Oregon Sunstones

• Unique Oregon Sunstones are found only in Southeastern Oregon
• Oregon Sunstone contains copper which gives metallic flashes

Rare and beautiful mineral crystals, Oregon Sunstones are found only in the high desert of Southeastern Oregon. Sunstones have been found in many locations around the world including Canada, Mexico, Norway, Australia, Russia, China, Tanzania, and the United States of America including New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. However, Oregon Sunstones differ from the classic specimens. It's only sunstone containing copper which gives metallic flashes that are prized by gemologists.

Oregon Sunstones Color Determines Its Value

The mineral has copper inclusions that provide a shimmering optical effect known as schiller or aventurescence. Light is reflected from tiny copper platelets and when viewed from certain angles exhibits a bright flash of light to the eye.

Color relates to the amount of copper in the sunstone. The red stone contains the highest concentration of copper, over 200 parts per million (0.02%). Green - 100 parts per million (0.01%). Yellow - 20 parts per million (0.002%). The highest copper concentration makes Oregon sunstones highly-prized and popular among artisans and collectors.

Some crystals can exhibit colors changes, for example, showing pink on one side and red on the opposite side of the stone. Other sunstones might have green patches with a red color. The rare and most valuable stones have dichroic or trichroic properties that mean the colors or color depth are changed when observed from different directions. Also, some of the rarest sunstones resemble alexandrite properties. Those specimens change colors dependently on the nature of the light. They look different in daylight than in incandescent light.

Sunstone value is defined by transparency, color, and the quality of aventurescence.

The prices vary from a few dollars for colorless and light yellow to $1,700 per carat for large stones with an intense red or green color.

In 1987, Oregon Sunstones were recognized as the official State Gemstone.

Sunstone Formation

A calcium-rich Oregon sunstone formed in molten basaltic lava flows thirteen to fourteen million years ago during eruptions of the Steens Mountain. The lava was covered by water for thousands of years until dry weather, winds and extreme temperatures dried out the lake entirely. The basalt flows were exposed and the sunstones crystals were released.

Where to Find Oregon Sunstones

South Central and Southeastern Oregon are the only areas in the world where the gem-graded sunstones with copper inclusions are found. There are three sunstone productive deposits in Oregon: one in Lake County and two in Harney County. Most locations are within the private mining claims. Collecting on mining claims without the owners' permission is prohibited.

Luckily for rock-enthusiasts, collecting sunstone is allowed in Lake County, 23 miles north of Plush. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) established the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area in the Rabbit Basin between the Warner Valley and Albert Rim.

Also, sunstones can be collected on commercial Dust Devil’s, Spectrum Sunstone and Double Eagle Mines, all of them are located near the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area.

Oregon Rockhounding Map

You May Also Like

Geitgey Rom. Oregon Sunstones. 1987. Oregon Geology.

Sunstone. Geology.com


1 Comment

  1. I am new to OR and love rock collecting as dose the rest of my family. We live in Southern Jackson County near Butte Falls. what can we find near where we live as i dont have a 4 wheel drive car i cant do much off roading. can anyone help?

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