The 19 Crystals That Can Be Found in the Mountains (Photos Included)

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 19 Crystals That Can Be Found in the Mountains (Photos Included)

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Mountains are home to many cool crystals, including sapphire, galena, and garnet. These crystals have different colors and shapes, making them interesting to learn about. 

Rockhounds often explore mountain areas to find these crystals. Each crystal, like sapphire, galena, and garnet, has its own story of how it ended up there.

The Different Crystals That You Can Find in Mountains

Mountains hold many surprises, and among them are crystals. Finding these crystals can be an exciting adventure. These are the different rocks and minerals that you’ll find when you explore mountains.

Topaz

rough pale yellow topaz crystals
Topaz provided by ItalianGemsDesigns

Topaz is a crystal that comes in many colors, like blue, yellow, and sometimes clear. It’s really hard, which makes it great for jewelry, and it can be identified by its prismatic crystals.

This mineral forms in mountain areas through a long process involving lava cooling down and reacting with water. Topaz usually grows in rocks like granite and can be found in places where there’s a lot of volcanic activity.

You can find topaz in mountains like the Thomas Range in Utah or in areas around Pikes Peak in Colorado.

Labradorite

rough iridescent labradorite crystal
Labradorite provided by moonvirgocrystals

Labradorite is known for its stunning colors that can shift in the light, showing blues, greens, and even oranges. Its unique feature is its iridescent effect, known as labradorescence.

Labradorite forms in igneous rocks, like basalt and gabbro, when magma cools slowly beneath the earth’s surface. This cooling process allows the minerals to crystallize over time, creating the beautiful labradorite.

Although labradorite can be found in several places around the world, notable locations include the Adirondack Mountains.

Quartz

clear quartz crystal cluster
Quartz provided by OddballMinerals

Quartz is a crystal that can be clear or come in colors like pink, purple, and even black. It’s really hard and it can be recognized by its glassy shine and distinctive crystal shapes.

This crystal is made when silicon and oxygen mix together in places where the earth has a lot of heat and pressure. Quartz is often found in rocks like granite and sandstone.

You can find quartz in many mountain regions, but the Gogebic Range is especially known for their smoky and milky quartz crystals.

Emerald

rough green emerald crystal
Emerald provided by AstroWest

Emeralds are known for their rich green color, which can range from light to dark shades. They are also quite resistant to scratches and are one of the most well-known gems in the world.

Emeralds form under very specific conditions, where beryllium, chromium, and vanadium are present, often in rocks like granite and metamorphic rocks. These crystals grow in veins or pegmatites.

North Carolina is a place where you might find emeralds. Here, the Hiddenite area is particularly famous for its quality and size of its emerald crystals.

Ruby

rough pinkish red ruby crystal
Ruby provided by Mpuregems

Rubies are famous for their deep red color, which can range from pinkish to a rich, dark red. They are very hard, just a little softer than diamonds, and they’re known to fluoresce brightly under ultraviolet light.

These precious stones form in marble and basalt rocks, needing specific conditions like high temperature and pressure to develop their color and hardness.

One place to find rubies is in the mountains of Montana, where the famous Yogo Gulch is located. This site is known for producing some of the finest rubies in the country.

Sapphire

three rough blue sapphire crystals
Sapphire provided by GeorgioStones

Sapphires are known for their beautiful colors, which can be blue, yellow, pink, and even clear. They are very resistant to scratches, and their variety of colors helps them stand out from other crystals.

These gems form in places with a lot of heat and pressure, usually in rocks like marble or basalt. The process involves minerals mixing with high temperatures, which then cool down and form sapphires.

The area around the Yogo Gulch in Montana is particularly famous for the high quality and beautiful color of its sapphires.

Aquamarine

pale blue aquamarine crystals on muscovite
Aquamarine provided by AstroWest

Aquamarine is a beautiful crystal with colors ranging from light blue to green-blue, much like the sea. It’s highly sought-after because of its beautiful colors and high clarity.

This gem forms deep in the earth, in rocks like granite and pegmatite. Aquamarine is created when mineral-rich water moves through these rocks, cooling and leaving behind the beautiful crystals over time.

The mountains of Colorado are well-known for their aquamarine deposits. One of the most famous sites is Mount Antero, where some of the finest aquamarines have been found.

Garnet

orange garnet crystals on a rock
Garnet provided by CrystalsGemsMinerals

Garnet is a crystal that comes in a lot of colors, from deep red to vibrant green. It’s pretty hard, which means it doesn’t scratch easily, and the different colors along with its glassy shine make it stand out.

Garnets are formed in high-pressure, high-temperature conditions often found in mountainous areas. They grow in rocks like schist and gneiss and sometimes in volcanic rocks.

You can find some beautiful garnets in the mountains of Arizona. The Garnet Hill area in Nevada is also famous for its red garnet crystals.

Amethyst

deep purple amethyst geode
Amethyst provided by Maricramen

Amethyst is known for its beautiful purple color, which can range from a light lavender to a deep violet. It’s quite hard and suitable for jewelry as well as decor.

This gem forms in hollow rocks or geodes when silica-rich water cools down and crystallizes over thousands of years. Amethyst is often found in volcanic rocks, where the conditions are just right for these purple crystals to grow.

One of the places you can find amethyst is in the mountains of Arizona, where the Four Peaks mine is especially famous for its high-quality amethyst.

