leased the Yogo Mine, including American Yogo
Sapphire, Ltd., who attempted an ambitious fund-raising campaign. Later, Amax
core-drilled and opened up a new area fifty feet down.
With a London firm owning all of the shares in the Early English Mine it is no
wonder that rumors abound that the most famous Yogo sapphire was the one
chosen to be set in a ring for a princess. Lady Diana Spencer received from
England’s Prince Charles a magnificent nine-carat oval reportedly Yogo sapphire
that was set in a gold ring and surrounded by diamonds to mark their engagement.
Stories of riches and ruin surround Yogo sapphires. Many perceived the true value
of Yogos and recognized their great potential. Many companies attempted to
extract them commercially and failed. Some have tried to show the public the
inherent value of a yogo “All Natural “ “never treated “ over other sapphires and
have met strong opposition from jewelers who would then have to explain that the
other sapphire they had in the showcase are not all natural and have been treated.
When looking at the value one must consider not only the gemstones beauty, the
fact that it is natural but also the fact that after all of the difficulties of bringing this
natural wonder to a finished state, yogos are small. The largest yogo on record is
in the Smithsonian and weighs just over 10 cts. To understand the relationship
compare this to The Millennium Sapphire, an 61,500 carat gem quality blue
sapphire carving, which is the largest finished sapphire on record. It must be
acknowledged that this is truly a case of the old saying “good things come in small
(Above) Picture of the Yogo Sapphire mine in
Yogo Gulch, Montana taken from "Yogos - The
Great American sapphire" (below).
Yogo The Great American Sapphire
by Stephen M Voynick
A remarkable geological story backed by a century
of rich Montana history. This fascinating tale lay
hidden in disjointed company files and
correspondence, dusty geological reports,
decades of yellowed newspaper clippings, and
even in some of the works of Charles M. Russell.
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