Montana Sapphire

“You’re serious aren’t you?” was my wife’s quick response. I had Just suggested we travel to the Eldorado Bar of the Missouri River in Montana to mine sapphire crystals and then take them to Sri Lanka where our old friend Anura would cut and polish them. I said “yes.”


Bill Weidinger on the hunt for rare minerals


This is a wall on the Missouri River's bank. It holds sapphire crystals... we hope.


Bill and the mine owner in front of the gravel separator. This machine sorts light from heavy and yields a mix that hopefully holds gold and sapphire.

Hard Work

After the separator processes the heavy gravel content it needs to be removed for hand sorting.

Hand Sorting

Some of the gravel was sorted on site. The rest was shipped back to Columbus, where hundreds of hours went into the final separation.

Sapphire In Hand!

Thousands of pounds of unconsolidated gravel yield a handful of sapphire crystals. They will be cut into faceted gems.

Off to Sri Lanka

Bill spent eight days determining the gemstones shapes with the head gem cutter Arangala.

Friends in the Gem World

Anura, owner of the gem cutting shop, has been a family friend for almost 40 years. Here they are at a mine in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, looking at gemstone crystals.