This year was a great year for topaz; my family and I had a couple of wonderful days with the Dorris family at the Topaz Mountain Gem mine. See previous posts (1, 2) for details on these trips. On May 5th I found a really nice (300 carat!) beautiful blue specimen topaz that Joe suggested I have his son professionally clean and seal some of the fractures using pressure treatment. I went ahead and took advantage of this and the crystal came back just beautiful. I’m not sure how many fractures were actually sealed as it is still fractured up; but the color is wonderful and crystal clean (probably where the term is derived?)!
I am very happy with the results, well worth the investment!
I am also very pleased with the cut topaz that came back from Joe’s cutter in China. These take a while to process, but well worth the wait. This year was about 4 months quicker than last year as well; so I was pleasantly surprised to see these just after the new year!
I found a really nice sherry stone and had it cut. Joe thought that for sure one nice stone could be cut; but potentially 2. Was surprised to see three stones were cut from this! Here is the original stone:
And here are the cut stones it produced:
The right stone was the surprise; it had some inclusions which are really beautiful. The left gem was from another clear stone I found in July; these will make a nice pair on some piece !!
And another smaller stone was cut from the large stone. Here are a couple of other stones I received, a total of 30 carats for 2012!
My daughter is in love with these stones and is now re-energized to spend the day digging for stones soon! Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to go back several times again in 2013! And I hope I finally dig an elusive stone at Devils head this upcoming year!
It is always a treat to visit one of Joe Dorris’ mines; this day I took the kids and I up to the Smoky Hawk Mine as part of a Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society field trip. My daughter had watched the New Crystal Hunters video of this mine and wanted to see it in person!
Joe had some safety fences to put up before we could see the pegmatite vein he had dug up with the excavator, so the kids and I hit the tailings piles. We found a bunch of great smoky and amazonite crystals!!!
Hunter and Daphne found these crystals in the tailings piles
Amazonite crystals from the tailings piles
Once we were able to enter the pit, Joe showed us a pocket that he found. He was pulling beautiful small plates and white-capped Amazonite crystals out of this. Daphne and I worked that for a while and then gave it up to another rockhound so he could experience working in a world-class pocket! Daphne and I worked along a perpendicular vein that showed amazonite but very little crystalization. We did find this tiny fluorite with amazonite and I was able to get this whittled down for Daphne!
Daphne's fluorite and amazonite micro-crystal
Meanwhile Sharon (the club’s editor) dug into a lower pocket (maybe 5 feet underground) along the pegmatite vein that produce a LOT of really nice smoky/microcline plates! She worked this pocket all day long and it produced some incredible plates!
Sharon's pocket of Microcline/Smoky plates
All this time the pocket Joe found was producing material, and it started to open up. But, Yam also broke into some red clay and found yet another Amazonite/Smoky Quartz pocket. I helped go through the pocket looking for excess crystals; there were a lot that came out of this pocket.
Crystals waiting to be plucked out of the ground
Crystals we were pulling out of this pocket: notice the shovel handle for reference.
Nice amazonite plate from the pocket - 8-10 inches long
Given that this was a combo pocket, Joe gets to keep it; but I did get a nice consolation parting gift for working on this pocket with Yam and Dave; a nice small (lighter colored) amazonite plate! Awesome! This has cleaned up nicely.
I was able to keep this awesome (but dirty) amazonite plate out of our pocket
We had a wonderful day (as always) at Joe’s mine, and some great stones and crystals as souvenirs. Joe gave us each choice of a really nice crystal as we parted; I chose this white-capped Amazonite that he found earlier in the day. Also, more from what we found in the tailings piles!
White cap amazonite crystal gift from the mine
Hunter's nice combo he found first thing
Smoky Hawk Tailings: One man's trash is another man's treasure
Had the opportunity to go on another open dig this year at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine operated by Glacier Peak Mining. As many know we’ve had some serious drought this year and has aided to many forest fires. We have gotten some relief with an early monsoonal flow pattern with the weather and have had several days of heavy rain; one day which was at this mine. I got there at 8:30 and a few people were already there. We all were just walking (crawling) around and looking for topaz that were laying on the top of the soil that had been washed off; in the early morning sun they were pretty easy to spot. I found several small fragments and others found some killer stones just laying on the surface; but after about 30 minutes of combing the area I decided to start digging…because that is what I do.
I had to move off a muddy layer (about 4-6 inches) on a pile to get to dry gravel to be able to start raking. The first 90 minutes or so was simply to get “set up”. I did not find anything raking so I tried my hand at sifting. I was going through a lot of material but still nothing! So I decided to start working like I do when I dig for Smoky Quartz and Amazonite and use a shovel and scrape small amounts off into a hole and watch the dirt as it falls. I immediately started having luck with this technique and found a nice stone. So I did this in combination with raking and sifting the rest of the day and found a good stone about every 45 to 60 minutes. I had a great day; this is uncommon to find so many nice stones but I was moving through a lot of dirt too–which I found is the key.