Pyrite

etched golden pyrite crystal
Pyrite provided by MineralCuriosities

Pyrite, often called fool’s gold, shines with a metallic luster and has a gold-like appearance. Its cubic or octahedral shape helps tell it apart from real gold.

Pyrite forms in a variety of geological settings, often in sedimentary rocks like shale and coal beds as well as in metamorphic rocks.

It’s created when iron and sulfur react under certain conditions, often near volcanic activity or in areas where the rocks have been heated by the earth’s natural processes.

One place where pyrite is commonly found is in the slate belt of the Appalachian Mountains.

Fluorite

cubic pale blue fluorite crystal cluster
Fluorite provided by Spirifer Minerals

Fluorite comes in a rainbow of colors, from purple and blue to green and yellow, and forms in cubic crystals. Its ability to fluoresce under ultraviolet light is its defining feature.

This mineral usually forms in veins within rocks. It’s often found in limestone and dolomite, where these conditions are just right for fluorite to crystallize.

Illinois is famous for its fluorite, especially the area around the southern part known as the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar District.

Jade

rough blue and green jade
Jade provided by SiberianJade

Jade is usually a beautiful green color, but it can also be found in white, orange, yellow, and other colors. It’s really tough and resistant to breaking, which makes it perfect for carving into jewelry and art pieces.

Jade forms deep in the earth under high pressure and low temperature, mainly in metamorphic rocks. It’s often found in areas where tectonic plates meet.

One place to find jade is in the mountains of Wyoming, where deposits of high-quality jade have made it the state gem.

Opal

rough opal with play-of-color
Opal provided by meemgemsjewels

Opal is a fascinating gemstone known for its ability to display a rainbow of colors, which shift and change as you move it in the light. This distinctive play-of-color makes it stand out from other gems.

Opals form from a solution of silica and water. As water runs down through the earth, it picks up silica from sandstone, and then it evaporates, leaving the silica behind to form opal.

This process usually happens in areas with a lot of geothermal activity, like where hot springs are found.

Nevada is famous for its beautiful opals, particularly the Virgin Valley, which is known for producing black opal. Another notable place is the opal fields of Oregon.

Agate

agate slab with white and red layers
Agate provided by OathstoneLapidaryArt

Agate is a type of quartz known for its bands of color, which can include almost any color of the rainbow. Its banded patterns set this gem apart from others.

Agates form when silica-rich water fills cavities in volcanic rocks or ancient lavas. Over time, the silica precipitates into layers, creating the bands that agate is famous for.

One of the best places to find agate in the United States is along the shores of Lake Superior, especially in Minnesota. The beaches here are known for their abundance of beautifully banded agates.

Galena

cubic silver galena cluster
Galena provided by Madanminerals

Galena is a shiny, metallic-looking mineral that’s really heavy for its size. Even so, it’s pretty soft compared to other minerals, easily scratched with a knife, and its cube-like shapes make it easy to recognize.

This mineral forms deep underground in places where the temperature and pressure are just right for lead and sulfur to combine. Galena is often found in igneous rocks and pegmatites.

One of the places you can find galena is in the Ozark Mountains, which have some of the largest deposits of this mineral. The Tri-State District around the junction of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma is another great spot.

Magnetite

gray pyramid shaped magnetite crystal
Magnetite provided by AhouliMinerals

Magnetite is a dark, almost black mineral that’s known for being very magnetic. This magnetism isn’t found in many minerals, which is why magnetite is quite unique.

Magnetite forms in a variety of geological settings, often as part of the process that creates igneous and metamorphic rocks. It can form in large deposits in areas with volcanic activity or where hot springs circulate minerals through rocks.

The Adirondack Mountains are well-known for their significant magnetite deposits. Another notable location is the Iron Mountain area, which has a history of magnetite mining.

Hematite

five dark brown botryoidal hematite crystals
Hematite provided by SequoiasRoots

Hematite is a shiny, dark-colored mineral that ranges from metallic gray to black or even reddish-brown. It’s known for leaving a red streak when it’s scraped across a surface, making it easy to identify.

This mineral mostly forms in places where there’s been water, like lakes or hot springs, which allows iron to dissolve, combine with oxygen, and then precipitate out as hematite. It’s often found in sedimentary rocks like shale or limestone.

The Lake Superior region is famous for its hematite deposits, specifically the iron mines of Michigan and Minnesota. Another well-known area is the Mesabi Range, which has been a major source of iron ore for over a century.

Kyanite

blue kyanite crystal spray
Kyanite provided by OmniTreasures

Kyanite is typically found in a vibrant blue color, but it can also be clear, green, or orange. It’s unique because it has two different hardness levels depending on the direction you scratch it.

This mineral forms under high pressure and low-temperature conditions, mainly in metamorphic rocks. It’s often found in areas where crustal plates have collided, pushing rocks deep into the Earth where they transform.

One of the places you can find kyanite is in the mountains of Virginia, where there are large deposits of this mineral. The Willis Mountain mine, in particular, is known for its high-quality kyanite.

Tourmaline

orange and green tourmaline crystal
Tourmaline provided by TheGemstoneMatrix

Tourmaline is a fascinating crystal that comes in almost every color you can think of, from black and brown to vibrant blues, pinks, and greens. Sometimes, individual tourmaline crystals can have multiple colors.

Tourmaline forms in a variety of geological settings, often in metamorphic rocks like schist and marble or in granite.

Maine is well-known for its tourmaline deposits, particularly the western part of the state. Another famous spot is the Pala region of California, where tourmaline mines have been active for over a century.

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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