Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum

It has been a while now that I have wanted to visit the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum in Golden, Colorado. I’ve read articles about it, heard it was awesome, and still never have ventured to the far west side of the Metro to pay a visit. Well, the time had come; my daughter had a Girl Scout event at the School of Mines earlier this year and while waiting for her event to finish the rest of the family went to the museum…and we’re glad we did! It did not disappoint; the local Colorado collections they had were outstanding!

What I liked most was the fact that they had similar specimens from popular Colorado localities that I have collected. In most all cases their examples of the mineral(s) were much better than I have, but in a few examples I have found similar quality specimens from the same localities. Because I have been to the same location as these were unearthed from; I also was able to definitively identify several specimens that I was only partially sure about!

There were also several specimens that I really like that I have not found that mineral anywhere yet; but they were so cool that I had to take a photo of it anyway. The museum is full of wonderful specimens — these pictures don’t do it justice; you have to *BE* there to truly grasp the magnitude of the beauty of these specimens, but hopefully the pictures get you itching to visit Golden on your next trip to the metro area!

Calcite and Pyrite

A person at the colosseum show a couple years ago had several of these for sale for cheap. I bought one in the same league than this!


Oklahoma Galena

Oklahoma Galena, this is an awesome specimen!  As a storm chaser I remember when Picher was partially destroyed by a tornado in 2008…what I didn’t realize is that it was a Superfund site and is one of the most toxic places in the US.  Picher is a modern day ghost town for a good reason!

Rhodochrosite Stalagmites

Rhodochrosite Stalagmites

NTM Zoelites

North Table Mountain Zoelites

Back in 2010 I was able to visit North Table Mountain on a field trip with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society club.  This is on Jefferson County Open Space and there is no collecting usually allowed per their website; but the club had a permit which allowed us to collect.  We did find some great crystals as you will see in that blog post. Below are the fantastic zeolite crystal specimens they had in the museum.

NTM Thompsonite

North Table Mountain Thomsonite

North Table Mountain Chabazite

North Table Mountain Chabazite – We found an awesome vug lined with Chabazite during a NTM club fieldtrip!





Quartz after Halite

This Quartz after Halite specimen is awesome!

Goethite after Pyrite

I love Goethite and Pyrite; this is the best of both!

Quartz after Fluorite

This Quartz after Fluorite is just amazing!


Fluorite. I found a similar piece at the Smoky Hawk mine during one of the club field trips.

Here is the similar (not as big but just as gemmy) fluorite I found at the Smoky Hawk mine.

Crystal Hill Amethyst

Crystal Hill Amethyst Cluster – I have yet to find Amethyst at this locality.


Petrified Spruce

Petrified Spruce

Petrified Wood

One of the various Petrified wood slabs they had on exhibit — Joshua Tree.

Petrified Wood

One of the various Petrified wood slabs they had on exhibit


Dia De Los Muertos Crystal Pocket (Updated with Video)

As always, clicking the image brings up a larger version, and you can review my other rockhounding adventures here.

Dia De Los Muertos Smoky Quartz Pocket

Daphne constructed this 2 .5 foot crystal skull from the smoky quartz of this pocket

Dia De Los Muertos is always a celebration, especially when finding a crystal pocket! On November 2 I ventured up to Devils Head locality with the hopes of finding some crystals.  I was venturing into new areas and often I don’t find much when prospecting but today was a lucky day!  I found some smaller pegmatite chunks on the surface and dug in the area; about 45 minutes into my digging I started to pull out some interesting microcline plates. I definitely was in a seam or pocket but there wasn’t any quartz crystals to be found….yet…

Microcline Smoky Quartz Plate

One of the many interesting smoky quartz/microcline combo plates from the pocket

Smoky Quartz / Microcline plate

One of many Smoky Quartz / Microcline plates from this seam

As I dug parallel to a larger pegmatite I tracked upon a small seam that started producing small smoky quartz crystals along with plates of microcline.  The further I dug the larger and more abundant the crystals became.  The pocket opened up a few times with some nice 5+ inch smoky quartz crystals and then would become smaller just to open up again.  After about 10 feet of excavation no more than 18 inches under ground, I had found well over 200 crystals and clusters, and then the seam quickly pinched out. As with other seams and pockets, when you get into the crystals you tend to get many in a small space!  I figure on average I was pulling out a couple of crystals per inch of excavation work!

