Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Real Gem of a Find Part II...How I Found My Sapphire

Rock Hounding Adventures

In today's post, I continue the story of how I came to find the Sapphire stone that became the beautiful ring you see in the above picture. If you missed the introduction to the story, be sure to catch up on my last post here

I'm lucky to live in a state that boasts having many of all the gems and minerals found in the world. There are many tourist attractions in the state that invite people to "find" gems. However, when my family used to come for their summer visit years ago and were interested in digging for gems, I researched and found out about the Old Pressley Sapphire Mine. It has the distinction of being the mine where the largest blue star sapphires have been found. Both the "Star of the Carolinas" and the "Southern Star" were found at the Old Pressley Mine. So, that's where my mother, sister and my husband and I decided to go. 

Mining for gems is not's hard work! You get very dirty and tired because you have to dig your buckets of dirt from the mine and then slowly sift the dirt a little at a time at the sluice using little wooden trays with screen in the bottoms. Water runs through the sluice to help separate the soil from the rocks. The mine is above ground, not in a cave, and is to the right of the sluice you see in the picture above. 

After a few hours of digging in the dirt and working the sluice, you get very hungry and tired. Luckily, the mine owners provided picnic tables so visitors can enjoy a picnic and a rest. My sister looks like she's doing a Pepsi commercial holding her can up while Mr.thisandthat snapped the photo. That's me in the blue t-shirt sitting next to my mom. This photo is about twenty five years old, but it seems like we were there just yesterday. Funny how time flies by, isn't it?

When you mine for gems, the stones you find can be hard to distinguish from plain rock. We were told to look for smaller rock with color shining through. We were also told that rocks with mica on them can have gems inside. Above, you see some of the samples I kept all these years from our mining adventures. When I found my sapphire, it looked very much like the last rock you see on the bottom right. At the Old Pressley Mine, the owners will look over what you find and help you determine if it is plain rock or something more. Of course, I was delighted when they told me I had indeed found a sapphire! They offered to have it cut and polished for me, which I decided to do. Of course, there was a fee for doing this. It took several weeks, but when it was done, they mailed it to me. The stone was lighter in color than other sapphires I had seen, sort of a pale blue color. I didn't realize until they told me that sapphires can be many colors other than blue. I was very pleased to have the stone...but then I wanted a ring to put the stone in!

Luckily, my husband was working at the time with a man whose wife was a jeweler. I met with her and she showed me several samples of ring molds that could be used to form a custom designed ring. I chose the pattern that you see above. The gold is in swirls that circle around the stone. The back of the ring is a little thicker which I like. It supports the stone well. The ring was a bit of a splurge and it arrived in time for my 32nd birthday! I recall having a horrendous case of the flu at the it was a welcome arrival in the midst of fever, aches and pain!

My mom, especially, loved these expeditions and we returned to the mine several times more during family visits. But, none of us had anymore "big" finds. Just lots of fun and memory making! My mom was a true rock hound. She invested in a rock tumbler at a local rock shop during one of her trips here and loved to take back the rocks she found to tumble them smooth. She had taken jewelry making lessons earlier in her life and always had a love of jewelry....a love that she passed on to me! I have always loved jewelry...and the pieces don't have to be expensive for me to enjoy owning and wearing them. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, I love it all. Bring on the bling!

Remembering our rock hounding adventures is a bit bittersweet for me.....because my mom is no longer with us. In fact, today, May 27th, is the twentieth anniversary of her passing. So, I'm wearing my sapphire ring today to honor her. To remember the happiness of her visits and the joy of sharing with her in our rock hound adventures. I miss you Mom...but know you are with the Lord. 

Thanks for the memories......this post is for you, Mom!

Debbie with Mom

Until Next Time,


Anonymous said...

What a great story! The ring is beautiful, and what wonderful memories of your mom! So you are in NC! That is my favorite state and where I am determined to retire, Lord willing.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Yes, NC is a great place to retire!! Thank you for your kind comments.