I found the following topaz next; it was a shiny object in the wall of the hole I was digging. This one was cool because it appeared it had grown around a Smoky Quartz crystal originally. It had several fractures and would not be a cutter; but it is beautiful none-the-less. Of course, holding it is memorizing and the picture doesn’t do it justice!
This beautiful specimen had great facets and indentation from a smoky quartz.
I continued and found a couple of more stones; one that *may* be a cutter. It started to sprinkle and you could hear the mean thunder echo through the valley of storms that were forming and passing directly to our Northwest; I assumed we’d have rain and the day would be cut short so I didn’t want to stall and take lunch so I kept digging. About 3:00 or so I dug into a another nice clear topaz that had mostly faceted sides. It is simply beautiful and although it could be a nice cut stone I’m going to have a hard time giving it up for cutting as it is just too spectacular as Gaia produced it!
This is a spectacular faceted clear topaz!
The sun went away behind the storm clouds and it started to get darker as the storm clouds bellowed and became more dense. I kept thinking “just one more” and I’ll be done; you know how that usually goes! I decided since a few folks were still there I’d continue as long as I could. A bolt of lightning struck withing 1/2 mile and I decided it was time to go; but immediately after I was shook by the bolt a found the find of the day. What a perfect ending to such a fun and lucky day! It was a 105 carat sherry stone. This stone also had remnants of being grown against other crystals and it had a nice area that was fracture free and likely could be cut. Upon checkout, Krystle didn’t want to give this stone up but luckily I took some extra cash and she was gracious enough to let me have it! I definitely will get this cut and will post a picture when I receive it…it *will* be beautiful!
Fantastic Sherry Topaz
One other great part of the day is that I was able to find many smoky quartz crystals too; a couple were large points and one really nice crystal! All in all, was one incredible day at the mine; I met a couple of really great folks and hopefully will get the chance to dig there again this year! Krystle was correct; I did have a productive day (and year so far for that matter!); hopefully future visits will yield one or two of these and I’ll call it a successful day!
Found some great smoky quartz points today too
This pile includes stones from the bag of topaz I purchased as well; the kids got to sift through the bag when I got home!
Topaz Mountain Gem Mine - July 7th, 2012 Open Dig! I did quite well!
Took the family up near Tarryall Northwest of Lake George to the Topaz Gem Mine for the first open dig of the year. Joe Dorris and his family are awesome supporters of Rockhounds and Gem & Mineral clubs and allow families to come and visit a few times per year.
We took advantage of this year’s first dig and started off pretty slow. We took a portable fold-up chair and after lunch the chair ended up getting blown into a big pit. I went to retrieve the chair and as I was bending down I saw a rock with shapes covered in dried mud. I rubbed it off and it was a specimen quality topaz of nearly 300 carats! That got everyone digging harder and everyone found one (except Trevor ). Hunter found a huge bi-color (blue/champagne) cubic shaped beast (about 250 carats) and Daphne found a clear, near perfect crystal (about 8 carat) that doesn’t really need cutting as the facets are awesome! Erin found a couple of nice cutters too.
I finally received my topaz that Joe Dorris arranged to have cut for me–there were all ones that I dug from the ground! These are great for the most part; one has some pits and are issues with the original stone that I didn’t see. Now I have to figure out how to set them into some jewelry!
Not all of these were sent to get cut…only the four circled were sent.
Topaz before cutting
Here are the stones afterward the 10 month wait (this was abnormally slow I guess, definitely worth the wait and fees)…
Cut Topaz in new boxes
After the exciting time with Dad last year, I took Hunter up to dig for Topaz on one of Joe Dorris’ open digs. We spent all day digging and did find some great specimens, but it was very slow going at first. Joe suggested a pile for Hunter and I and he found the first one of the day. We raked as normal there and eventually I pulled out a couple of small shards. The finds of the day were towards the end of the day for both Hunter and I where we found some incredible specimen crystals! Mine was blue and Hunter’s was really sharp and non-worn. Overall, a wonderful day; and as always great thanks to Joe Dorris for making these days possible!
Dave's topaz finds - hard to see the blue Topaz against blue sky...
Hunter's Topaz finds!
Bags 'O Dirt Topaz from Joe's prepared bags
Here are the specimen quality crystals Hunter and I found
Hunter's specimen topaz
I had the opportunity to visit the famous Smoky Hawk claim with Joe Dorris with the Fort Collins Rockhounds club. Joe allowed us to dig in some recently excavated material and also in the piles of tailings.
Beautiful view from up here; Haymen Fire burn boundry
A look up at the reclamation area that was on the New Crystal Hunters video
I right away started digging on some quartz in a pegmatite vein and found some small pockets; filled with small coated Amazonite, Smoky Quartz and Fluorite crystals. Even though these were all very small (probably biggest Fluorite was an inch) it was fun playing in the small pockets and collecting mostly Fluorite and Amazonite which both have been elusive for me!
Some of the Fluorites found in the small pockets
Went on to dig in the tailings piles and found many cool Amazonite crystals for the rock garden and also a nice Fluorite!!! Had a great day and learned a ton!
Small Amazonite clusters from inside the pockets
One of the nicer Amazonite crystals from the tailings
Killer Fluorite crystal found in the tailings