Rainbow Ridge Mine, Virgin Valley,
Humboldt County, Nevada

13-14 Aug 09
My friend Scott Northouse and I, traveled to the WORLD-FAMOUS Rainbow Ridge Opal mine, in Virgin Valley, Nevada, located about 300 miles NNE of Reno, to try our luck at sharing a virgin opal-bearing ore load!

13 Aug 09-  We ate dinner and camped the night before our dig, at the free campground, located about 5 miles down the dirt road from the mine itself.  

14 Aug 09-  Sunrise, breakfast and off to the mine we go!  The gates were opened at a bit past 8am.  Inside the property, four vehicles full of eager opal-a-holics were lead to the mine shop, where we paid our fees and were given handy tools to use for breaking up the tenacious, clay-rich dirt clods,
in our search for amazing precious opals!

We got our virgin ore pile (right off of the best part of the mine wall!)
and began our sweep of anything that was showing.  Here's
Scott Northouse in the depths of the pursuit, with the
legendary Rainbow Ridge mine pit in the background-

Opals began to show, but few displayed any real color-play fire. Then the sky got a bit cloudy, blocking the sun, which didn't help us to see any of the possible fire in the specimens, as we mined them.  So, we recovered anything that looked like an opal, to check later for fire-  (the results were good!)

Here's a classic limbcast, sticking out of a large clod of clay, but it didn't show any precious
color-play fire

Then, wait a minute, what was that flash... of fire?!  Finally the sun comes out and we start finding some goodies!

We found two, 8cm
long black limbcasts,
that didn't show any fire right away, but both have potential for the future-

And then boom!  I scored our first real killer, fiery, precious opal,
showing beautiful blue and green fire!  The precious Gem nodule
penetrated 5cm (2-inches) into the matrix!

And then I found another!  This one
is about 2.5cm (one-inch) tall
and very fiery!

We worked our butts off!  Less than 3 hours later, we near finishing
our systematic mining of the 3 cubic-yard ore pile-

As we were digging thru the last quarter of the pile, things really started getting interesting!  First, Scott N. found a pair of killers!  Then, at the very bottom of the pile, I found a loose giant fiery limbcast measuring over 8cm long and 4cm wide!!!  After showing the piece around a bit and stretching my legs, I went back to work.  Ten minutes later, I FOUND THE OTHER HALF!!!!  Together, they form a complete, AMAZING fiery limbcast over 16cm long (6.5 x 1.5-inches)!  This is the finest precious opal
I have ever collected!

Here are some pix of the spectacular half I chose for myself,
while Scott N. rightfully received the other half.  
This alone made our trip extremely worth-while!

Before it was noon, we had finished our clay ore pile.  Then, Scott and I worked the nearby tailing for a few hours and filled a tray with nice dry pieces showing color-play fire-

At about 3pm, the people that had a double-sized load next to us, left for the day.  This entitled anyone still digging at the mine to give their pile a look-sie.  Scott and I started digging in and amazing opals began to show-

Within 10 minutes of digging in this abandoned pile, I found an absolute KILLER, GEM, AWESOME, AMAZING limbcast measuring
3.7 x 3.0 x 1.5cm, RAGING with da' FIRE!!!  SUPER-WOW!!!!!

I also found this super-nice,
2.5cm (one-inch) gem in that pile!

We worked and worked and dug and dug, not taking any real breaks until they closed the mine.  I estimate that Scott and I each mined (processed and shoveled) at least 6-cubic yards of clay clods and dirt apiece.  After hanging out with Glen Hodson for awhile, Scott and I had to face our 300 mile drive back to Reno.  Many beautiful sights abound on our drive through Nevada, on the way home-

After eating a rack of ribs at the "Flying Pig" BBQ in Winnemucca, we got back to my house at 11:30pm. Then, we took some showers and got to work(!), eager to play with our new treasures.  We were up until 3am cleaning opals!  Here's my share of the smaller killers.  I call this my
"Jelly Jar", and it looks AWESOME!!!

I am now soaking and cleaning my pieces.  Fiery opals abound in these jars!  
It looks like it's time to shop for some good domed glass display jars!  
Virgin Valley opals are known to improve their quality of fire and clarify optically as they soak in water and other cleaners over weeks, months and even years.  So, opals that do not show any color-play fire when they are first collected, may later on, as they soak!

White veins of opal from this mine will rarely show fire, but I will soak these specimens for years, if it takes that, in the hopes that a few might fire-up some day.  



I think that this trip was a huge and very enjoyable success, and I highly recommend a virgin ore load of opal-bearing clay at the Rainbow Ridge opal mine to any and everyone!


I can't wait to get back and do it all again!



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