Smoky Quartz from pocket

Not yet soaked in acid, smoky quartz with phantoms and healed terminations

Dia De Los Muertos Crystals

Many of the Dia De Los Muertos Crystals all cleaned up

One thing I noted while plucking the crystals from the ground is many were double terminated, probably close to 1/3 of the crystals from the pocket!  Upon getting them cleaned up it became obvious that this crystal pocket had seen several growth periods and also a period of shift where several crystals were crushed and shattered.  One of the largest 5″ crystals was missing its point which I found about a foot away along the seam.  The tip didn’t fit perfectly because of the additional growth period on both the tip and the base crystal; but it was obvious they were once the same crystal though.

El Nariz Quartz Crystal

La Nariz – The gemmy smoky quartz cluster from the center of the pocket; I plan to visit again next year to see if the microcline plate this came off of is still there…I bet it is!


Smoky cluster showing phantom

Smoky quartz cluster showing phantom

The multiple growth periods are evident in several ways.  Firstly, many of the crystals have milky colored phantoms.  This is the first time I found phantoms like this at Devils Head and they are truly spectacular.  Multiple growth periods is additionally evident due to terminated healing where crystals that were once on the floor or ceiling were broken off (likely when the pocket shifted or collapsed) and then the end healed forming beautiful double terminated crystals.  Many of these are healed with phantoms as well!

Phantom Quartz

This quartz was smashed ages ago and shows the phantom crystal up close and personal

Gemmy Smoky with Phantom

Gemmy Smoky with Phantom

Gemmy quartz with phantom

Gemmy quartz with phantom

Gemmy Quartz with Phantom

Gemmy Quartz with Phantom prior to the acid bath

Smoky Quartz with Phantom

Smoky Quartz with Phantom

Quartz with Phantom

Quartz with Phantom, after the Super Iron Out soak but before Phosphoric Acid bath

Cleaning took a while, although they were not heavily coated.  I used Super Iron Out first for a couple of sessions, mechanically cleaned the crystals with my water gun in between, and then soaked them for two weeks (some took about 6 weeks) in a heated phosphoric acid bath.  I did two or sometimes three sessions with the water gun between soaks.

Double Terminated / Healed Quartz

Double Terminated / Healed Quartz

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz with Phantom

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz

Double Terminated Smoky Quartz

A wonderful end to the season; I found some great crystals this year at Devils Head and look forward to prospecting some new areas next year!

Virgin Bath Overlook looking south

Devils Head’s Virgin Bath Overlook looking southwest!

Red Feather Lakes Crystal Hike

For the kids fall break I took a couple of days off of work and we visited my folks in Northern Colorado.  On Sunday morning my dad and I were talking about visiting Chicken Park where we have heard stories of Kimberlite Pikes (diamonds, we are in that part of Colorado), gold, Amethyst and other fun stories of the area.  Given that is a 20 minute drive from their house we decided to check it out.

Our journey was abruptly cut short, however, due to a road closure.  There was another way; but it would have been at least an hour drive so instead of turning around and heading home; we decided to check out another road; the only one available.  After a rough road we got out and took a hike.  A little while into the trail we came across some float that caught our attention and we decided to dig a little to see what we’d find.

Float that sparked our interest

Float that sparked our interest

Another float that started the digging...

Another float that started the digging...

Dad ran back to the truck to get the pick and rock hammer while I stayed and scoped the area out.  By the time he returned I had an idea where we should dig and we started.  We spent about an hour digging and pulled out a bunch of rough chunks with faces; almost all with crystallized formations showing.  I ended up finding some red clay and small crystal clusters started coming out.

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some nice crystals that we pulled from the red clay/mud

Some of the clusters we pulled out

Some of the clusters we pulled out

These took me a while to clean up; the mud was really sticky.  We had to get home for lunch and so we left the diggings to come back the next day, a little more prepared to do some serious excavation; except it snowed six inches!  Oh well; my dad said he’d check it out further on some warm day–the luxuries of being retired!

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some chunks of quartz showing crystallization

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

Some of the nicer clusters; for dad's cabinet

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

A shot of the take home; most garden rock

All in all a wonderful hike with my dad and adventure on the mountain back roads in his area!  Hope to do this again soon!

Devil’s Head Rockhounding Late Summer 2013

I’ve made several trips up to Devil’s Head during the late summer this year. The last was September 29th (okay, I know, it is early fall, not late summer as the title suggests).  The USFS closes the gate December 1st or earlier so hopefully I’ll make it up a couple more times this year.

