CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF VALLEY VALLEY OPALS
opals are first discovered as weathered placer float near Pond 13, though unconfirmed "rumors" exist of their discovery by local cowboys and ranchers over a decade earlier (who were said to have picked up the "pretty stones" and traded them for drinks when they went into local towns). As best can be determined, the first survey across an opal bearing area was made in ____ by ______, with Ed McGhee having knowledge of the area.
the first in-situ (in-place) opals are discovered at a source, now known as the OPAL QUEEN MINE, and reported by ___.
By 1913, most of the important rich deposits were discovered. The five most important at this time were : Bonanza, Opal Queen, Rainbow Ridge, Stonetree, and Royal Peacock. This remains true to 2018, over ___ years later!
A remarkable lady, Flora Lockheed, enters the valley to do a report on the opal fields for a San Francisco newspaper. She becomes heavily involved with the mines and opals and is the largest effort yet made in the valley.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION PLEASE CHECK BACK.
HISTORY OF SPECIFIC MINES.
RAINBOW RIDGE OPAL MINE.
The Rainbow Ridge Opal mine is a group of six patented placer mining claims known as the Black Opal #1, Black Opal #2, Black Opal #3, Rincon Belle, Royal Opal, and Pandora claims. The deposit was originally discovered sometime around 1908. The original location was made by a local rancher under the name "Opal claim" in 1911, and several more claims were added by others. Flora Loughead (phonetically pronounced "Lockheed"), mother of the famed Lockheed boys, came to Virgin Valley about 1916 to write a story for a San Francisco Newspaper. She fell in love with the opals, purchased the Rainbow and other claims, and relocated others, forming the Rainbow Ridge Mining Company with the Hammond-Fiske family. Ward's Science Establishment was a shareholder in the corporation. In November 1917 the mine produced the famous fist-size precious Roebling Black Opal which is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. The mining claims are located in Sections 22-23, T45N R26E, MDBM. Six claims were patented in 1929 and 1930, respectively. The Mineral Patent to the Rainbow Ridge Mining Claims contained a reservation excluding any lodes previously known to exist. The Rainbow Ridge Mine was purchased by the Hodson family in 1949. In 1952, the mine produced the now famous 6.3 pound Hodson Opal. As of 1991, there was an estimated 850 feet of underground tunnel in the main workings. The mine has been operated as a fee dig site during the summer months for decades. Many fine opals have been recovered by both fee diggers and the mine owners alike.
BONANZA (VIRGIN OPAL, DEFIANCE, DOW) OPAL MINE
The Bonanza Opal workings are a precious opal deposit and mine group, located primarily in the SW¼ section 6, T45N, R26E, MDM, at an elevation around 5,200 feet. The patented portion of the mine is 103 acres. The early history of the Virgin Opal-Bonanza deposit is vague, but was one of the earliest claims in Virgin Valley. The original discovery of opals in the area is reported to have occurred about 1905-1906 at what is now the nearby Opal Queen Mine just S-SE of the Bonanza Mine. The Bonanza deposit was discovered, staked and became the second major location in Virgin Valley. Ivan Dow, George Mathewson, Alfred Thompson and others were the original owners (1908). The deposit was first officially reported by J.C. Merriam in 1907.
The early workings at the Bonanza were shallow surface cuts, and the tendency of the opals to craze upon exposure to atmospheric conditions after mining caused disappointment and abandonment in their early commercial mining. Some years later, after 1916, Flora Loughead (pronounced "Lockheed") acquired the Bonanza group claims, which was one of the ten major groups she owned during her mining efforts in Virgin Valley.
In January, 1943 Flora Lockheed died and the Bonanza deposit was relocated on April 3, 1943, as the Virgin Opal Placer by Mark M. Foster, Frank L. Garaventa, and others, being 2,640 feet by 2,640 feet, or 160 acres. Mark Foster located a 40 acre addition measuring 2640 feet by 660 feet on July 1, 1953, known as the Virgin Opal #2 Placer, on the southerly side of the existing Virgin Opal, bringing the amount of ground claimed to 200 acres. The work consisted of a cut to begin tunnel near the north side center line of the new claim. On December 11, 1954, Mark Foster sold the Virgin Opal group placer claims (Virgin Opal & Virgin Opal #2) to the Hodson family. The Virgin Opal claims were downplayed in their importance by their new owners to discourage highgrading due to the remoteness of the location and the valuable nature of the gems in the exposed deposits, and in literature was purported to "be only a localized enrichment" (Eyles, 1964, p.122), which was not the actual case.
