Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Summer Solstice Crystal Pocket at Lake George CO

Work site shows rock walls with slight void between contrasting pegmatite walls
It’s been rather hot and dry lately and motivation to go out and dig crystals has ebbed some since the cooler spring weather has passed.  June is usually our warmest month with light winds, few clouds and scorching temperatures.  Colorado is very dry due to less than normal winter snows and higher than normal temperatures.  Snowpack on Pikes Peak which normally last into August was gone by mid June. Forest fires will be a big problem again this year until the summer monsoons raise humidity and moisture. Anytime it hits 80F in our digging areas up at Lake George, CO it seems very warm to me.  Maybe I’m just getting older and the heat is getting to me more quickly. I usually seek out shady spots to dig this time of year.
My digging partner Bob decided it was time for us to hit an area we had worked some before and found lots of pegmatites but very few well-formed crystals.  Bob mentioned we needed to find a pocket and call it the Summer Solstice pocket so that is what we did.  I returned to a spot I had dug before and Bob dug up the hill from me.  I had been finding pale colored amazonite but most were not euhedral crystals but partially encased in the pegmatite.  Every once in a while I could take a chunk of quartz with an embedded microcline in it and tap the quartz freeing the microcline. As I continued to dig along the pegmatite I noticed some nicer crystals in the dirt above the pegmatite and guessed there was another pegmatite shedding better formed amazonite crystals up the hill.  I began digging up the hill following the float amazonite crystals. As the crystals became more numerous I eventually dug into the pegmatite shedding the amazonite.  While I found a pocket with this pegmatite there were more amazonite crystals in the dirt below the pocket (float) than actually in the pocket.  I would say there were about 50 or 60 crystals but only a handful were undamaged and collectible.  I also found a few amazonite associated with goethite.
Goethite crystals were the real prize of this dig. 3" specimen
While these amazonite crystals were a bit better formed they were quite pale.  I continued digging along this new pegmatite and found a softer area between a quartz portion of the pegmatite and a predominately feldspar wall.  I continued to break up the quartz seam and dig out the softer feldspar.  As my hammer banged and pick axe clanged through the rock the site of sparks along with the smell of burned rock leads me to believe I will soon need a new rock hammer and pick axe tips. As I moved along the pegmatite I finally discovered another small pocket.  As I probed the pocket with a long handled screwdriver I began to unearth goethite along with amazonite.  This pocket, about 3 feet down, contained a little stronger colored amazonite (though still pale in my mind) along with numerous goethite sprays. There was more goethite than amazonite.  I also found one clear fluorite and one smoky quartz crystal.  I pulled out 25 pieces of goethite ranging from 1-3” across many with bow-tie like sprays of goethite needles.  I called my digging partner over and he got a kick out of watching me pull out goethite sprays.  I had nicknamed Bob the "Goethite King" last year and while I was nowhere near to assuming his title I did find enough goethite to fill a flat.  As I continued along the pegmatite a general void appeared between the vertical pegmatite on my left and a more quartzy pegmatite on my right.  It was at the intersection of these two formations that the goethite had settled/formed in along with some amazonite.  I would call most of this a seam of crystals as opposed to a pocket but whatever you want to call it, it was challenging to remove hundreds of pounds of rock and rewarding to get a few crystals out. Now if there is anyone out there who wants goethite at $200 a piece as seen on the internet--let me know. :-) It was fun and Mother Nature kept me employed pulling out crystals on her special day!  Happy Summer Solstice and looking forward to the Autumnal Equinox and some cooler weather!  Some results...
Cleaning some of the amazonite I found. Fairly pale
but collectible.  I clean the amazonite with Iron Out
   Goethite with detergent and agitator (aquarium bubbler)
Assembling a flat of goethite crystals/sprays


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Colorado Springs Mineral Show #fluorite #mineral sales

