Patriotic jewelry may have never been on your radar before. But perhaps you’re a proud resident of your state, and you want a fun, subtle symbol to reflect that. Or maybe you’re a curious collector, looking to start a new project? Consult our useful guide to learning more about your official state gemstone, mineral, and more!
Introduction to Patriotic Gemstones
What is a Patriotic Gemstone?
There is no exact definition of what makes a gemstone patriotic. This guide was influenced by the work of gemologist George Frederick Kunz. In his book, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, Kunz made a brief mention of some gemstones that he associated with particular states. Kunz thought that these gems, and their association with the state of which they were found, would make them an excellent accent to modern or traditional birthstones. Alternately, he suggested wearing them as a symbol of patriotism or state pride.
Much has changed since the debut of his seminal work. A number of new states have joined the United States, and many more have adopted particular gemstones and minerals as official symbols of representation. With this in mind, consider these suggestions of gems and minerals.
Gemstones versus Minerals
How can you tell the difference between a gem and a mineral? That’s a tricky question. Gemstones are simply materials, usually minerals, that are considered valuable to humans. Often, they are the crystallized versions of minerals. Specific chemical compositions and natural processes of the Earth have transformed these humble minerals into something beautiful and pleasing to the eye while making them durable enough to survive the rigors of being worn in items such as jewelry.
Alternately, other gemstones are composed of organic materials. This means they’ve come from either plants or animals. Pearls and amber are perhaps the two most famous examples of organic gemstones.
Why Use a Patriotic Gemstone?
It’s a great question. Why would someone desire a patriotic gemstone?
- Gemstones are highly collectible. A person could build an entire collection around finding examples from all 50 states.
- Fans of birthstones might appreciate owning another symbol associated with their birth. This is especially true if their birthstone by month doesn’t appeal to them.
- Jewelry is a personal expression that helps tell a person’s story in a visual way. One could weave a tale of their journey and places lived by the gemstones displayed in their jewelry or gem collection.
- Kunz promoted patriotic stones as an alternate or accent to traditional and modern birthstones. One could wear a stone corresponding to its month on the calendar he developed.
Alabama Gemstones and Minerals
Alabama, often known as “the Heart of Dixie,” provides several opportunities for anyone interested in representing their association with the state. Alabama can boast of an official state gemstone, mineral, and rock!
Alabama State Gemstone
The state gem is star blue quartz. This variety of quartz exhibits a pleasing cornflower blue hue. Sometimes, specimens will display amphibole mineral inclusions. These are minerals often associated with feldspar. What’s fascinating is that they also work to produce an asterism effect in gemstones. This presents the cat’s eye and star seen in some gems such as moonstone, ruby, and sapphire. Star blue quartz is named such as examples often contain this effect too! Star blue quartz became Alabama’s official state gemstone in 1990 when it was passed into law by the state government.
Alabama State Mineral
Besides an official gemstone, the great state of Alabama also has an official mineral. Hematite bears the honor for this state. This is significant as the mineral was mined for many years in the central and northeast areas of the state. Alongside deposits of coal and limestone, this enabled the city of Birmingham became a powerhouse industrial center. This lasted until 1975 when it became more cost-effective to import better quality ore from outside the state. A notable symbol of industry, the Roman god Vulcan was cast from hematite iron ore mined within the state. It stands at the top of Red Mountain outside the city of Birmingham. The state legislature noted the importance of this material by making it the official state mineral in 1967.
Alabama State Rock
In addition to their official state gemstone and mineral, Alabama also has an official rock! Marble is the state’s official rock. Alabama marble, originating from Talladega County, is known for its excellent texture and milky whiteness. Operations have been in place for nearly 200 years to quarry the material. It has been used in buildings and monuments throughout the state, but also the entire country! Marble was adopted as the official state rock in 1969.
Alaska Gemstones and Minerals
Alaska is known as “The Last Frontier.” And within this frontier state, a wealth of gems and minerals are found! The state of Alaska has a long tradition of contributing to the gem and mineral trade, with the gold rushes of the late 19th century being the most famous.
Alaska State Gemstone
While already well-known for their important deposits of gold, you might be surprised to learn that this wilderness state possesses a healthy supply of jade. Now, jade is a generic term that can refer to several types of related materials. Alaska is specifically home to nephrite jade. Native Eskimos collected this stone before Western exploration. They traded it alongside other, more familiar materials such as furs and metals like copper. Jade became the official gemstone of Alaska in 1968.
Nephrite jade found in the state comes in a wide variety of hues beyond the green tones of which we’re all familiar. Alaskan jade can also be found in colors such as black, red, yellow and white. Also, a rare variety of lavender jade exists. Primarily, Alaskan jade can be discovered in river beds as smooth, rounded boulders, with a brown coating surrounding the colored stone. The coating is the result of weathering from being washed through the rivers of the state. The Seward Peninsula houses a large supply known as Jade Mountain. Most deposits are found along the Kobuk River, Dall River, and Shungnak River.
Alaska State Mineral
The presence of gold is intertwined within the history of this great state and its ongoing identity. The name given to these periods of activity are known as gold rushes, with the majority being grouped together as the Klondike Gold Rush, during the last decade of the 19th century. Even today, the promise of gold draws many would-be prospectors and tourists to the state. Alaska formally recognized the importance of this mineral to the state’s history in 1968, when it was declared the state’s official mineral. Over 32 million ounces of gold have been mined within the state!