In very late August I went with a couple of fellow Rockhounds I met through the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society. (If you want to read a very informative rockhounding blog, and see big crystals (!!), head over to Kevin’s blog, or check out Badger2410’s YouTube channel; both are local Rockhounders). The goal on this trip was to show my guests some successful places from the past and then head out deep into the forest and prospect in fairly new woods away from where everyone ventures! Well, we didn’t really venture too far as the spot we started we ended up at all day.

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

Nice Gemmy Smokey I found

I found one really nice gemmy crystal and a couple of other so-so ones. I also snagged a couple of small ones that Kevin didn’t want (my daughter always asks me to show her the smallest crystals when I get home; I can’t disappoint!) in addition to the several small ones I found. Bob found the largest of the day following float up the hill. All in all a very fun day!

I went a couple of weeks later and prospected looking for a partially cleared pocket that someone had left and I had buried.  I know the area pretty well but for some reason this has eluded me for 3 years now in searching.  Perhaps it was just a dream…except for a have a couple of nice smokey’s I pulled out of that pocket.  Next year will be the year!

My latest venture so far in 2013 was Sunday September 29th.  It was a beautiful fall day and I was surprised that the trees had not begun turning yet; which was a little disappointing and part of the reason I chose to go there.  I decided I was going to explore a new area so I parked and then hiked about 2 miles into the forest.  I saw some signs of digging and kept going until I didn’t see many holes or previous diggings.  I then started prospecting and after about an hour I started finding some very cool signs.

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

Float - Signs of a good pocket?

I followed the float up the very steep hill and kept finding good signs; most with lichen making me think it had been undisturbed and I was going to find a cool pocket.

More float

If this isn't a good sign then what is?

I then ran into this nice crystal face (above) and was getting excited.  A little ways up the hill I found the source; and it had been all dug up.  Bummer!  It appeared to have been dug a very long time ago as all the shards were well buried in dirt and under the needles.  I was a bit disappointed but curiosity got the best of me and I dug around in the previous diggings as I always do to try and figure out what they saw; in addition to what they missed!  In excavating what I thought to be previous tailings I started to find good crystals, covered in red mud, in red dirt.  Ended up this was a side branch of the main pocket and it was untouched.  I dug here for the rest of the morning and pulled out some nice microcline and crystals.  They appeared so-so but I never second guess until they are cleaned up so I usually take them home anyway.  After about 4 hours there, and realizing I had a small bucket of cool garden rock and some potential keepers, I decided to head out another direction and continue to prospect for later this or next year.

Crystal under the iron?

No clue how this will clean up, some nice small crystals on the side

Again, needing some serious cleaning

Again, some tabbies needing some serious cleaning

After about 10 days in acid, far from perfect, but still a nice crystal.

Some nice sized ones, we'll see how they clean...


Cool double terminated clusters


Sidewall cluster

I love this crystal; terminations are great on the concave bottom!

Findings of the day including floaters

Findings of the day including floaters


I especially like the floaters as they all have lichen and look great in the garden with the rest of the shards and other pieces I’ve brought home over the years.  They will also remind me of the pocket that I was 50 years too late on!  LOL!

I’ve just started a Phosphoric Acid bubble bath.  My friends from the CSMS procured a gallon of the acid that they were kind enough to sell to me and I’m excited to use this in a crock-pot bath to see about cleaning these heavily stained crystals.  This is my first time using Phosphoric Acid, so I can’t wait to see the results; if the crystals aren’t embarrassing, I’ll post some cleaned-up pictures!

Nice floater on the way back...

Nice floater on the way back...

On my way back to the car I found this microcline cluster sitting by a tree.  Usually that means it has rolled down hill from another’s diggings; but I followed it up.  There was what appeared to be a very small digging up the hill; too small (so it seemed) to have anything cool like this come from it (or the person would have dug more); so I don’t know.  The diggings were VERY old again, so perhaps I’ll check it out on a future trip!

July Rockhounding

July was a good month for Rockhounding for us; we did only a couple of trips, however, due to a busy summer with many other fun things on the weekends!  Both of my July trips were to Joe Dorris claims; the first was a makeup trip to the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine (originally with the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society, but with the Littleton club on this make up day) and the second was the famous Smokey Hawk claim with CSMS.  Both were in the Lake George area.  If you are interested in visiting either claim, contact Joe or Krystle.  Here is information on Visting the Topaz Mine.