It's been slow going digging in the mountains this spring with little to crow about so far this year.  After last fall's finds a small amazonite pocket or softball size pocket with smoky quartz crystals doesn't seem worth the time to write up.  Gotta just keep at it, sooner or later something good with turn up. :-)
Day 1 is a little slow going  but things got busier on Saturday
This year’s Colorado Springs Mineral Show put on by our local Club seemed fairly successful.  While some dealers did better than others it seemed the larger variety of specimens the more likely a dealer’s chance of sales.  If all you had was fluorite and folks didn’t like fluorite they quickly moved on.  If you had a large selection of different minerals folks would stop by and look through boxes hoping for a bargain or something they liked.  I had thought of participating in this show as a dealer but when I heard there would be a dirt floor and no electricity I decided not to bother with it and submitted a case of specimens for display only.  This years theme for the show was fluorite.  This means people can display their fluorite in an exhibit case and win a prize.  Of course you can exhibit just about anything mineral related in an exhibit case and the Club is happy to display it.
These were some of the fluorite exhibits up for competition.
Fluorite and Goethite display winner of the "Prospector's Trophy"
The Club had room for 50 vendors with 5 listed as standby.  One week prior to the show 12 vendors had backed out and lost their initial deposit but there were 5 others that stepped in to help take their place.  When I entered the venue I noticed the floor was recently covered in concrete and electricity was being installed.  Oh well--maybe I will try next year.  I think one of the problems our Club has of holding a Mineral Show is that our venue changes nearly every 2-3 years.  I attended this show all 3 days.  I worked the Silent Auction for our Club and helped out one of my friends who was a dealer.  Being a solo dealer can be difficult when things get busy as sales get away and 5-fingered discounts rule the day.  I noticed a couple price tags get changed and my dealer friend thinks he lost one topaz fragment to an elderly woman who decided she needed a free sample. The kid’s area also lost a number of dinosaur bones to thieves--too large of a booth area and not enough adults supervising.
Kids area got hit repeatedly....  this picture shows why.
An organized group of thieves tried to make off with a number of articles prior to being caught.  Two of the group would engage the dealer on one side of his booth while two others would load up their pockets at the other end.  I’m guessing there were more thefts, but these were the ones I was aware of. Thankfully dealers look out for each other to help minimize this.  We had a few security folk roaming the venue so they eventually caught up with this gang.  Lighting was also a problem at the venue.  The ceiling was easily 40 feet above the floor and lights were few and far between… a couple of the lights were out which made for very dark areas. If you didn’t have your own lights on your sales tables nothing popped.  I tried to purchase a few things while at the show but settled for only one fluorite piece on matrix which I traded $10 cash and some lesser specimens.  The fluorite were rather unique and the dealer was getting a lot of looky Lous and Lucys but his prices were too high to make many sales.  The fluorite dealer was a young guy and was shooting for the moon price-wise for his fluorites. Haha. He was figuring he could live off his fluorite find for years. Other than the trade I made with him I don’t think he sold much. I heard afterward that he is digging the fluorite out of a prohibited/closed area by the USFS (hearsay).
Fluorite I purchased for $10 and trade. About 3 inches in length
I tried to negotiate a deal with another vendor and thought I made the purchase with a 10% discount until the dealer’s wife stepped in and said no discounts at which point I said no deal.  I wasn’t enamored with the piece but thought it was unusual enough to offer a price.  Another dealer had some nice fluorite specimens from Hardin Co, IL.  His prices would have been good if the pieces hadn’t been damaged, but a cleaved corner or two on cubic crystals turns me off.  The food and refreshment area was a success.  The prices were good and the food was ok.
More outstanding cases below....
Martin's exhibit was "Best in Show" with many local Colorado minerals displayed.  Martin lost his entire collection a few years ago in the Black Forest fire which burned down nearly 500 homes and is rebuilding his collection from scratch.
Andy's case of minerals found primarily near Sentinel Rock, El Paso Co, Colorado 15 years ago.  Many twins are displayed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Denver Gem & Mineral Show Insights