Alaska State Rock
An official rock for the state does not exist, and not every state in the union recognizes one. Besides the presence of jade and gold, copper has played an important role the history of Alaska. Alaskan Natives, such as the Inuit, traded raw copper ore alongside other items such as fur and animal hide. During both World Wars, copper was mined to support the effort. A high-grade deposit near McCarthy was mined between 1900 – 1938.
Behind gold and copper, sand and gravel rank as the third most important non-energy commodity.
Arizona Gemstones and Minerals
Known as “the Copper State,” it should come as no surprise to learn about the role this metal has played in Arizona’s legacy.
Arizona State Gemstone
Turquoise is official state gemstone of Arizona. The state is world-famous for its production of this gem, with such famous examples as Sleeping Beauty turquoise, Mojave turquoise, Kingman turquoise, and much more being produced. Most varieties of this gem from the state are named after the mine they are sourced from, as a significant amount of variation exists between specimens. The importance and value of turquoise go back hundreds of years, and many Native American tribes held turquoise in high regard as a sacred gem.
Another unique stone from here is Anthill Garnet. As the name suggests, ants excavate the tiny jewels while burrowing their tunnels. Rain and other weather move the stones to the base of their mounds, where Native Americans have collected them for generations.
Arizona State Mineral
Copper is the official state mineral. It is so important to the state, that its nickname, “the Copper State,” is based on this fact. Since the Spanish exploration of the area in the 1600’s, the quest for precious metals existed. While silver was long the desired find, innovative miners of the mid-1850’s began hard-rock mining ventures. In addition to silver, these efforts produced copper, lead, and zinc. In modern times, copper is the primary metal produced by the state, with hundreds of mines, smelters, and processing facilities dotting the landscape.
Arizona State Rock
Though no official rock is recognized by the state, Arizona considers petrified wood to be its official fossil! Outside of Holbrook, Arizona, one can find the Petrified Forest National Park. Within the park and surrounding are one can find one of the largest and most significant deposits known in the world! The petrified wood from this area is known for its color and can be found in hues such as blue, brown, gray, orange, red, yellow and white. Petrified wood is polished and used in beads and cabochons for jewelry, such as peanut wood jasper.
Arkansas Gemstones and Minerals
Known as “the Natural State,” Arkansas’s nickname proves apt. Filled with a wealth of natural resources, discover more about their gems, minerals and more below.
Arkansas State Gemstone
Not just a girl’s best friend, diamonds are also the official state gemstone for Arkansas. First discovered around the beginning of the 20th century, they were found near the mouth of Prairie Creek. For many years, efforts were made to turn the discovery into a successful commercial venture, all eventually failing due to various setbacks. By the 1950’s the property had changed hands several times and was operated as a private tourist attraction, and eventually became the Crater of Diamonds State Park in 1972. For a small fee, visitors can hunt for their very own diamond gemstones!
Diamonds were elected as the official state gemstone in 1967 in recognition of their importance to the state’s history.
Arkansas State Mineral
Well-known as one of the most abundant minerals on Earth, quartz is the official state mineral of Arkansas. Nicknames “Arkansas Diamonds,” the quartz mined within the state is primarily used in electronics manufacturing. Quartz is mined within the west-central region of the state from the Ouachita Mountains. The highest peak in the range is Mount Magazine, rising to 2,753 feet. The material from Arkansas is frequently compared to that of Brazil, who is the top commercial supplier in the world. Just as with the state’s diamond park, it is possible to go hunting for these unusual natural stones on your own. As with diamond, it was declared the official state mineral in 1967.
Arkansas State Rock
Bauxite is the official state rock of Arkansas. Bauxite ore is a primary source of aluminum, and it is mined for this purpose. Mined bauxite ore is processed into foil sheets and soft drinks. Arkansas is home to the largest deposits of bauxite within the United States, and for that reason is was declared the official rock of the state in 1967. Bauxite is found in the central region of the state, within Pulaski and Saline counties.
California Gemstones and Minerals
As one of the largest states in the union, California is home to a wealth of natural resources. The Golden State boasts an official state gemstone, state mineral, and state rock. California was also the first state to appoint an official rock.
California State Gemstone
You may not have heard of California’s state gemstone, benitoite. Benitoite is a very rare blue gemstone. In fact, gem-quality material has only ever been identified in California, leading the state to make it their official gemstone in 1985. The stone is named for the San Benito River, as it was first discovered around the headwaters in 1907. As a mineral, benitoite has only been identified in California, Arkansas, and Japan. The gemstone’s blue color is the result of titanium impurities, and it’s very uncommon to find crystals larger than one carat.
California State Mineral
Just as with Alaska, it should come as no surprise that gold was selected as California’s state mineral. Discovered in the state during January of 1848, the precious metal lead to a rush, causing the population to immediately skyrocket. Thousands flocked to the state, and from 1850 to 1859 over 28,000,000 fine ounces were mined. Adjusted for today’s prices, this makes the gold found during that period worth about 10 billion dollars! California officially declared gold to be their state mineral in 1965. The Golden State derives its nickname from the importance of this metal to its history, as much of its modern development arising from the population growth the gold rush brought on.
California State Rock
California was the first state to designate a state rock. Serpentine was the declared California’s state rock in 1965. Serpentine typically appears as a blue-green to green material and has long been favored as a material for gem use and carving. Due to its beauty and versatility, it has been used as a substitute for jade for centuries. Serpentine can also be found blended with other stones, such as Tasmanian stichtite.