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 the most common on the planet, but the plagioclase feldspar is found no where else. 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 it is comparable to agate and quartz and suitable for most any jewelry application. However, in rings we caution against every day wear unless properly designed for the purpose.


Mining Claims

Oregon Sunstones also 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 South East Oregon’s remote outback neat Hart Mountain in the tiny town of Plush, OR.

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

Copper Schiller

Oregon Sunstone comes from Southeast Oregon, 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.

Sunstones or Heliolite (derived from the Greek ‘helios’ and ‘lithos,’ which mean ‘sun’ and ‘stone’), is a type of feldspar, and is found throughout the world. However, the difference between Oregon Sunstones and other Sunstones, is in the chemical make-up of the stones. Oregon Sunstones are the only Sunstones containing Copper.

What makes the Copper content important is that it is responsible for the Schiller Effect (platelets of Copper) found in many of the stones. It is also responsible for the beautiful colors which are a direct result of the copper content within the gemstone. This makes each Sunstone very unique and one of a kind and extremely difficult to match for pairs of earrings.

Not All Are Alike

However, not all Sunstone exhibits Copper Schiller. Schiller appears as a glimmering metallic flash or shimmer inside the gem. It can be lightly sprinkled throughout or be deposited very densely to the point of affecting brilliance. It can also look like stripes or sheets….shimmering raindrops!

Fine deep reds tend to be sourced from material found in the mountains of the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon.

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 any other gem. Some of the colors look similar to certain varieties of Garnet. 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.

Shades of Red

The Reddish Orange shades contain as little as 20 parts per million of copper. The redder colors can contain up to 200 parts per million of copper. The more copper, the darker the color.

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.