Rhodochrosite, Wulfenite, Amethyst and Amazonite...oh my.  Most of these specimens exceeded my budget for the day :-)
A few years ago the Denver Spring Show changed its venue from one hotel near the center of town to a newer hotel on the east side of town (Crown Plaza).  The parking at the new venue is more plentiful and much easier to negotiate, there is no scrambling for parking spots or endlessly circling the parking lot to find a space. The Plaza doesn’t have any outdoor vendors so I seem to find fewer good deals at the Plaza than what could be had at the previous hotel. The entire show has become a little higher end as well with fewer dealers, but still makes for a fun-filled and entertaining event. I have 2 theories of attending shows, one is to go early and make sure you have the opportunity to purchase a rare item or two that may be gone by days end. The other theory is wait until the last day and hopefully pick up some good deals that the vendors don’t want to pack up and take home. I suppose one could go twice and try both methods, I used the first method of getting there the first day in hopes of snapping up some early bird specials.
As the show was held in Colorado it seemed like many dealers had some amazonite and smokys to sell with prices up to $15,000 for desirable amazonite and smoky combinations. There were some other minerals that seemed common to many dealers as well including pyrite cubes from Spain and amethyst specimens from Veracruz, Mexico. The bead and low end jewelry booths seemed to be the slowest while the more upscale shops had a lot of lookers and apparent buyers as well.  Tourmaline and aquamarine were also on everybody’s table for sale.  My first stop was to check out Pinnacle5 Minerals dealer, Joe Dorris, of the reality TV show Prospectors and see how he was doing. Traffic was a bit slow at Pinnacle5 but Krystal Dorris was bubbly and happy to answer everyone’s questions.  Joe was home busy working on claim
Some small cabinet amazonite smoky combos
paperwork and taxes but he hoped to wind up the show on Sunday. The quality of specimens at Pinnacle5 Minerals are unmatched as are their prices. I am always looking to price compare at shows and see things I might have that I don’t know their value due to their rarity.  I noticed one vendor had a nice slender 8 inch smoky quartz crystal with excellent luster and fine termination for $1200.  I would have guessed a price closer to $350 would have been fair, I wondered what my similar 11” smoky is worth.  I made the rounds examining a number of vendor’s wares and chatted it up with a few dealers.  
$1200 of smoky bliss
 I only made one offer on a piece of NM amethyst and was told there would be no discounts.  I moved on, perhaps better deals could be made on the last day of the show.  Another vendor selling pyrites by the flat from Spain caught my eye.  Buying crystals by the flat is usually a good deal, but the problem is getting rid of the crystals you don’t want for your collection unless you have a store.  I saw many dealers with single pyrites for $35-$50 that compared to buying an entire flat (24 crystals) of nearly identical material for $200.  I was tempted to purchase an entire flat of pyrite, but that just means more work for me getting rid of the extra 20 pieces after I’ve cherry-picked the flat for the 3 or 4 that I want. 
Gold Anyone?
My last stop was the wholesale area.  I like to check out the wholesale area last after I’ve got a good idea what the vendors have and what they are asking for their specimens. You need a business license to get in the wholesale area but that was no problem.  A club member I know has a business and she said I could check out the wholesale area with her.  I hunted down my rock friend who drove me to the show and told him he might like to check out the wholesale area with us as well. We found 3 separate vendors that had specimens that caught our eye.  My friend loaded up on rhodochrosite while I examined some Rogerley fluorites and Veracruz amethyst.  One dealer had everything discounted by 50% but nowhere was that posted until we got in line to purchase our specimens.  After finding out about the discount we went back into the wholesale area and loaded up on Rogerley fluorite.  A nice flat of 24 purple fluorites for $36 also caught my eye, but I just didn’t want to deal with all the purple fluorite after picking a few out for my own collection (similar to the pyrite problem).  The Rogerley fluorites naturally fluoresce under UV light, so when you take them outside in sunlight (UV) they change color from grey/green to purple/blue. When I recalled the Rogerley mine was closed as of last year I thought I should purchase a couple of specimens as the pieces will only go up in price.
I thanked the Club member for allowing us in to the wholesale area for her kindness and patience in letting us get some nice wholesale deals and then decided my back needed a rest and had lunch at the Crown Plaza (hotel hosting show). My show buddy was happy to still have some money left after the wholesale deals so he worked on getting a fairly sizeable discount on a tanzanite.  I’m not sure how he does it, but he talked a dealer down considerably from their asking price. After he made the deal even his back was getting tired so we hit the road and made our way back to Colorado Springs before the forecasted snow arrived.  I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this higher end show all that much, but seeing a few friends and getting a couple deals in the wholesale area made the trip worthwhile
A couple of my purchases within my budget

Friday, April 6, 2018

Gobbling Up Some Crystals at Lake George Colorado #Amazonite #Smoky quartz #Lake George

In the last couple of years I have seen a slow but steady influx of critters into the Lake George area.  When I first got started prospecting at Lake George, it had been only a couple years after a large fire (Hayman) burnt out thousands of acres of forest land. Nearly 10 years went by until I started seeing large animals on a regular basis within the forest.  Today we had a turkey trot.  Seemed two toms were seeking the attention of one hen though they may have been a bit shy around us only displaying their plumage briefly.  Coincidentally I’ve had good digging results when I see out of the ordinary animals.  Eagles, bear, turkeys, elk and coyotes seem to foreshadow good crystal hunting days.  Deer are too common as we see them nearly every trip out except during hunting season. Today was no exception to the “correlation” between animal siting and good crystal hunting.  

