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ROCK CREEK CANYON FIND COULD BE A REAL JEWEL FOR ROOSEVELT MAN

A Roosevelt man says a rock hunting trip in Rock Creek Canyon two years ago has resulted in an unusual find - a 30-carat emerald crystal.

A certified gemologist has authenticated the stone, placing its estimated value at $500 to $5,000, depending on the verification of its origin.Gordon De Lapp says he collected a bag of rocks one afternoon when he and three friends spent a day at an undisclosed site in Rock Creek Canyon. He went home and deposited them, unexamined and still in the bag, in his back yard. A few months ago he examined the stones and found one that looked interesting when he held it up to the light.

"It was inside a flat rock, about 11/2 inches thick and 2 to 3 inches in diameter, with black mica around the sides," he said. "With the sun shining inside this rock, you could see something green."

To get to the suspected treasure, he began grinding away at the rock. When he neared the green crystal, he carefully chipped away the remaining rock with a safety pin.

An avid rock collector since he was a youngster, De Lapp went directly to a reference book on rocks for more information on the green, hexagonal-shaped specimen. He discovered it could be beryl, better known as emerald.

The gem is so strong, he says, that it scratched the steel file he ran it across, and rates about a seven on a hardness scale of 1 to 10. He took the rock to Sue Ann Bilbey, curator for the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park in Vernal for her inspection and even showed her where he found the stone.

Bilbey, a geologist, says the site De Lapp took her to "was obviously a mineralized zone along a large fault." She says that in dealing with the geology of the area, she "didn't see any definitive yes or no" when it comes to proof that the gem was actually discovered at the site as De Lapp claims, but, on the other hand, she doesn't discount his story either.

"The kind of rock that it is normally found in isn't there (along the fault), but that doesn't mean the find can't be an isolated occurrence. Emerald is notorious for being just one, but I'm cautious. I would not say it's not, but alternatively I would like to see more work to determine" the authenticity of origin, she said.

Bilbey says that if the gem's origin can be verified, it would be the first emerald found in Utah, giving it an "astronomical" value. Most emeralds come from Colombia, South America, and the Ural Mountains of Russia, according to Bilbey.

A report by gemologist Sheila J. Ivers, Salt Lake City, states that De Lapp's find is "very rare for several reasons, if the origin can be identified." Ivers notes that there have been no reports of emerald finds in Utah history, but adds that "a crystal of this size and color saturation, plus the large amount of chromium present, would be significant in itself if the crystal were intact, or proof of origin were available."

Estimated values for the stone vary considerably, according to Ivers, "because of the lack of verification and accompanying host material. Without verification, the value would be one of speculative interest only, and the collector would most likely be in possession of the only emerald discovered in Utah."

For that reason, she stated, value could be placed as high as $5,000.

De Lapp says he realizes that proof of origin is what serious collectors are after. But for right now all he can provide is his word and the testimony of the three friends who accompanied him the day he collected the bag of rocks.

He has taken out four lode mining claims with the U.S. Forest Service on the vein he claims to have found and has searched the area for other emeralds without success. "We've been up there several times but I can't find similar specimens," he said.

While he has located several rocks with "a green hue," their crystals shatter when poked with a pin. "Whether this is a single occurrence, I don't really know, or maybe there's an emerald mine up there waiting to be found."

It would take a reclamation mining claim and Forest Service approval to be able to adequately explore the vein, says De Lapp.