Things to Do: Sapphire Panning

Philipsburg was once known for its silver and gold, but now you can’t walk a block downtown without seeing something about sapphires! Being a geologist, I love this. I remember going sapphire panning in Pburg when I was first starting school, and I couldn’t wait to take Coby to try it out!

Since we couldn’t go out to the Mine outside of Philipsburg, we decided to check out Montana Gem! It’s perfect if you want to get your hands dirty and pan your own sapphires! The people working there are super knowledgeable and sweet, which was awesome! I love that the cost to pan the sapphires is based on which bag of “dirt” you buy. You can buy actual pay dirt from the mine, a fossil bag, a copper bag, etc! I got Coby the Guaranteed Treasure Bag (don’t tell him!), and we found a lot of pretty colored sapphires! The bag we got was natural pay dirt, but it was also filled with pre- heat treated gems. This makes the gems already colored and easy to find (perfect for beginners and kiddos!). The gems may not be good enough to cut, but they look great in your rock collection! You can also buy a bag of full on pay dirt, which may or may not have gems that can be heat treated, cut, and made into jewelry! Check out the comparison in the photo below!

Left: Treasure Bag, Right: Pay Dirt Bag

Sapphire panning is a ton of fun! The crew that works at Montana Gem makes it easy to learn also. It just takes a lot of shaking and patience! If you do it correctly, the sapphires should end up on top of the rock pile once you flip the screen over. Even if you don’t do it correctly, all you need is some tweezers and some patience to sift through the pile! It’s a treasure hunt the whole family can enjoy! Check out the pics below!


Have you panned for gold, sapphires, or garnets before? Ever been to Philipsburg? Know what we should do next? Let us know in the comments below!!


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