The Smokey Hawk trip was a lot of fun; I found a bunch of small chips of really great colored Amazonite.  Joe stated that they had just opened a small pocket of incredible colored Amazonite but most of it was crushed.  He was thinking chemistry must have played a role in the color and condition of the Amazonite.  Perhaps we’ll see more in this year’s Prospector’s show.

I had recently tumbled some Amazonite chips I found in prior trips to the Smokey Hawk, so I decided to hit the tailings pile and see what I could find in the “trash” mounds.  Others went up to the hills and did some prospecting, and some did quite well (see Kevin’s Rockhounding blog).  I dug through rocks at the base of the piles (the stones tend to roll down to the bottom) and also walked around the piles themselves.  Although I didn’t find anything super spectacular from an Amazonite perspective, I did find many really dark blue/green colored chips, many with a face or two intact.  I also found a couple of larger chunks.

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

Dark rich colored Amazonite from the Smokey Hawk claim

I was able to find a couple of nice Smokey Quartz crystals as well.  Most had a small flaw or two (mostly small chips).  I did find this Goethite crystal.  I’ve seen these in pictures with Amazonite/smokey quartz clusters.  I think these are great crystals; always funky but definitely pronounced crystal structure!  I’ve found 4 or 5 like this over the years; this one is one of the best!

Goethite crystal

Limonite after Stibenite crystal

The find of the day, however, came near the end of the day as a thunderstorm was encroaching on our fun!  I was digging in the tailings pile where there were some small funky Smokey Quartz clusters that a fellow club member turned me onto.  There was a small pocket embedded in an excavator bucket load that had some interesting items in the pocket mud/clay.  After rinsing when I got home, most ended up being pink microcline clusters, but one was a awesome gemmy Fluorite.  In the tailings nearby was also this small Fluorite cluster!

Back of gemmy Fluorite

Back of gemmy Fluorite

The back side of this was interesting as it appeared to be somewhat etched away from an original growth/phantom.  The color and gemminess of the stone is wonderful!

Gemmy Fluorite - a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Gemmy Fluorite – a couple of fractures but clear and purple!

Near this I also found a small Fluorite cluster; what was interesting is the shape of the central crystal in this cluster…I will need to talk to an expert as this doesn’t appear to be normal shape for Fluorite.

Small Fluorite cluster

Small Fluorite cluster

In late July I took the kids to visit Krystle and the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  Luckily it had a good rain in the days before the trip and we had significant luck just surface hunting.  As a matter of fact, only a couple small pieces came from our hard work digging all day!  My find of the day came as I was walking into the mine.  Along the entry road was a eroded area from the rains that had this awesome blue topaz stone just laying there on the surface, on a pedestal of dirt that was about to collapse due to erosion…just waiting for me to pluck it from the ground.  This picture doesn’t do it justice because it is very clear and you can mainly see the back side through the stone; but it is awesome to hold and stare into, and beautiful blue!

Alluvial Blue Topaz - 80 carat

Alluvial Blue Topaz – 80 carat

I wandered around with the kids but their eyes just weren’t finding the shapes and glass within the mud.  I pulled out several small chips and a few small stones; most were not cutters or specimens; but it was good that I was finding Topaz!  I dug for 5-6 hours in one of the piles left by the excavator and found only a super small chip and sherry stone which could cut into a 1-2 carat faceted stone…not sure if I want to do that or not…

Hunter and Daphne had a system figured out which was great.  Hunter was digging a hole in the top of the pile to create a volcano.  As he excavated dirt from that hole he slid it down a chute where Daphne was going through the dirt looking for Topaz.  Seemed like an efficient system; and they were making a volcano that later in the day was going to spit out Topaz all over for us to collect!  Unfortunately they didn’t find any Topaz with their system, but Hunter did find a really nice Smokey Quartz!

Hunter digging for Topaz while making a Volcano


Daphne sifting through the volcano core's dirt...

Daphne sifting through the volcano core’s dirt…


Hunter’s smokey with Topaz at the Sherry stone and blue to show the colorsOther than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

The smokey was very dirty and we didn’t know until we got home that it had some topaz on it; so Hunter and Daphne were both really bummed they didn’t score a Topaz today. I told them both to just do what was the most successful and wander around and look for them on the ground. Daphne was done but Hunter decided to take my advice. A little while later he came running towards us; I knew he must have found something! He did; an awesome Topaz! All in all, it was a great day at the topaz mine.

