Shigaite: A Rare Gem Discovered in the U.P.

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“Rural Voices” shares cultural, educational, economic and artistic views of people who have lived and thrived in the Upper Peninsula. Each of our authors in Rural Voices may be living here in the U.P. or living someplace around the globe, but the U.P. is an important part of who they are and what their beliefs and values are today. Rural Voices wants to share the voices of our neighbors and friends about life and experiences in the UP.

The U.P. has unique bragging rights in the world of geology, as it is one of the few places in the world where a very rare crystal has been found: a magnesium sulfite compound called Shigaite. 

Shigaite has only been identified in four other mines around the world–Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Africa.

According to Mineralogy of Michigan (Heinrich & Robinson, 2004), a specimen was discovered in the Bengal Mine in Stambaugh, Iron County, in 1951.

It was found 118 feet below ground by an ordinary miner, and was unidentifiable at the time. It was Brian Greenlund, the son of that miner, who made the connection classifying it as Shigaite after its official discovery in Japan in 1985.

The Shigaite gem is made up of small hexagonal crystals and can be yellow, orange, red, brown or black in color. Greenlund’s Shigaite sample is on display at Michigan Tech’s A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum.

A brand-new rock and mineral exhibit is underway at the Iron County Historical Museum, and it will feature more information about this and other minerals from Michigan.

Greenlund is being heavily consulted on the project to ensure accuracy of the information and determine best practices. The museum’s collection, however, is incomplete. Any rock hounds or collectors who would like to loan or donate a Michigan rock or mineral is welcome to contact the Iron County Historical Museum.

You can visit our website at

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Erika Sauter

Erika Sauter is the Director for the Iron County Historical & Museum Society in Caspian, Michigan. She is an Iron County native with a passion for community development and historical preservation, the two of which she has worked in professionally for the last five years. Sauter is also a published children’s book author, and enjoys writing about and sharing local history as part of her role at the museum.


  1. Patricia A Book on December 16, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I have an iron ore core–maybe a dime a dozen if you want it from IR.

  2. Donna Wagberg on January 5, 2021 at 11:29 am

    How do we know where/how to take a look at her books, and how/where to purchase them?

  3. david on March 16, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    i have some rocks that appear to have emeralds in them after some research i found that there were emeralds found here in the up mi

  4. Kelley Laughlin on March 16, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Brian Greenlund didn’t discover shigaite in Michigan, although he does own several fine specimens of it. There are about 150 to 160 known specimens to exist. I have a couple dozen of them. It is NOT a gem by any means. With a Mohs hardness of only 2 it is far too soft be used as a gemstone. I am a geologist that owns the rock shop in Vulcan, Michigan and would be more than happy to answer any questions about shigaite and it’s history in Michigan, as well as any other questions you might have about Michigan’s rocks and minerals and the history of mining here. If you would like to call, the store number is 906-563-9304. We have limited hours during the Winter, but are usually there from Noon to 5 pm, and will start our regular hours April 1st.

    • Monica Thoune on March 19, 2021 at 8:15 am

      Are you located near the turn by the big bear?

      • Susie on April 4, 2021 at 1:08 am


    • Maija on April 1, 2021 at 8:12 am

      The article didn’t state that Brian discovered it. His father was the miner who did.

    • Daryl Ann Crosby on April 7, 2021 at 9:50 am

      What’s the name of your shop? I’d like to save into my contacts for my next UP visit!

  5. Maureen S on March 18, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    I would have thought I had found a ruby over here on the E side.

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