Ellensburg's Hidden Gem: Ellensburg Blue Agate
Ellensburg is home to the third rarest gemstone found around the world: the Ellensburg Blue Agate. Blues started drawing attention around the 1920s and have become more popular throughout the years, being reclassified to many as a precious gem. The Kittitas Indians were those who first discovered these hidden beauties. Because of its elegance, the tribal chiefs were the only individuals allowed to wear this magnificent gem until they became distributed.
These rare stones were formed in the sedimentary rock found near the Teanaway basalt. Formed by fluid, dense with minerals, flowing into the cracks found in the sedimentary stone, the stones were then transformed into veins of agate. After some time, these veins would erode and conform to the Ellensburg Blue Agate we see today. After formation, the stones were transported to the Ellensburg area by an extinct river that flowed through the Grand Canyon Notch many years ago. This area of the Grand Canyon can be found northwest of Ellensburg. That said, by around the 1940s, the agate beds had become depleted from rock hunters and tourists trudging around the soil, searching for the Blue Agate. High traffic in the past has caused the hunt for the Ellensburg gem to become more challenging with a rare chance of success.
How to Identify an Ellensburg Blue Agate
How can you tell if the stone you found is genuinely an Ellensburg Blue Agate? There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself. What color is the rock? An Ellensburg Blue Agate comes in a variety of blue shades. This spectrum of color can encompass a dark royal blue to a color imitating a light blue sky. The next question to be asked, what markings can be described upon the stone? This is an important question because not only does the color vary, but you will also find that no stone has the same markings. You can find Blues with cloudy images, streaks, and circular bands. It can be challenging to decipher if the stone is that of an Ellensburg Blue Agate because the stones themselves vary greatly. You will notice that a Blue Agate is extremely hard by its mineral structure. When tested on a MOHs scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the hardest), a Blue’s hardness will come back 7.5 or harder. Gems found on or around the earth’s surface are often oval-shaped and small.
For those who look for the luxury of an easy purchase, there are many online options. However, if you are looking for an in-person examination of Ellensburg Blues, Ireland Jewelers in Cle Elum allows you to view their variety of Blues, which have been created into finished pieces. Their prices can range from $80 to $175. You will be amazed at how these rare stones are being shaped to create beautiful pieces of jewelry for you or your loved ones. If you did happen to acquire a gem and wish to authenticate the stone, the owner of Ireland Jewelers has been known to warrant stones individuals are looking to sell.
If you are an explorer and wish to search for your very own rare gem, you can! Right here in Ellensburg! If you want to go rockhounding for one of these Blues, your best bet is making a trip to Rock N’ Tomahawk Ranch. This 160-acre stretch of land can be found on Upper Green Canyon Road. After a $5 entrance fee and a brief orientation regarding how to find your Blues, you are free to roam the land. Remember, the stone is super rare; if you come back empty-handed, that is okay! There are many other things you may find upon your journey around the grounds. It is said that the best time to hunt is during early summer after the winter weather has nudged the newer gems to the earth’s surface.
Kittitas County Historical Museum
If you cannot find an elusive Ellensburg Blue Agate, you are not out of luck. The Kittitas County Historical Museum currently has several Ellensburg Blues on display for you to observe and learn a great deal more on. Visit the museum during a future visit to experience more!