Here are some of the other stones that I found.

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

Sherry stone and blue to show the colors

On the way to the mine I purchased a vintage Synthesizer from a family in Florissant.  When I told her where we were going for the day; she stated she lived right in the area of the mine for many years.  She told me a story that the original homesteader Matakat used to grow potatoes on the land and often found topaz in them when harvesting!  Great lore for the area!

Other than the Sherry this was the only other stone I found digging

Another shot of Hunter's topaz

Another shot of Hunter’s topaz


I am looking forward to the rest of the summer and fall as I have many trips planned, including several locales that I have not been to before!  Stay tuned…

May 2013: Goethite and Onegite

May was a fun month for rock hounding adventures.  I visited the Lake George area several times in May, the first was to prospect and find the claim borders / corner posts, I went with my son and his friend.  We had a fun hike and I found a couple of spots that looked interesting.  I then came back and the first rock I turned over had a small spray of Goethite on it.  I have never found Goethite before and so I was pretty excited.  Ended up digging at this location for two days and pulled out a lot of Goethite and related Onegite sprays, some combo pieces, and many Smokey Quartz crystals and small microcline clusters.  No amazonite, however, but that is okay as I had a wonderful time with what I did find.

Looking at these sprays under a loupe I discovered that there are small citrine, smoky and amethyst quartz crystals all over these things.  I guess that is by definition the Onegite — Goethite with these small crystals.  I read online on how to clean these and have soaked them in soapy water for days and then used water spray to avoid breaking the delicate crystals.  On some of the onegite I was able to use a soft toothbrush.  They didn’t clean up 100% yet; I don’t know if some ever will.  Note you can’t put them in Iron Out since this is an iron based mineral.

I will post some of the microcline and smoky quartz in a different post when I have them ready; but here is a slideshow of some of the pieces that I found.  What a cool mineral!


Amethyst, onegite and goethite


Some amethyst in this onegite/goethite crystal


This one is great!

tn_Goethite-1496 tn_Goethite-1493 tn_Goethite-1486 tn_Goethite-1474 tn_Goethite-1472 tn_Goethite-1470 tn_Goethite-1458 tn_Goethite-1456 tn_Goethite-1450 tn_Goethite-1449 tn_Goethite-1445 tn_Goethite-1430 tn_Goethite-1428 tn_Goethite-1425 tn_Goethite-1410 tn_Goethite-1406 tn_Goethite-1390 tn_Goethite-1386

Adventures at Topaz Mountain Gem Mine, May 2013

One of my topaz from today's digs...

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

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!


Big machines at work getting new piles to go through!
It is beautiful up here in the Rocky Mountains in spring time!  Here I am raking through my part of a pile…
Me raking for topaz
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!
Jim and the kids attacking their pile of dirt

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!

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 kids findings...gems and brass


My findings from digging all day…

My findings from today!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

Nice smokey quartz; double-terminated; a cutter!

The best cutter stone I found at the Topaz Mountain Gem Mine

The best cutter stone I found

Cute blue faceted gem!  Small but beautiful!

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 monster topaz found today!

Absolutely gorgeous bi-color monster topaz found today!

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Bi-color Incredible Topaz found today

Monster Topaz - Showing the facets, perfectness, and sherry color

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!

Cinco de Mayo 2013: A New Hope

Today was a great day and my second outing for the year, this time to the New Hope Amethyst lode claim as guests of the Canyon City rock club.  I was with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club , there were 5 or 6 clubs on this field trip.  Lots of eager Rockhounds wanting to get out find some amethyst quartz crystals!!  The day was slightly overcast which was perfect for a day of digging–bright but not too hot or sunny. I started the day doing some prospecting and walking around the claim and surrounding public lands.  I found some epidote in quartz/granite which was cool; but nothing else per se.  Richard, the field trip leader for the club, had given me a clue on where to find some calcite crystals so I went on a hunt for them.  I was able to find the area he mentioned; but obviously someone had been digging there already and I didn’t see the calcite crystals he mentioned.  The seam that had been dug out had some dried red clay and I figured I should see what that was about so I started digging in that carefully.  I ended up finding a small plate of small quartz points which was exciting (thanks to Carl Carnein for his help with identification).  Unfortunately the host rock was extremely brittle and even exercising great care it was hard to extract the plates without everything busting into tiny pieces.

