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Nevada Earth Symbols

Nevada Earth SymbolsThe sandstone of Valley of Fire State Park forms a backdrop for a fire opal (left) and a silver and turquoise bolo tie.
State Colors

Nevadans weren’t shy when it comes to adopting earth symbols. In addition to the nickname Silver State and the silver star on Nevada’s flag, silver is Nevada’s official state metal. Nevada’s official colors are silver and blue. Nevada also has an official march, “Silver State Fanfare.”

Earth Symbols
Rock sandstone 1987
Precious Gemstone Virgin Valley black fire opal 1987
Semi-Precious Gemstone turquoise 1987
Metal silver 1977
Fossil † ichthyosaur (Shoshonisaurus) 1977
Soil Orovada Series 2001
Element neon 2019

The nickname Silver State dates back to the silver-rush days of the mid-19th century. At that time, silver could be literally shoveled off the ground.

Dust and wind often polished the heavy gray rocks to the dull luster of a cow horn. This inspired the name “horn silver.” A big silver bed could be a couple hundred feet wide and a mile long.

Silver camps soon sprouted up. Some of them turned into boom towns. When the silver ran out, they became ghost towns.

Today, the value of Nevada’s silver industry is a distant second after gold. In fact, Nevada accounted for nearly 9% of global gold production in 2004. In 2017, Nevada accounted for 5.6% of global gold production and 71% of the gold produced in the U.S.

Maybe it’s time to change that silver star on Nevada’s state flag to a gold star.

Nevada calls turquoise its official semi-precious gemstone. Turquoise is also a symbol of Arizona and New Mexico.

Nevada’s official precious gemstone is Virgin Valley black opal. Apparently uncommon, it’s hard to even find pictures of it on the Internet.

Sandstone is Nevada’s state rock. It may sound a little dull compared to valuable gems and metals. However, Arizona’s Grand Canyon is carved out of sandstone.

One of Nevada’s most famous monuments to sandstone is Valley of Fire State Park, located not far from Las Vegas. Ancient petroglyphs (rock drawings) are among the park’s attractions.


In 2019, Nevada became the first state to adopt an official element. The special element is neon, a colorless, odorless gas. Neon is famously associated with signs that glow red in the dark.

Neon is commonly associated with tackiness or sleaze. It is especially associated with Las Vegas, which is nicknamed “Sin City.” There is even a Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

Fossil ˆ

Nevada State Fossil(Shoshonisaurus skull: By Kumiko, CC BY 2.0link
Note: I modified this image. Reconstruction: By Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY 3.0, link.)

The most exciting may be the state fossil, an ichthyosaur with the poetic name Shoshonisaurus. It lived about 215 million years ago, when what is now Nevada was covered by the sea. The state fossils of Arizona and New Mexico lived about the same time, but they are land creatures.

Ichthyosaurs bore a striking resemblance to modern dolphins. Some were as big as whales, growing to lengths of more than 50 feet.

America’s most famous ichthyosaur fossils are protected in Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nye County.

Soil ˆ

The Orovada Series is Nevada’s state soil. It may be Nevada’s most important symbol, yet it is also among the least visible. How can soil compete with silver and neon?

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