Topaz Prospecting in the Rockies

I was able to attend a Lake George Gem and Mineral Club field trip to a private claim near Tarryall Mountain, one of the premier Topaz Prospecting areas in Colorado!  The area is steep and rocky which makes a good hike; with the side benefit of having an outstanding view!  We ventured up the mountain and I started a good day immediately in finding a topaz laying in the ground on the hike up the hill, albeit very small.  Then just a few minutes later I found another clear topaz, this time larger and clear enough to be a cutter stone!

Small piece of topaz found on the hike up.

Small piece of topaz found on the hike up.

Alluvial clear topaz I found on the hike up the hill.

Alluvial clear topaz I found on the hike up the hill.  Good enough for a small cut gem!

Once settled in near the top of the hill, I started to dig in an area that was previously dug to try and figure out what to look for.  I know that Topaz forms in standard pegmatite like the smoky quartz and microcline/amazonite that I dig in the Pikes Peak Batholith, but I usually don’t dig in such rocky places.  I dug a little uphill and in between two large rocks about 3″ deep in the sand out popped another topaz! This is the first one I have ever “dug”; everything else has either been on the ground or from excavator diggings at the Dorris’ Topaz Mountain Gem Mine. I dug for several hours more in this location and only pulled out a gemmy smoky quartz which was under a large (probably 100+ lb) rock I pried away.

Started digging and immediately pulled this out of the loose gravel.

Started digging and immediately pulled this out of the loose gravel.  Definitely a cutter!

I proceeded downhill and started digging in more clay filled dirt.  I found a couple of smoky quartz (not very good ones however).  I was meticulously going through the clumps of clay and I found a topaz completely concealed in one.  This was the last topaz I found, but it was a fully euhedral crystal with a slight blue color.  It wasn’t gemmy like the others, but specimen quality!

This topaz was covered in red clay/mud and the only reason I found it was I was thorough in checking each clump of mud.

This topaz was covered in red clay/mud and the only reason I found it was I was thorough in checking each clump of mud.

Throughout the day I found some very small but ultra gemmy smoky quartz and Hunter found a topaz on the ground (during the rain which illuminated it) on the way out, so we both had a great day!  I used a screen all day long but that didn’t produce any topaz; luckily topaz when exposed from the ground typically “pops out” at you and it is obvious what you’ve found.  I did have the one covered in clay that did not “pop”, however, so obviously screens and working clay is still necessary when prospecting for topaz.

Small but gemmy smoky quartz crystals

Small but gemmy smoky quartz crystals

I have been invited to visit another private claim in the area later in July, so hopefully I’ll have some more “wild dug” topaz stories soon…and of course later this summer/fall I hope to find my first Devils head topaz too!

The finds of the day...all relatively small but my first "hand dug" topaz I've ever found!

The finds of the day…all relatively small but my first “hand dug” topaz I’ve ever found!

April Fools Claim Rockhounding trip — June 3, 2011

Went up with Hunter to visit the April Fools claim for the first time of the year.  Ended up finding some exposed Pegmatite that had been worked prior but not in a while; so I was curious and investigated.  Right away I found some shapes immediately above the pegmatite in the dirt layer, including the larger crystal of the day.  I worked the hard rock and found a couple of small pockets where I uncovered many phantom Smoky Quartz crystals and some neat smaller Fluorite crystals.  No Amazonite on this day, but still some great crystals!


Biggest Smokey of the day, double terminated and coated

Here are the double coated Phantom Smoky/White Quartz crystals

Cool phantom Smoky quartz with clear quartz

The largest Fluorite of the day was beautiful!

Fluorites including nice blue/green large one

Small Fluorite, love the purple corners!

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CSMS Field Trip: Joe Dorris’ Topaz Mine 2010

Topaz Gem Mine 2010
My dad and I were fortunate to go on the annual field trip with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society to Joe Dorris’s Topaz Mine. This was a great day and Joe was a wonderful host! The day started by us just sifting through some piles of dirt with rakes. Joe and his son were using the excavator and had us move a couple of times to ensure we were out of harms way.
Dave Sifting through the dirt
My dad constructed a nice screen and we used this all day long. I found that I didn’t need the screen though, when you find a topaz it is very shiny and stands out as the dirt does not stick to it. We found several small stones in blue and yellow color. Joe also provides “bags of dirt” that we purchase to help offset the costs of having us as visitors all day and he “spikes” these bags with a few stones. There was a nice and huge ~150 carat tumbled alluvial stone in my bag!
Excavator at work
Here is a beautiful stone that Joe found at the end of the day after almost everyone left (my dad and I stayed until Joe’s team left). When the excavator unearthed this beauty, we all saw it at once; they are pretty easy to see when they are this big!
Beautiful Topaz Joe's team found
After all was said and done; my dad and I had a wonderful day and between what we found and the gifts planted in our “bags of dirt” we feel we really scored! Huge thanks goes out to Joe Dorris for hosting and the CSMS club for arranging this wonderful day!
Dad’s stash!
Dad's Topaz
My findings!
Dave's Topaz