Cute calcite cluster found in the maroon clay

Cute quartz cluster found in the maroon clay.  These will scratch glass.

I continued to dig into the clay and uncovered more small plates of quartz crystals, again they were very brittle but I was able to extract a couple 1.5 – 2″ pieces intact which was exciting!  Continuing into the pocket I the clay turned iridescent maroon colored and that is where I found a couple of really pretty plates, one, the back/side of the pocket was able to be extracted intact that was rather large, 4-5″ long.  Sweet! The below cluster was one of the intact small clusters which came from this area of the small pocket.

Calcite cluster without the coating of calcite

Quartz cluster that was pretty clean…

Awesome large cluster of calcite crystals intact!!

Awesome large cluster of quartz crystals intact!!

Once I got to the end of this small pocket I broke into a small but pretty smokey and amethyst quartz vein.  It quickly pinched out and I decided to see what everyone else was finding and relax for a little bit. Overall the calcite pocket was about 3-5″ high, 1-3″ wide and about 4″ deep at the largest points.

"Zipper" Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the Calcite pocket

“Zipper” Vein of Smokey and Amethyst Quartz at the end of the quartz pocket

Everyone was having luck about two feet deep digging an amethyst vein.  There was a lot of folks digging in a tight space so I decided to try and intercept the vein a little ways away from the crowd; 10 yards or so uphill.  I dug and dug in all directions but did not find the vein…it either made a significant turn, went further down than I was wanting to dig (which was 3+ feet!); or pinched out.  After a couple of hours I reclaimed my prospecting and just hung out and listened to everyone talk and enjoyed the stories and watching everyone find great little clusters.

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

Small amethyst, milky and smokey quartz clusters and points

I went through some of the tailings and found some cool little points, and after everyone was done they offered me a chance to dig in the excavated hole and I enjoyed about an hour of finding great small milky quartz covered plates before it was time to head home.  It was a wonderful day with great people; I’ve really enjoyed visiting this claim and appreciate the opportunity to do so!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst quartz!

Needs a little more scrubbing; beautiful amethyst and smokey quartz!

Calcite crystals in close proximity to quartz vein

Quartz crystals in close proximity to quartz vein


2012 Colorado Topaz

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?)!

Cleaned 300 carat blue topaz crystal cleaned, pressure treated and ready for the cabinent!

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:

Bi-color sherry stone.  Simply beautiful!


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 !!

The right stone with hematite or iron oxide inclusions is from the Sherry Stone

Back side!

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!

Beautiful gem from 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!

Colorado Amethyst: New Hope claim

My dad and I are both new members with the Lake George Gem and Mineral club and were able to go on this great trip.  The New Hope Amethyst location was claimed by the Canyon City Geology club and on BLM land, but you had to pass through multiple private parcels of land to get to it.  As with any claim, you MUST have permission from the claim owner to collect; even though its on public land.  The Canyon City club arranged with the owners to let us pass through their land and we headed out to the claim.  There were a lot of horses on the first property that were running around curious of what the procession was all about!

Once we got to the site my dad and I went straight to the old mine area and started working on a slightly exposed vein.  There was a lot of hard-rock work; pounding and using chisels and pry bars for this trip.  I was very sore the next day!  🙂

The Canyon City club members there were awesome and taught us much about how to expend effort wisely using the hard-rock mining techniques.  This was great information and something as a novice rockhound you can only really get going on these club field trips with the experts!  Thanks!  We ended up working with several folks to expose a nice vein.  The vein of crystals were pretty brittle and would break apart along terminations easily if the vein was not excavated correctly.  We ended up with a couple of pieces with the vein intact, but mostly just smaller crystals.  All the terminations were coated with a white milky quartz.  The crystals all had smokey quartz with the amethyst; so they were absolutely beautiful multi-colored purple/black with white veins!  These are not like the amethyst you see in rock shows or shops, but they are unique and beautiful!

Extra thanks to both the Lake George and Canyon City clubs for this awesome day!  It was great pulling purple crystals out of the ground!!!  My favorite part is many of these crystals are in the shape of tornadoes; I know–pretty geeky–but makes the day extra special!

You can see the Smoky, Amethyst and Milky quartz in this fine crystal!

These veins were hard to get out whole! Beautiful smokey, amethyst and milky quartz!

This was the largest crystal of the day! Notice the quartz layer on the terminations

We had a great time and found some beautiful crystals!