Blue Opal Find In Chihuahua, Mexico

Posted on November 1, 2022 by Jennifer Heebner

A new location of blue opal has been revealed in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua, near Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre. Opal has been found for centuries in Mexico. Transparent opal with red and green play of color has been sought after for more than 100 years in the Guanajuato state,1 while fire opal is widely found countrywide, including in Jalisco.2 Hyalite opal, too, occurs in several places, perhaps most recently in Zacatecas.3 And while both common and precious blue opal have been found in Sinaloa4 and Durango,5 a deposit of opal with a sky-blue body color and some play of color in Chihuahua is a more recent and un- tapped find. Material from Chihuahua was discovered in a creek bed around the year 1998 by locals. The family of finders established a claim with the government for permission to work the land. Over the next 24 years, they surveyed the land and gauged interest in their gems, ultimately seeking help from nearby agate miner Alberto Ray. He is from the town of Galeana, and his Del Rey Agates Gems & Minerals is responsible for driving the promotion and sales of that gem found in northern Mexico. Heart-shape Chihuahua blue opal with fire. Photo courtesy of Susan Eisen. Ray’s connections and promotional experience are instrumental to the claimants. His track record includes getting two agate specimens—the 60-plus-pound La Guadalupe and the 20-plus-pound Heart of Chihuahua—to go on an international traveling museum and show tour. Stops included the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals in Oregon as well as gem shows in Munich, Germany, and Tucson, Arizona. Ray also established the nonprofit International Gem and Mineral Society in Chihuahua. These events led the finders to form a partnership with Ray to create interest in their blue gem. SIERRA MADRE GEOLOGY Even though the Chihuahua location is a newer source for blue opal, Ray was familiar with similar material. In 2010, he man- aged the Blue Opal Gallery in Whetstone, Arizona, where he sold jewelry set with blue opal from what was then called the Jay-R mine.6 Both the mine and store were owned by Cheri Saunders, who discovered Arizona blue opal with her husband, Jim, while prospecting in Santa Cruz County in the late 1960s. A more recent blue opal claim, also in Santa Cruz County, is the Southern Skies mine7 near Tubac, Arizona—not far from the Mexico border. According to mine owner Vincent Gulino, his material is found in a range of sky to darker blue body col- ors and has landscape effects and some strong play of color. “I get fire as good as comes out of Australia,” he remarks. Polished rectangular cabochon of Chihuahua blue opal with some fire. Photo courtesy Susan Eisen. The Chihuahua and the Southern Skies material share the topography and geology of the Sierra Madre, a mountain system in Mexico that is the result of millions of years of volcanism and shifting tectonic plates. Both Southern Skies and Chihuahua gems are found in remote and rocky terrain, with specimens lodged in rhyolite, an igneous rock with a high silica content. Ray maintains that the Chihuahua mine site is about a 15-hour drive south from Arizona. “You’ll find that [sky blue] color in the whole geological belt from Arizona down to Sonora, Mexico,” observes Christopher Clark, GG, FGA. Clark worked as a gemologist at Jewelry Television (JTV) for 15 years and now does sales and marketing for Collector’s Edge...

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