Oregon's State Gem

At The Sunstone Store our all time favorite gem is the Oregon Sunstone, in part because of its amazing array of naturally occurring colors from reds to greens, champagnes, and the unique copper included “schillers.”

The Feldspar group of minerals are one of the most common on the planet, however Oregon’s unique copper-bearing Plagioclase Feldspar is found nowhere else in the world. The Oregon Sunstone was designated Oregon’s Official State Gem by the Oregon legislature in 1987.

At a hardness of  6.5-7.2 on the Moh’s scale, comparable to gemstones like Tanzanite and Peridot, Oregon Sunstone is suitable for almost any jewelry application. However, in rings we do caution against every day wear unless properly designed for this purpose.

Responsible Mining

Oregon Sunstone comes from Southeasten Oregon, often referred to as the “Oregon Outback.” Sunstone is formed in molten lava and is discharged close to the surface with the help of a volcano. The lava wears away or is broken and gradually makes its way to the surface to expose the gem.

For the latest information about digging, see this article written by Danielle Denham January 17, 2022 for “That Oregon Life” .

Oregon Sunstones speak to our roots as “Dyed in the wool” rock hounds. We’re so deep into Sunstone that each summer we work our own mining claims in Southeast Oregon’s remote outback neat Hart Mountain in the tiny town of Plush, OR.

There’s nothing like the deep satisfaction that comes from harvesting raw gems from the earth and working them through various creative processes to make finished jewelry.

Gem Collectors Dream

Only in the past 10 to 15 years has Oregon Sunstone grown in popularity as a gem. The colors of Oregon Sunstone are difficult to compare to traditional gemstones, because so few gems display such a wide variety of naturally occurring colors.

From near colorless to champagne yellows, soft pinks to vivid oranges, intense reds to deep greens, and even combinations of several colors within one stone! Individual in their beauty, no two Oregon Sunstones are exactly alike, offering a unique and personal alternative to traditional gemstones.

Our Oregon Sunstones are never dyed or treated in anyway and all their color is Guaranteed 100% Natural! This is uncommon in the world of gemstones today, as most gems are treated in some way before they reach the retail market.

Copper Schiller

Schiller describes the glimmering flash or shimmer which appears in some stones, this is due to metallic copper inclusions which are unique to Oregon Sunstone. It can be lightly sprinkled throughout the gem or be deposited very densely to the point of affecting brilliance. It can also look like stripes or sheets… shimmering raindrops!

Known as the “Schiller Effect” this phenomenon is caused by light reflecting off tiny Copper Platelets which are suspended within the gem. Each Oregon Sunstone which displays Schiller is very unique and one of a kind, this makes it extremely difficult to match stones for pairs of earrings.

Wide Variety of Natural Color

Fine deep reds tend to be sourced from material found in the mountains of the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon. Intense red colors are also found in Rabbit Basin near Plush, Oregon. The Rabbit Basin area is also known for strong “Schillers” and fine champagne colors. Fine green Sunstones are found in the Rabbit Basin area but are especially plentiful in the mines near Eagle Butte, approximately 15 miles from Rabbit Basin.

The following article is from G.I.A.’s (Gemoligical Institute of America) website. The article was written when G.I.A. lab representatives visited the 3 major mines in Oregon.