Juniper Ridge Fire Opal

   The road into the Juniper Ridge Opal Mine was extremely bumpy. Joe, one of the partners in the mine, drove ahead of us leading the way through the dense forest of trees. We began the journey from the Quartz Mountain Snowpark, outside of Bly, Oregon where we met at 8:00 AM. Excitement and anticipation were thick in the truck as we bumped along. When we finally arrived at the mine, we found a good parking place and Joe introduced us to the mine and gave us a super tour of the area pointing out the various types and colors of collectible rock material that is located around the digging area. I knew where I wanted to dig right away. It was an area on the right side of the pit. After I chose my site there on the pit wall, he showed me how to dig in and work my way carefully down the wall. While the mine owners provide chisels and sledge hammers for folks, we came well prepared with gads, picks, chisels and hammers. You need good strong chisels and picks to break up the rock and dirt at the Juniper Ridge! I learned that digging out the opals in one piece is a little like trying to get out a piece of glass that has been set in concrete- very difficult. Joe told me that the bigger the chunk of rock you can get to break of, the bigger the opals will be that you will recover. So I spent the day breaking off the largest chunks of rock I could manage. I found a lot of very good stuff in the spot I had chosen, although I'll have to admit there were times when I wanted to quit because the work was so hard. My mother worked most of the day trying to free one red opal the size of a saucer stuck in the wall about a foot or two in. She would never have gotten anything if it weren't for Joe using a chisel and hammer to remove a large section of wall that was blocking her way. She ended up with the nicest color of the day. Her pieces were only large chips off the block but they were gorgeous pieces. We worked from about 8:00 am to about 3:00 pm and then called it quits. My arms were sore and my right hand was stuck in about the same size and shape as the handle of that sledge hammer, but, hey, at least my bucket was full!
*Note: We have returned several times since that first outing and the picture of me holding an intact 11 lb. nugget of facet grade opal is a memento of a day I will never forget. It took the entire day to extract that nugget, but my word, what a find!
*Note: Don't be confused by the center picture at the top of the page. The drop in the middle of the beads is made of Oregon Opal. The beads I made from Juniper Ridge Opal. They work well together don't you think?


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