Saturday, September 5, 2009

Jade Prospecting Near Sweetwater Station

The book, Minerals and Rock of Wyoming, lists five identifying characteristics for nephrite jade:
1. nephrite is heavier than the average rock
2. nephrite is harder than a pocket knife
3. nephrite has a smooth waxy appearance, a fresh surface shouldn't sparkle
4. nephrite is not magnetic
5. Nephrite is associated with a bunch of other minerals,(not very helpful)

So armed with this information Renita and I headed for Sweetwater Station, looking for alluvial or float jade. The book, Prospecting Wyoming, said we should take the Bison road south and look pretty much anywhere, and its map showed five mine site logos.
So we turned south towards Buffalo Basin, already overwhelmed by the seemingly endless set of flats and terraces and rock outcrops. Hunting season had started and the antelope raced away as we drove down the washboard gravel road.
We finally decided to simply start stopping at different places and do quick looks for small fragements. So stopping at a ridge that was filled with rounded pebbles and boulders we got out our collecting bags and started prospecting. Before I got started Renita already was handing me a rock that was a light green and met the above criteria.
Looking closely, I tried to scratch the rock with my knife. "Ive already tried that and a knife doesn't scratch it", she said. It looked waxy, felt a little heavier than an average rock, and wasn't chalcedony.
Being an expert on minerology, having taken the class twice, I realized that I didn't know if it was jade. It can be a lot of colors ranging from white to green to black with all of the colors in between. Now the book also said that to really know you needed to test the sample with an x ray crystolography machine, but forgetting ours I simply said, "I don't know, lets keep it."
So we decided to keep anything that was green to white to black and met the few tests we could do. Several trucks went by and one car even slowed and watched us for a bit before driving away.
We decided to drive further south and look at more places and there was the same car, just over the hill and looking for jade, Boy did we fool them! We continued down the road for about ten more miles, and while we saw prospect pits, we didn't find any more green rocks, so we returned to the first site and spent the rest of the afternoon there. Our prospecting kind of reminded me of when we were kids, looking for pretty rocks, but isn't that what its all about?
Finally tiring, I returned to the truck where Renita had already arrived and was taking pictures. I told her I would show her my rocks if she would show me hers, and we spent some time looking at each others specimens and saying, "Gee I don't know, it might be,"
Regardless, we were both tired and sore and had spent a pleasant day rockhounding, which was the real treasure, spending time together. The forty minute drive back to our fifth wheel went quickly. Now if we only had a rock saw and a polisher.......
Clear skies.

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