The 1,714 carat Palmer Canyon ‘Blue Star’. This large iolite gemstone was found by
American geologist W. Dan Hausel at Palmer Canyon, which at the time of discovery,
was the largest iolite gemstone known on earth. Note the greenish pinite reaction
rim (coating) covering the right end of the 3 x 4.5 inch gemstone.
At Palmer Canyon, there was no obvious iolite. After he found a small piece of detrital iolite
sitting in dirt while searching for corundum at the Rolf vermiculite, Hausel found more
detrital stones and spent the next several hours looking for the source rock while on hands
and knees. After some time, he found the first iolite in outcrop; it was well disguised
because of pinite coating the gem. Essentially, all of the iolite gneiss was buried under a
thin layer of soil. To the east of the discovery site, Hausel started breaking pieces of gneiss
from an outcrop with a sledgehammer and in addition to the flawless ‘Palmer
Canyon Blue Star’, he found other specimens weighing a carat to several hundred carats: most
was gem quality.
Following announcement of the discovery, a prospector from Colorado filed a claim on the
discovery and dug a trench with a backhoe. After unsuccessfully trying to find the outcrop
on three different occasions, Hausel said he flagged the outcrop for the prospector on
another visit to the property, but the Colorado prospector still could not find the deposit.
Finally Hausel labeled the outcrop with flagging tape and placed a sample of iolite in a
sample bag with a note ‘Dig here!’ The prospector still missed the iolite. Apparently he was
avoiding the gneiss to dig in soft soil. Hausel had to finally meet the prospector and his
partner in the field to point out the outcrop. When the Colorado prospector trenched across
the gneiss, a few hundred thousand carats of iolite were exposed in about a cubic yard of
Much of the material from the trench was ultramylonite (intensely sheared and granulated
rock) in which the gem value of the iolite had been destroyed by tectonic crushing along a
shear zone (fault). To the west at the original discovery site, this did not appear to be a
problem. Hausel recovered a few hundred carats of very high-quality gem material from
the backhoe trench as well as many large, high-quality gemstones at the original discovery
site at west end. Some faceted material from the backhoe pile produced eight gems (8 to
12 carats) (Vic Norris, personal communication). So, if it was this hard to find the Palmer
Canyon host rock, it should provide an indication that much more can still be hidden in the
|A thin slice of iolite from Wyoming.|
Large pseudo hexagonal nodule in cordierite gneiss, Palmer Canyon, Wyoming
Iolite is as hard as quartz and harder than glass and tanzanite. But the specific gravity of cordierite is unfavorable for placer concentration. With this in mind, it is surprising most iolite on the market today is recovered as a by-product of placer mining in Sri Lanka. Since there is a lack of a continuous supply of iolite, it is difficult to find the gemstone in jewelry stores. A steady supply of the gem with creative marketing strategy could result in iolite rivaling tanzanite. But currently, there is no steady supply, and the gem remains greatly undervalued. To get an idea of how attractive the faceted gemstone is, it is recommended to search the Internet for photos of faceted iolite.
|A flawless, 100+ carat xenoblast iolite in Palmer Canyon Gneiss.|
|0.5 carat Palmer Canyon iolites|
|Iolite porphyroblast (large crystal) in iolite gneiss, Wyoming.|
|A 12-carat raw pink sapphire from Palmer Canyon.|
|Generalized map of Wyoming showing location of Palmer Canyon|
|Gem kyanite from the Central Laramie Mountains.|
|Ruby-kyanite vermiculite schist from Palmer Canyon|
|Pink sapphire vermiculite schist from Palmer Canyon|
|A few hundred carat xenoblast in Palmer Canyon gneiss with the first|
group of faceted Wyoming iolite gemstones (1 to 0.5 carats) sitting
on the raw gemstone.
|1.0 carat Palmer Canyon iolites|
- Hausel, W.D., 2002, A new source of gem-quality cordierite and corundum in the Laramie Range of Southeastern Wyoming: Rocks & Minerals v. 76, no. 5, p. 334-339.
- Hausel, W.D., 2005, Geologists Locate Giant Gemstones: ICMJ Prospecting and Mining Journal, v. 74, no. 7, p. 7-9.
- Hausel, W.D., 2005a, Minerals and Rocks of Wyoming – A Guide for Collectors, Prospectors and Rock Hounds: Wyoming Geological Survey Bulletin 72, 159 p.
- Hausel, W.D., 2006a, Gemstone discoveries in Wyoming: Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists Outcrop 55:3.
- Hausel, W.D., 2014, Finding Gemstones - A Prospector's Guide to Gemstones, Gold, Rocks & Minerals: Gemhunters, publications, 320 p. (In Preparation).
- Hurlbut, C.S., Jr., and Switzer, G.S., 1979, Gemology: John Wiley and Sons, New York, 243 p.
- Kievlenko, E.Y. 2003. Geology of Gems. Ocean Publications Ltd., Littleton, CO. 432 p.
- Spry, A., 1969, Metamorphic Textures. Pergamon Press, Oxford, England, 350 p.
|Two 4 -to 6-carat faceted Palmer Canyon Black iolites|