I had been digging in an area exhibiting a fairly strong mineralized pegmatite but hadn’t much to show for my efforts during the last couple of visits, perhaps today a turkey siting or more probable persistence would pay off.  After digging on the pegmatite for a few hours I decided to move my digging up the hill a few feet on the same line as the pegmatite was running.  The pegmatite was still exhibiting shards of well-formed quartz with a few faces so I decided to work the new area awhile. As I dug I hit a spot that had numerous microcline crystals and some quartz but the matrix holding the crystals together and the crystals themselves were very fragile. I’ve run into this situation several times and it’s nearly impossible to remove specimens without breaking them.  The microcline cleavage planes seem exceptionally weak. Bob and I have called these crystals “half baked”.  The crystals fragment easily and we believe something was not quite right during the formation of the crystals within the pegmatite as they lack normal cohesion and fracture quite easily. I worked this spot until it was nearly exhausted with very little to show for my efforts.  Sometimes these areas of weakly formed crystals firm up but not this spot. Instead of continuing up the hill, the quartz seemed better formed and solid to my left so I dug down and left. I got a bit excited when I hit some quartz with a vug behind it, but the vug was nearly empty containing only a few quartz shards and scree. 
Empty Vug with microcline in hand
I continued digging along this rock wall when I was finally rewarded with a couple 3” smoky crystals.  It was at this point that I knew I was close to a pocket and decreased my digging tempo and deepened my approach into the hillside.  Soon more crystals were evident so I called my digging partner Bob over and he got in on the action by helping me remove overburden around the pocket hole.  As I was digging, a few amazonite crystals also began to pop up.  Getting some smoky quartz crystals with amazonite is the prize we always look for and I did manage a couple of small combination specimens this day.  
Pocket opening up with quartz crystals
The amazonite was small and paler than I would have liked but the amazonite also stood up nicely out of the matrix with sharp crystal edges.  While I don’t believe the Smithsonian will be calling me anytime soon for these crystals I was happy with this find.  Persistence, prospecting and careful digging were rewarded with some nice crystal. I’ve dug with folks who seem to jack-rabbit around a hill looking for a crystal pocket near the surface.  I check on these folk’s progress and wonder why they quit digging on a good pegmatite.  Of course I have all summer to dig and I know others can only get out a few times a year so time for them is a limiting factor. I may dig two holes in one day while I’ve seen others dig 10 with no results.  
Amazonite plate in hand (cold day)

Little combo cleaning up nicely
Key to crystal hunting is finding a good pegmatite and sticking with it. I recall I used to ask my mentor and I’ve had other diggers ask me too, “how long do you dig in a quartz seam?”  There is no set answer to this question except I would say if the quartz is exhibiting faces I would dig on it until I had to go home.  Of course there is the other extreme too where people dig all day in dirt, scree and fine grained granite wondering why they can’t find anything.  When I first started digging it took me several trips to find a pocket.  As time goes on I find pockets more frequently due to my digging knowledge and overall experience. Of course knowing where to start digging is the most important part.  Snowing here today... so cold I can't even clean the crystals I just found.  It's 4PM and 31F. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Arkansas Quartz Trip #Ouachita #Quartz

Arkansas wildlife--jackalope
I went a bit far afield from the Rocky Mountains this month and traveled all the way to Arkansas in search of crystals.  My digging partner (Bob) and I left Colorado Springs with 3 inches of snow on the ground and winds gusting to 40mph.  The forecast for Hot Springs Arkansas where we decided to stay was forecast to be in the 60s with no rain. Geology: Most of the quartz veins in Arkansas are restricted to a belt about 30 to 40 miles wide that extends a distance of about 170 miles west southwest from Little Rock, Arkansas, to eastern Oklahoma. 

This area corresponds to the core region of the Ouachita Mountains. The quartz veins were formed by the filling of open fissures. Milky quartz crystals and associated vein minerals of the Ouachita Mountains were deposited from hot waters during the closing stages of a mountain building episode, ranging from the Late Pennsylvanian 300-286 million years ago into the Permian 286-245 million years ago. For more information about the geology of the Ouachita quartz fields see the attached link.   

Bob checking out some of the for sale quartz items
We left Colorado Springs and planned to travel as far as Oklahoma City the first day which is about 600 miles. The second day we arrived in Arkansas and made our first stop at a commercial claim by the name of Wegner.  We arrived around 12:30 and they said they had an organized tour of the open pit mine with digging at 1:30 for $20 a person, we waited for that and explored the on-site store. 
Large slabs primarily yard rock in my opinion on Wegners
Wegner’s also rented tools though I don’t know what that fee was.  We were hoping to trade some of our Colorado minerals for Arkansas minerals but all the folks we approached seemed to be overstocked in minerals and only wished to make cash sales.  Wegner’s store had a lot of product, but much of the indoor store material was not local quartz nor of very high quality.  I think we could have added some nice specimens to their inventory but they weren't even interested enough to look.  The specimens outside the shop were large and for the most part damaged.  I purchased one purple fluorite purported to be from Hardin County, Illinois along with my mine pass.  When I got home I removed the price tag from the fluorite and noticed a fairly large crack in the specimen hidden under the tag… sigh.  At 1:30 we got a safety briefing and then a group of about 12 of us got on a flatbed truck.  There was no tour of the mine nor any explanation of the local geology or history.  After a 10 minute ride to the mine they let us loose to dig in the dirt and cautioned us to stay away from the sidewalls dug into the hillside.  The driver suggested we dig in the dirt that had recently been overturned and look for crystals by raking the dirt.  
Going through the dirt gleaning for crystals was the
recommended approach though not very fruitful

