In 2006, Don Baide, owner of The Gem Gallery in Bozeman, achieved something he had long dreamed of.
He found a sale listing for a property at Sapphire Village, close to the Yogo sapphire Vortex mine. The listing included all tools, equipment, a turnkey house and, most importantly, two lots of hand digging rights.
“My kids thought I was nuts, to buy it sight unseen — even the seller,” laughs Don Baide now. “The seller wanted to know if I could come up to see it, but I was about to get on a plane to Bangkok for work. I just couldn’t get up there.”
In fact, the first time Don Baide set eyes on the place, it was nearly impossible to see.
“We came up the first time like a bunch of bandits in the middle of the night,” Baide said. “We were supposed to get up there in the middle of the day, and we didn’t know which one was ours.”
“My dad was with us and he said, ‘just go knock on doors,’ but we didn’t want to do that,” he laughed. “You didn’t want to scare anyone up there in the middle of the night.”
After searching in the dark, the Baides finally found the house they purchased with the property, but the next challenge sent everyone groaning: they had to go out and figure out where the key was hidden. It goes without saying that they had a memorable first night in Sapphire Village.
Jason Baide, Don’s son and a goldsmith at The Gem Gallery [http://www.kbzk.com/story/38502479/the-golden-touch-bozemans-prodigy-jeweler], paints a picture of the area:
“There’s a village of cabins, trailers, and more down by the Judith River,” he said. “And if you bought a lot, some of them came with digging rights that were with portable primitive surface mining claims. You can work a 10ft x 10ft claim. You can move it around and restake without paperwork, as long as nobody has staked it, etc. Other rules apply, but that’s the basic setup. That’s what we had for the majority of my life. Several of those hand digging claims and a lot in Sapphire Village.”
Jason remembers the time up on the property well.
“I was maybe in 4th grade when we first bought the property,” he said. “We’d go up for a week or two in the summer. It was a combination of a family vacation and some mining time. Sometimes we’d camp out on the lawn, have bonfires, and have a classic Montana summer experience.”
“When we were kids – it was our normal summer thing to do,” Jason said. “It just became a part of our summer. If I found a big stone, I’d bring it in to show and tell later at school.”
“It was a summer of adventure, exploring, figuring out how to do everything,” Don Baide remembers from that first year. “I’d dug sapphires up at Gem Mountain about 20 years before. When you could really dig in the dirt, not by the bucketful.”
At the village, you had to limit your digging to four 5-gallon buckets per day on each claim, Jason Baide said. So outside of that little bit of digging time, you had plenty of opportunity to run around, and as he put it, get into a little trouble. For example, Jason said that the Fourth of July up there was always a “blast.”
Now that they’ve purchased the Yogo sapphire Vortex Mine, the commercially operating part of the mine that allows heavy equipment and is four hundred feet deep, the Baides don’t spend much time on their hand digging claims. With this new exciting endeavor, they are sure they will continue to make wonderful memories in the summers to come.
If you’ve been wondering when the Vortex Mine will be up and running again this year, after a long period of closure and a very rainy spring, Don Baide says they’re deep in work to bring some elements up to U.S. Forest Service standards. Some is as simple as weed control, but some is more time consuming, like bridge repairs and road improvements.
“We’ll be rolling by the end of summer,” Baide said.
If you’d like to learn more about Yogos or the Vortex Mine, head to The Gem Gallery and speak with the Baides at 402 East Main St., Bozeman.
The Gem Gallery is Bozeman’s premier custom jewelry and Montana Yogo Sapphire store. Founded in 1994 by Don Baide, we are located in historic and vibrant downtown Bozeman, Montana. We specialize in rare Montana Yogo Sapphires, custom designed jewelry and GIA certified Diamonds. Our talented in-house goldsmiths and designers can help you to visualize and create distinctive, one-of-a-kind jewelry that you will treasure and adore.
About Sapphires of Montana
Montana is known as the Treasure State because it is rich in many mineral and gemstone sources, including two types of sapphires: the Yogo Sapphire from the central area of the state, and Fancy Montana Sapphires found mostly in the western half of the state.
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