It’s always a fun adventure to visit the Dorris Family’s Topaz Mine here in Colorado. They allow the public to come by and dig several times per year as well as most of the Rockhounding clubs as well. Due to the late snow this spring this was the first dig, May 25th, 2013. I rounded up a group of adults and kids and we made the bright and early trek to the mine.
Joe and Krystle were telling us that they are working their way uphill a bit on their claim and that the stones are not as frequent as they have been in the past. I have been visiting for several years and I concur, although it seems (just an unscientific observation) that the stones that are being found are getting a bit larger. Perhaps that is not the case…
Anyway, we started digging on some fresh piles that were pretty wet and within about an hour I found my first topaz. It was completely covered in mud; usually they pop out and look gemmy/glassy and are very easy to spot; but this morning due to the conditions was different–making it more difficult to go through as much dirt as in the past.
People digging at the mine
Meanwhile, they were also working a section of the mine with the heavy machinery. Was cool to watch the big machines at work!
It is beautiful up here in the Rocky Mountains in spring time! Here I am raking through my part of a pile…
My friend Jim wanted to try out digging for Topaz and brought his daughter who is friends with my son. My daughter Daphne also brought a friend that was in my Rockhounding enrichment class at the Larkspur Elementary school. There were several other kids digging as well; unfortunately they didn’t find all that much topaz; again I think luck had some to do with it but also the amount of dirt one must go through as well. They did have a blast though!
We ended up getting our days fill about 2:00 and drove home, made a pit-stop and had had some orange cream soda and a beer at Bierwerks in Woodland Park, and headed home to sift through the bags of dirt. Here is where the kids got to find and keep some wonderful stones….and they wondered why they had to dig all day when it was this easy!!!
Sifting through our bags of dirt; the kids did quite well!
All in all, another wonderful day at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine! I should have at least one more trip, probably more, back there this summer. Looking very much forward to it!
Here are what my kids found at the mine (the larger one is one of the many found in the bags of dirt!). Makes me think of some of the lamer parts of the Prospectors show on Weather Channel… guns and gems…
My kids findings...gems and brass
My findings from digging all day…
Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!
The best cutter stone I found
Cute blue faceted gem! Small but beautiful!
Finally, the best for last. One of the first time diggers there pulled this beast from the ground. It was absolutely spectacular. Joe stated that this stone was one of the best (upper 1%) stones he has pulled out of the claim; and is likely one of the best ever found in Colorado. Unfortunately the person that found it didn’t get to keep it (obviously!) as it was destined for the Dorris personal collection! This stone was (I’m guessing) 600 carats and nearly flawless. It didn’t hurt that it was Sherry and Blue bi-color! Looking at this stone was mesmerizing, every angle had a different look and “feel” to it. A special day to witness this being pulled from the ground next to us, and to view a stone of this caliber!
Absolutely gorgeous bi-color monster topaz found today!
Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today
Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color
Thanks to Harold Alexander for some of the mine pictures, and thanks to Krystle Velasco/Joe Dorris for letting us take pictures of the mine’s wonderful mega-stone!
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!
Only been a couple of times thus far this summer; hope to make it up a few more times. I went back to the spot from July 13th as something told me I missed something; and missed something I did. I ended up finding a very light smokey that I thought was topaz at the top of the seam; but further downhill there was more to be uncovered! All crystals were very black (morion) and attached to nothing just sitting in the dirt. There were two seams; one right underground and another about a foot or 18 inches deep. The crystals and parts were pretty etched but it was a nice seam…found two small topaz as well! I dug that area up and I’m pretty confident that I got everything…learned a lot with this area about how to prospect and dig as I missed the main seams on the first day.
I love the multi-color capped Microcline crystal!
I'm pretty sure this is Topaz; not a crystal per-se; I've never seen this before!
Finally, everything found on the second day at this location near Topaz Point Picnic Area…which by the way has a terrific view of the Pikes Peak Batholith area!
Found some wonderful crystals today! Morion Smokey Quartz, multi-colored capped Microcline, and Topaz!
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!
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
What a great trip. Went camping on BLM land (thanks for the Tip on these sites, Tim!) with Tim and JD Isenhart and Hunter. Tim offered to drive and since I had never done that road before (and had been warned that the Touareg wouldn’t make it up because of lack of clearance) I was excited to finally go to this long awaited destination!
We left first thing and make the long journey to the top. I think I could have made it with the VW, but there were 2 spots that would have been tricky. The road was definitely rough and high clearance is definitely required. We got to the top and started looking through the old tailings from the days of mining Beryl. Right away we found traces of aquamarine and started digging. Hunter didn’t dig that much but had a keen eye as he found most of the great rocks of the day. His double-terminated phenokyte (with remnants of Aquamarine) is spectacular; his topaz was great as well!
The drive was great and I hope to get up there again soon!
Information sign at the base of the very rough road to Mt Antero
Beautiful Beaver pond at the stream crossing on the road to Mt Antero summit
JD Isenhart and the beautiful view as we were getting close to the summit
Hunter and the destination parking area (behind) of Mt Antero
Some Chlorite (?) and Blue Beryl from Mt Antero
Hunter's topaz crystal
I believe this is a piece of Galena
Hunter's double-terminated Phenokyte with Aquamarine
Hunter's double-terminated Phenokyte
We ended the weekend stopping by Ruby Mountain which was basically just a few miles away. Hunter and I had already scoped this area out and found a bazillion Apache Tears and found what the Rhyolite looked like with some Garnets. JD and Tim found this nice garnet before leaving to go fishing.
JD/Tim's Garnet find at Ruby Mountain
Ruby Mountain garnets