We spent about an hour and a half digging through dirt and found very little.  Every once and a while we would hear a hoot or hollar from some of the folks on the other side of the hill so we wandered over there. We found a number of folks had drifted over to a cliff and were digging at it’s base.  Of course that’s where the nicer crystals were found (where we were told not to go in the safety talk).  By the time we figured that out the bus was back to pick us up and close the mine for the day. One digger showed us a bucket with 3 inch clear crystals on plates.  He was happy with what he had found but unfortunately he didn’t know to wrap any of the crystals and they were getting their terminations chipped up as they banged against other rocks in his bucket… sigh.  Evidently the owners of the mine did not enforce the rules, they just wanted to make sure you signed off on the rules and then left you to your own devices. A few boys appeared to have had a really good time. I think the more cuts they had on their hands the happier they seemed to be.  I didn’t see anyone wearing safety glasses either which can really turn into a problem with kids pounding rock hammers on quartz.
Primary drawback to the Wagner site was the limited amount of time given to dig.  Between the safety talk the ride to and from the site and organizing the affair you only got about 1.5 hours to actually dig.  I also thought the cost was too high for the time allotted to dig. There was some good stuff to be found here, but you had to ignore their rules to get to it.

On day 2 we visited the Sweet Surrender claim.  We met the claim owner and I could tell he just wanted our $20 and signatures on his disclaimer and safety information.  When we asked where would be the best place to dig he said near the anticline in the pit but that will cost you $250 each.  We paid him our $20 as a few more folks arrived.  Randy the owner also said don’t forget to close the gate to the mine when you leave.  So the only restriction at his site was to stay away from the recently dug area which was strictly off limits.  A limited supply of tools was available but no help was to be expected or available from the proprietor.  Randy left around noon as another lady (partner?) arrived.  There was some yelling between the couple before Randy left with our money. The lady Becky checked on folks to see how we were doing but left within an hour of her arrival. We met a couple folks at the dig including Benjamin pictured here.  Benjamin
I got a good chuckle out of this kid hard
at work and just had to take his picture

started strong but finished the day on his back. I found an area that we were allowed to dig on which held some promise while Bob drifted around a bit looking for a good spot. I pretty much stuck with the same spot all day as I had found a quartz seam with some small crystals.  I wasn’t finding much but decided to work that quartz seam within the wall and was eventually rewarded with some small glassy crystals and a couple crystal plates.  The digging was quite tough with shale and quartz surrounding the crystals. 
Digging into a narrow quartz bench between shale
Quartz seam I was digging
We both got a few crystals but were overall unimpressed with site management and the restriction imposed on where you could dig at Wegners. Many folks came and went with very little.

The owner left early, so anybody arriving after that could dig for free I suppose.  Many of the kids seemed to have a good time just running around and banging on rocks.  We finished up the day and made sure we closed the gate when we left.  You’re welcome Randy wherever you are.

Day 3 in Arkansas was our last day there so after digging two days in a row without any show pieces, we decided to check out some of the stores.  We went to a place called Coleman’s and were shocked by the prices for quartz crystals.  One plate was priced out at $24,500 it had several nice clear quartz crystals with some size, but if I were to price it I would have estimated its value at more in the range of $2,500.
Nice crystal group but overpriced by a factor of 10... note
the fancy stand for this high-priced gem
We walked around the site for a while and checked out their outdoor tables which were loaded with many different minerals though primarily Arkansas quartz.  Many of the large quartz plates were damaged.  I purchased one large plate for $25 and figured I could trim some of the poorer parts off the plate with my chop saw and make it presentable. I also purchased a couple of nice well formed  purple fluorites.  The fluorites were reasonably priced and I was told they were from Hardin County, Illinois. These fluorites were larger, gemmier and less expensive than what I had seen at other places. 