In 1973, while working on the Virgin Opal claim, Keith Hodson accidentally discovered the 7.25 pound "Bonanza" Opal, which was broken into 5 large pieces and numerous smaller chunks by the bulldoer blade. During 1974-1975, the United States Geological Survey examined the Virgin Opal-Bonanza deposit (among other mines in the area) as part of their study of the mineral potential of Virgin Valley and the Sheldon Range (U.S.G.S., 1984, p.1,131-134). On June 15, 1979, Keith Hodson located the Bon #1-5 Lode mining claims over his existing Virgin Opal Group placers and filed a patent application. A mineral survey was conducted on the Bon #1-5 lode claims between June 25-28, 1979. On September 7, 1982, Keith Hodson received a mineral patent to the Bon #1-5 lode claims, patent # 27-82-0024, covering 103.305 acres. The mine was worked for many years by owner Keith Hodson, and in the early 1980's produced a 3,853 carat limb replacement precious opal discovered by Hodson's wife, Agnes, known as the "Crowning Glory" which was valued at $50,000.00 (USA) as a wet specimen. On July 15, 1988, Keith Hodson (dba Rainbow Ridge Opal Mines Inc) sold the patented Bon #1-5 lode mining claims ("Bonanza Opal Mine") to Richard Leger and Lloyd Olds, who in turn formed a limited partnership selling 1% digging right shares in the mine. Initially the shares sold for $6,000.00 each, and averaged $9,000.00 or so in later years. On September 15, 1989, Richard Leger and Lloyd Olds filed the Virgin Opal #1 and #1A placer claims, claiming ground on either side of and buffering the patented Bonanza Opal mine. On October 22, 1991, the Bonanza shareholder partnership formed Bonanza Opal Mines, Inc., a Nevada corporation. On July 9, 1992, Lloyd Olds and Richard Leger quitclaimeed their interests in the Virgin Opal #1 and #1A placers to the Bonanza corporation, as well as the patented mine. The Virgin Opal placer claims on either side of the patented Bonanza Opal mine were apparently so valuable that Lloyd Olds stipulated in the deed that the claims were to remain with Bonanza Opal Mines Inc forever or be returned to him upon dissolution of the corporation. The corporation subsequently filed buffer lode claims on both sides of the patented mine.
For some time afterwards, the Bonanza corporation and shareholders were involved in lawsuits over management, ownership and share disputes, among other issues. However, after initiating a shareholder plan for the patented mine, considerable amounts of precious opal was recovered, of which 1/2 went to the corporation and 1/2 to the discovering shareholder; exceptional specimens remained property of the corporation. After legalities were settled, the tailings portion of the mine was open for public fee digging.
The Virgin Opal-Bonanza deposit is underlain by in-place, nearly horizontal to 45 degree dipping ash, tuff, and tuffaceous sandstone beds. The opal bearing horizon can generally be traced and averages more than 4 feet (1.2 m) thick and consists primarily of light colored bentonite containing varying amounts of petrified wood, rhyolite pebbles, ash, and opal. Precious opals are usually found in the upper half of the horizon. The Bonanza mine is quite developed and active, with many large trenches, open cuts, pits and workings. The original float (placer) deposits are exhausted; the lode deposit is being actively mined. The mine has produced large precious opals, the most noteworthy weighing 7.25 pounds ("The Bonanza Opal"); 8 pounds ("Irene's Delight"); and other smaller pieces too numerous to mention. Bonanza Opal Mines Inc., sales for 1995 totaled $47,566 (11/30/1995) and the patented mine yielded a total of 79 gallons of opal from the 1995 season (the corporation's 50% share was 49 gallons of opal, or approximately ten 5-gallon buckets, which was considered to be a "bad" season). Heylmun (1987, p.44) notes that "In places, precious opal has been involved with slumping and landsliding; undoubtedbly, some valuable opal deposits lie buried beneath the landslides." The Virgin Opal-Bonanza deposit was noted as being one of several mines in Virgin Valley having opal reserves worth millions of dollars (USGS, 1984, p.7). The patented mine, along with the other adjoining claims, transferred by Lloyd Olds and Richard Leger to the Bonanza Corporation, were estimated to be worth not less than $5,000,000.00 (five million dollars USA) in 1987 and 1994 (Defendants, 1996). The Bonanza dposit has also been noted as being one of the two most important mines in the area (Zeitner, 1986 p.44).
ROYAL PEACOCK OPAL MINE.
The Royal Peacock Opal mine is a group of six patented and several unpatented LODE mining claims known as the Little Pebble, Phantom, Royal Peacock 1-2, Northern Lights, Peacock 2-3, Skajm, and Kelly Opal claims, as well as the April Fool Millsites, and also the April Fool (non-precious Fluorescent Opal mine.) The deposit was originally discovered sometime around 19__. The original location was made by Mr. Rhinehart under the name "_____________. The Wilson family acquired the mines in _____ and until this description is updated (a work in progress) you can read more about these mines on their website. The mine has been operated as a fee dig site during the summer months for decades. Many fine opals have been recovered by both fee diggers and the mine owners alike.
OPAL QUEEN MINE.
The Opal Queen Mine is a group of six unpatented LODE mining claims. The Opal Queen Mine is a group of 6 unpatented precious opal LODE mining claims and prospects. The Opal Queen is generally regarded as the first reported discovery of, and first mining location for, precious opal, in the Virgin Valley District. It is reported that Precious Opal was first discovered here about 1905 or 1906 and the first mining location was 1908. The Opal Queen was originally a group of placer locations; The current mine group consists of six (6) unpatented lode mining claims. It is located just S/SW of the Bonanza Opal Mine.
THE DOMINION OPAL / WRT STONETREE MINE GROUP.
Under construction, please check back.
THIS MINE IS NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and is worked privately by hand. It is owned by Al Wentzell/The Wentzell Gem Trust, and all holes are filled in when not being worked to prevent theft and unauthorized digging (highgrading). If you visit the large petrified log on the claim (it is owned by the United States and being preserved for future generations to enjoy) please do not pick up or break off pieces, and take only pictures. It is a historic landmark. More info can be seen at Dominion Opal Mines Website until updated here. NO DIGGING, REMOVING ROCKS/MINERALS, ETC on these claims. If someone offers you to "tour" or "dig" on these claims, please report it to the owner, AL WENTZELL, on his website HERE.