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Idaho State News

Getting your Hands on Idaho’s State Gemstone is Easier than you Might Think

IDAHO – Idaho is known as the “Gem State” for very good reasons. There are 72 different precious and semi-precious gems found in Idaho. The state gemstone, the star garnet, is by far the rarest and can only be found in India and the Idaho Panhandle.

Despite their rarity, did you know that anyone with a permit and some determination can “dig” for these semi-precious stones? Each summer rockhounds from all over the country descend upon the Emerald Creek Garnet Area in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest to find gem-quality specimens. The Garnet Area was established by the Forest Service as a safe, environmentally friendly way to dig the sought-after stones.

The star garnet is easily recognized by its red color and 12-sided shape. Once cut, the gemstone will reveal a 4- or 6-pointed star in the center of the stone. According to the Forest Service website, the crystals found in the dig area range in size from sand particles to the size of golf balls, or larger.

A handful of “garnet sand” taken from a creek bed

The dig area in Emerald Creek is open to the public between the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and the Monday of Labor Day weekend. Permits for the site are released 90 days prior to the available date and are only sold online at recreation.gov and often sell out quickly. No permits are sold on-site. The Forest Service supplies the necessary tools to dig, sift, and wet sluice the stones. While there are no motor vehicles allowed, the area is family-friendly and accessible to anyone interested in finding Idaho’s state gemstone.