We found the Coleman sales ladies to be somewhat aloof and unfriendly which had not been our experience in the rest of Arkansas. When I mentioned how well the lady behind the counter wrapped and packaged my crystals her response was “I do it all day long dearie!”  My friend Bob could not find anything within his price range and quality restrictions so he passed on Coleman’s and we decided to try a few roadside vendors. On the way out of Hot Springs we took state highway 270.  We had done some research and knew there were a number of small rock shops on the way from Hot Springs to Mt Ida.  We kept our eyes open and saw a private residence that appeared to have a lot of specimens in their side yard.  We had been to another private residence earlier and were met with 3 barking dogs with attitudes.  We waited there for a bit but after nobody showed up we left the dogs and the rocks on the other side of the fence.  We had hardly parked the car this time when a friendly gent (Bill Phipps) welcomed us and started telling us about his crystals.  While he had a number of fine specimens not cleaned there were also a bunch or sorted specimens indoors, cleaned, priced and ready for display.  
Bill's private home and rock emporium
Bill told us a little about his history and interest in rock hounding as well as the geology of quartz collecting area. The extent of Bills collection/minerals for sale was very extensive and I would say overall very fine.  The quality of his crystals was considerably better than any of the commercial sites we had been to, except for the pieces that we saw at Coleman's which were way overpriced. Bill invited us into the basement of his house where we took in even more crystal clusters.  There were many displays of all kinds of quartz including phantoms and some twins.  Bill seemed to warm up to us quickly as he learned we were fellow collectors and knew a bit about quartz. We even got access to his employee only room which housed a couple hundred flats of crystals of various types.  My goal this day was to purchase a couple of nice pieces for my collection and a discounted flat to sell at cost to the folks at my Rock Club back home.  Bill gave deals to me as well as Bob and we left with some nice crystals and good memories.  Bill’s crystals were more reasonably priced than the larger commercial sites and the quality of his specimens was nearly unmatched, and he gave us some deals on top of it.  Many thanks to Bill for helping to cap off an interesting rock hounding road trip. I would stop here and shop from Bill again in a heartbeat--just don't let your prices creep up too much Bill.  

Musings:  I think for the most part (but maybe not all) the commercial operators are ripping off tourists.  Tourists are only allowed for the most part to sift through piles of dirt already gleaned through multiple times by other tourists.  The specimens of quartz offered are either broken or set at astronomical prices.  Most tourists have no idea what a good quartz crystal is and purchase a lot of what I would call yard rocks.  The spirit of caveat emptor is alive and well around Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Fortunately there are a few honest, reasonable folk like Bill who can make the serious mineral collector happy.  Bill will also work with you on pricing and at least make you think you got a good deal :-)  I’m not sure I would drive to this destination again anytime soon, but It was fun to do once and I enjoyed the experience. Perhaps flying out and back would be more productive. Sorry Okies and JayHawks, there's just not much to see along the highways in your states but billboards. The satisfaction of digging out some nice quartz crystals on your own appears difficult unless you know someone in the area. Perhaps a little more planning and reading more articles might have helped us. The commercial digs we went to are not worth the trip (maybe there are better ones). We did hear about another tour where you could get phantom quartz crystals and I would like to check that out another time. If you add in meeting new people, seeing a different part of America and enjoying some of the local cuisine you can make a rock hounding vacation out of it. If you happen to run into somebody like Bill the whole trip becomes much more satisfying and worth-while. If getting a few Arkansas quartz crystals is your only goal you might be better off looking at a few internet sites where you can probably get what you want. Perhaps you'd pay a bit more for specimens but save you a lot of gas money, lodging costs and time.  Bill also has a website at 
Some of the more outlandishly priced crystals at Colman's rock shop

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Winter Mineral Sales in Colorado--Tourmaline, Rubies, Emeralds and more!

I purchased a number of Gems from Dr Tourmaline (John) and these are a few I added to my collection

