Precious opal penetrating bark from the Peacock.
Opalized bark from the Royal Peacock Mine.

     I have a very large collection of pine cones.  A opal pine cone such as this in light yellow opal, dry, full of bright fire, with good cast definition retailed for over $1,500 online. Currently sold out and I may never find another as it came from the Bonanza Mine and they lost me due to infighting among the officers. Multicolor lemonish opal with excellent definition to the tiny cone.
Gemstone opal pinecone fossilSold both as a matching pair to collector/reseller.

    The  pine cones usually are soft and not hard Opalized. Until you clean them you don't really know.  Considering color, form, and then quality of pattern, on top of the fossil considerations. Rarity of species is important. U.C.Berkeley has been given several fossil cones for species identification by our families over the decades. The various mines have produced Picea Wolfei cones which are unique to Virgin Valley deposits and were first discovered here. I donated some unusual surface finds including a rare healed broken toe bone from some Miocene Denizen to put in the college paleontology collection. This valley has been an important resource for Miocene North American flora fossils. The fauna has been studied by expeditions to the mining district with many new mammal species being discovered in the past.
Opal pine coneGem black opal Spruce from the Peacock tailings. SOLD
precious opal pineconeSmall flash of red color on end showing in black eye of a pastel shaded solid opal, Cast is about 4/5 of round and has some cracks.
50, 25, and less pinecones
     Redwood, willow, larch, firs, conifers, gooseberries, black locust, sequoias, elms, spruce, hardwoods, and softwoods have all left fossils out here. I'm a miner and collector not a plant ID person with the tools to be sure of species. Some renowned specialist have helped me before. Some of our bigger logs are White Pine.

     Precious Opal will fill in any cavity in the montmorillite clays that make up the pay layers in the opal mines. It seems that less than 10 percent of the ones possible in the gem pockets are actually gem and less than 1 1/10 of 1 % in the bank. The bank as a whole makes opals all through it here and there. Precious opal replacement of wood can range from total replacement to a thin skin, or a rind of precious opal, over a common petrified limb.  The pay layers or streaks can vary from less than 1" thick to over 10' thick in some areas. There is no way to mechanically concentrate the gems to be found with out breaking many of them the process and the big ones are destroyed.

     I have rarely found fossil teeth and bones from the opal beds in the valley. Many of the fossils are not recovered from the opal layer itself, but the over laying sedimentary layers, or more recent overburden. I've seen Oredont bones found on one of my banks. Our paleontology mirrors that documented in the John Day Beds in Oregon and the Rattlesnake formation in Wyoming. Most vertebrate fossils are what is called dry land scatter, just bits and pieces on the surface, left by the scavengers with their tooth marks.  Written up and published by Meade they found no complete skeletons, even though they identified numerous teeth from previously un-discovered species. Mostly small rodents, cats, and dogs in transition for millions of years with many strange species were the new discoveries. More little things than big, just like modern animals.

     Gem pine cones are most coveted common finds. As the clay dries or is mined, it breaks up any small diameter fossils into sand sized lengths. Nobody has a fish in precious opal or a whole branch tip with needles intact on it for instance. Nobody has camels teeth, or 3-toed horse bones from Virgin Valley for sale, let alone at the cheap market prices from the Chinese diggings.  Being collected from deeded ground these fossils are completely legal to possess and sell freely coming from private property. You do know the government claimed everything that ever had a back bone off public land, don't you? Any artifacts or litter over 50 years old also belongs to them. Don't get arrested for illegal collecting by the feds either, itis very expensive as they seize your tools and vehicles and fine the heck out of you in the Federal court; not the local courthouse.

Swordfish Deposit Pinecone Water worn and of hard common opal 1/3 " diameter

     Black Opal pine cones might be found on any mine, but digging all year doesn't find one every year.  Swordfish Mining has provided specimens for many different collections around the world and into numerous educational settings. Fossil Elm twigs are a popular wood ID item. All cones subject to prior sale.

     Opals are the only gemstone made by animals, plants, and inside the earth.  Geysers and ground water make opal sinter from silicon. Mosquitoes use opal it in their proboscises as the point.  As for plants some species of Bamboo in Vietnam have opal stones in the nodes and the nettle uses the same points the mosquitoes do to make you itch. Recently in Australia they found a beetle that uses green opal for camouflage.

     Super gem crystallized bark is a special rare treat and commands a premium price for it's outstanding art and design value. The structure of lenses of multicolored opal and fluid wood grain is unmatched in the Gem world. Very little bark is Opalized completely through. Very little bark is even preserved due to it's softness.

Bark ConkThe bottom showing the play of color around the wood inclusions
tops 62 ct opalized bark conk. stabilized with ca
     This 62 ct precious Opalized bark was pictured in 'Mining Opal in Nevada' in Rock and Gem Magazine.  The picture has fair color rendition of the electric running bright color flashes coming out of a fine lace wood structure pattern. It's been treated with a cyro-acrylate fracture sealer and has shown no changes in the play of color or brightness of fire since first polished. It's been displayed since cut in 1996 in our display showcase in the sun at shows without any loss of color or sealer degradation.

     Leaf prints and pine needles are commonly found along with rushes as mud prints, but rarely in opal. Most are poorly fossilized mats of forest floor. There is a bog opal which is like an algae mass or mats of reeds and sedges from the old swamps that super rarely is precious.
Fossil pine cones from the Norita Claim.
Fresh Pine cones from a new bank to dig in at the Kokopelli Opal Mine that I opened up on a cliff the last couple years. Got "glass" twigs too!

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