Getting quality gems at good prices takes a bit of effort.  I've been trying to broaden my collection as everything in my cabinet is blue/green amazonite and black quartz. Going to mineral and rock stores to purchase and/or trade specimens is a tough and expensive way to build a collection.  Merchants often purchase their material for rock-bottom prices (pun intended) and then bump everything up more than 200% (they claim overhead costs are killing them).  As an example, I traded $240 worth of mineral specimens for a very nice green tourmaline at a rock show valued at $240.  I was offered $80 by one dealer and $100 by another.  I passed by these offers and finally settled for a merchant offering $200 cash.  Cash is more desirable than rocks. I felt I got a reasonable deal, but haggling over prices and hustling around town to local dealers is not my idea of time well spent. I've gone to local mineral shows and they seem more eager to deal, but there are few large shows in Colorado during the winter. I’ve been looking on the internet for specimens but everything seems ridiculously overpriced, faked, or has other issues. I can’t believe the number of blurry pictures people put up on the internet and then ask $100+ for something you can hardly see. Another option could be putting up a site to trade or sell minerals, but there would be a large effort associated with setting up and maintaining an on-line store.  I prefer to remain a hobbyist. 
Collector's best rhodochrosite (my opinion)
A friend of mine, said he knew of a gentlemen who was selling some of his seconds from home and was willing to discount especially if you purchased minerals in bulk (by the flat).  I decided to give it a try and loaded up a couple flats of trade material and headed north with Austin to Denver.  I’ve always been a fan of tourmaline, topaz, and aquamarine but have never had the wherewithal to purchase mineral specimens other than those that I need a microscope to view.  John, the seller, was willing to take mineral trades and cash. Because I am overstocked in quartz, amazonite, goethite, and fluorite (local crystals from my claim), I thought I might bring some trade material along and see if I could get some nibbles.  John seemed amiable enough and quite cordial. The first order of business was taking in his collection. Tourmaline after tourmaline after tourmaline.  Incredible!  Then there were the rubies, emeralds, rhodochrosite, aquamarine, topaz, and much more! 
Overwhelming--one shelf of tourmaline in two chock-filled display cabinets!

I wondered what his seconds would look like as his favorites could grace any mineral museum I’ve ever been to.  John's seconds exceeded my expectations and they would most likely be firsts to many collectors including myself.  While John seemed partial to my mineral oddities, he was also willing to pop on smokies, but only if they were of exceptional quality.  I quickly picked out a flat of topaz while my friend went for some tourmaline.  John accepted some of my crystal specimens in trade and I made up the difference with cash. My friend, who drove me to John's house, is fairly new to collecting but made some smart purchases and deals with John.  We both got nice discounts for purchasing entire flats.  Shortly after we left we traded a few specimens with each other so that we both had some topaz and pink tourmaline.  I got 16 topaz, the largest sherry colored weighing in at 1600+ carats, as well as a few other minerals I couldn’t resist. My friend walked away with about 30 pink and 5 blue/green tourmaline.  I’ve had various opportunities before and let them get away as I was not willing to drop so much cash for gems, but this deal was too good to pass up. I guess time will tell whether I have buyer's remorse (probably not). I've already unloaded a couple of the more expensive topaz and now have plenty of topaz to add to my collection as well as a few other fantastic gems at a very moderate cost.

Deer near seller's house say goodbye but please come again (haha)
My favorite purchased aquamarine!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Highly Prized Plates of Crystals at Lake George, CO--The Wintergreen Pocket

Double trouble for hidden crystals
The weather warmed up and so we beat feet back to the pegmatite on our claim that we were working on in the previous post. (Dec 2017). We weren't sure we’d be able to do much until spring but a thaw made the roads passable and softened up the ground enough to make the site workable for a final season ending visit. The vug we worked on this day was a continuation of the pocket Bob found in the previous post.  As the initial pocket nearly pinched out we noted there was still plenty of quartz in the hill with a well-formed pegmatite showing the way up and into the hill.  After Bob mucked out the debris in the pocket he quickly went to work checking the sides and bottom of the old pocket.  A number of crystal faces were still poking out of the pegmatite on the right side of the old pocket and quartz shards were visible straight ahead into the hillside.  The quartz had taken a turn from smoky to orangey grey which we took as a sign that the pocket might continue forward.  We normally follow quartz shards until they end or disappear into regular granite so Bob followed these brittle quartz shards forward for well over a foot into the hillside.
The other good indicator to press ahead was an occasional quartz crystal uphill amongst the shards of quartz.  The quartz debris field  began to expand outward and an orange/brown clay began to become more prevalent--the pocket was opening up again!  A fairly large smoky showed itself and so we knew more was yet to come!
Solid 6"+ Smoky was a sign of things to come!
Bob carefully worked the new pocket as I spent time helping remove debris. I had tried to dig through a layer of icy ground nearby but the ice was over a foot deep which made digging anything other than a preexisting site problematic. I decided my time would be best spent helping Bob muck and check out the debris for straggler crystals. Bob's pocket, nearly 4 feet down, continued to widen out as smoky quartz, amazonite crystals and clay filled the bottom of the pocket. We also found a few pseudomorphs at the bottom of this pocket but fortunately they were few and far between.  We've had too many pockets this summer filled with pseudomorphs of goethite or limonite after siderite or some other carbonate.  These pseudomorphs seemingly grow on everything and are somewhat unsightly (See 9/1/17 post "Pseudomorph Sunday"). Fortunately this pocket was in a different area and pseudomorphs were nearly nonexistent. As Bob continued to dig into the hill crystal plates became evident along the sides of the pocket and the real fun begins... at least for me!
After a few hours of digging Bob decided he needed a break and sent me in to take a turn.
First combo I pulled out today... things are looking good!
Working a crystal pocket can be tiring as care must be taken at every step of the process, careful probing to minimize damage during crystal extraction is extremely important. Soon I too was pulling out 4+” smokys and amazonite plates.  This time some of the amazonite plates also had smoky quartz crystals attached. It is the combination of smoky quartz crystals and blue/green amazonite on matrix that many collectors deem highly prized. The value of crystals and crystal plates is determined by completeness, size, surface luster, color and internal gemminess as well as location.  This pocket had it all with very gemmy smokys and exceptionally colored amazonite--highly prized!
These specimens came from the same pocket. The gemminess in the smoky is apparent and both crystals have good luster
We try to pack shards found near plates together with the plates as you can often use a piece of a broken off crystal or two to repair a plate and really bring the plate to life.
These nice combos just keep coming out!
I continued to dig for an hour or so but decided to stop when I ran into a very large combination plate.  I couldn’t tell if it was one large smoky and amazonite plate or not but decided that Bob should have the privilege of pulling this out.  This is the first time I’ve ever self-eliminated myself from a pocket but it just didn’t seem right to be working on the best plate in the pocket when it was Bob’s discovery. I also didn’t want to be the cause for any potential damage during the removal of the megaplate. This was a one in a million pocket or at least one in a thousand :-)  Below is a view into the pocket. While the megaplate was the colossal find there were many exceptional combinations of amazonite and smoky quartz crystals on matrix down in the clay to the left of the big plate, underneath it and behind the plate.  Some of these crystals may have broken off the plate or be entirely separate entities but we'll have to sort that out when we clean the specimens.  At this time we are pulling specimens and trying to keep them together.
I shied away from digging out the megaplate and decided this was a project for Bob as it bulged out of the pocket wall
After a half hour or so of carefully scraping, probing and lightly prying along the perimeter of the megaplate it shifted and out it came.  The plate was in two pieces but may fit together or may just be two separate plates which we’ll check more closely after some initial cleaning.  Bob continued to dig after the megaplate was removed and found many 2-4 inch smokies as well as several fine amazonite crystals behind the plate.  As the dig continued the plates ended but the quartz continued up the hill and appeared to be heading slowly up to the surface towards a tree near an old dig.  Bob's dig is now about 5 feet down into the ground but he needs to do some considerable shoring up to make the pocket safe for additional crystal removal or he'll be 6ft under ;-).  As Bob packed up another 75lbs of crystals and made two trips to his vehicle overloaded with crystals I went back in the pit to clean out the bottom.
Some of the 75 lbs of crystals Bob carefully wrapped and lugged back to his truck
I found a few small crystals but the large pieces of quartz in the sidewall in front of me still looked promising.  The dig is 7 ft long, 5 ft deep and a narrow 2ft wide. The amazonite plates have ended and only small quartz crystals were being harvested at day's end.  Day 3 on this pocket was spent mucking out the debris, and double-checking the sides and bottom of the excavation. It didn't take long this day for Bob to dig right into a wall of granite ending the pocket.  There is still a quartz streamer running up the hill and seemingly rising to the surface but it is void of crystals (Definitely a project for next year). Finally we remediated the area by burying any telltale shards and filling in this former world-class pocket. We found a few nice crystals this last day but the ice in the ground was too deep to do any further prospecting in the area. After filling the dig we are now ready for a long winter of cleaning and fitting crystals!  I asked Bob what he was going to call this super pocket and he decided since we found it during meteorological winter and it had very desireable blue/green crystals that it would be referred to as the Wintergreen pocket.  Aptly named in my opinion.
Before and After... 12cm high, smoky is 8.5cm (cleaned using soap & water, scrubbing, phosphoric acid and neutralizing)

So here is a short movie of one of the fine amazonite plates... enjoy!
More partially cleaned and fitted crystals... a whole winter's worth of fun!  These pictures were taken inside with not the greatest of lighting, but you get the idea--World-Class Pocket!
This specimen is nearly ready, maybe a small fit or two, a little trimming and a final cleaning

Minimal damage to this plate with a 6" smoky as the focal point on a bed of amazonite--still needs a bit of cleaning

3" Smoky with amazonite and additional smoky, the smoky on the right was a perfect fit
Still some cleaning and TLC required but I think this is best of pocket (no major damage) 2-4" Smokies are nearly ding-free!
Partially cleaned with a lot of crystal refitting to work on. Mother Nature beat this one up pretty bad. :-(