Last year I published an article How to Find Crystals that detailed some of the techniques I use and general prospecting tips, hoping to give several tips and hints to aid in expediting the learning curve of digging crystals. I’ve gotten some great feedback from that article and appreciate all the comments.
One of the things I tried to cover in that blog posting was what to look for on the surface and how to know if you are in a good spot and should continue digging, or bury the hole and continue the prospecting elsewhere. I knew it would be difficult to share that experience, as I’m still learning myself and it’s one of those things you can read about all day long but you don’t “get it” until you actually can see and experience how it is done. The pictures and text in that article were helpful I feel; but it still left me with questions after reading it–knowing that I had a plan for this year’s prospecting trips…
That blog posting was just the first of many postings I plan to do sharing what I’ve figured out on finding pegmatite crystals. I was able to get out digging late this spring and my goal was to take some video while I was on the hunt, hopefully showing what I look for on the surface and what I look for as I follow the pegmatite trail to the crystals (assuming I find crystals, which many times I don’t)! This video hopefully will provide some tips and hints of what works for me in the toughest part of the process, the initial prospecting and test holes.
Unfortunately due to leaving the camera in the sun too long, the pocket extraction video was corrupt, but the good stuff from a prospecting perspective was saved showing progress as I was hunting for the pocket. You’ll see that demonstrated in the video below.
I would love your feedback, questions and suggestions. I plan to do other videos showing different techniques.
The small crystal pocket I eventually hit I’m calling the OneTwo. It was mainly Microcline crystals, most were Carlsbad twinned! On these, once cleaned up, opposite faces had a blue tint of Amazonite to them; not as deep of green color as you find elsewhere in the region, but still really nice and a lot of fun. The smokey quartz I found all had secondary coatings of a darker colored quartz which will be very difficult to remove.
Interesting cluster of Amazonite / Microcline joined at a ~45 degree angle.
Carlsbad twinned Amazonite (light blue) with a small amount of cleavelandite sprays.
Nice little pair of Carlsbad twinned Amazonite with a bit of cleavelandite.
These are the largest crystals from the pocket, each about 3.5 inches tall. They had to be repaired as they came out in 3 pieces, the cap to the larger crystal was cleaved off and the two crystals had been separated and were found about a foot from each other in the pocket.
Smoky Quartz showing the secondary quartz growth. These have been soaked in a heated chemical bath for several weeks and look at lot better than they originally did; but this is as far as I will clean them as the quartz underneath is not worth the effort.
Some of the nicer twinned amazonites from the OneTwo pocket.
Examples of the coated smoky quartz from the OneTwo. The larger crystals are nearly 3 inches long. There were mostly microcline crystals in the pocket; which is opposite of what I typically find in the region.
I often get asked “How do you find crystals you have posted?”. Which techniques to use is a very subjective question, but certainly there are standard ways of prospecting for pegmatite crystals here in Colorado. I will try to cover some of the techniques I use in this article.
UPDATE: I have posted another article showing examples of these techniques here.
UPDATE: I have posted another article explaining how to create your own prospecting map here.
UPDATE: I have added videos of me picking crystals at the bottom of this article.
It has taken me years of prospecting, tons of reading, and networking with other prospectors and rock clubs to figure out what I’ve learned to find crystals so far, so I’m hoping that if you are new to this hobby this article can help expedite the learning curve and take away some frustration…i.e. not coming home empty handed as often! Note that I sometimes STILL come home with nothing to show (and I keep even the littlest crystals)…I think of it like fishing, sometimes the fish simply aren’t biting. My other hope is that folks having successful techniques can share their wisdom so I and others can continue to learn (the comments on this article is a great place, hint hint !!!). Note I am self-taught and have no formal geology schooling or experience, so my descriptions in this article may be scientifically inaccurate; the goal of this article is not to explain the science as much as for tips to helping you learn to find crystals! Of course the science is helpful and very interesting, if you have anything to share or correct (or have further questions), please leave comments, I would love to hear your techniques, opinions and knowledge on the subject!
Hitting a crystal pocket gives you a tremendous high! This was my first crystal pocket!
How to Find Crystals
There are three standard ways I prospect when searching for crystals; I may use only one way on any given day, or may use all three:
Searching the tailing piles of other digs
Finding float and following it
Digging in the source pegmatite
Prospecting Tailing Piles
When I’m prospecting I always check out old and new digs. There are several reasons for this–to learn what the other prospector was into when (presumably) they find crystals themselves, to perhaps continue where the previous prospector didn’t go, and to search through their tailings to ensure the weather didn’t reveal something that was missed or discarded!
Mount Antero double terminated Phenakite my son found laying on the surface, would have been great to have more of that aquamarine attached!
If the prospector was into a pocket or seam of crystals, they may have had mud or iron coatings on the crystals so the prospector tossed aside because they couldn’t see the sides or simply missed it…it happens, I’ve gone back to my digs before and found incredible crystals that I somehow missed! After a good rain or season of snow Mother Nature may help to reveal crystals that were left behind! This is the easiest form of prospecting. I also find that some prospectors are not interested in “boring” or imperfect crystals; another person’s trash may be my treasure! I have found many great crystals by searching the tailings of previous digs!
to find crystals it helps moving around the pile to get a reflection of sunlight from a flat shiny surface of a crystal…you should train your eyes to focus on any flat sided rock
getting down closer to the ground for a different perspective; I find many crystals this way that I missed standing up
look for color, some crystals are coated with iron-based minerals and may look rusty
poking around the sides of the hole to see if the prior prospector left part of the pocket
looking for float from the pocket (talked about further below)
dig through the tailings to see if other crystals are slightly buried
Finally there is a lot to learn from studying what others were into. This is how I’ve done much of my learning. What did the rocks they were pulling out look like (note to self, keep an eye out for these signs in my holes)? Are there other digs along the hillside along the same “zone” that I should also check out? What did the other person see that kept them digging? The bigger the prospector’s hole the more likely they found something good (otherwise that is a lot of effort for nothing), so explore those big holes/trenches for sure!
This Milky Quartz and Fluorite plate was found discarded by the original miner on the dumps, cleaned up it is awesome, good enough for me! Just wish I could find the other material which made this trash in comparison!
These Fluorites were covered in pocket mud and then again in dirt. Always examine “dirt balls” !!! Needs some more cleaning, but examples of what you can find in the dumps. Fluorite and other crystals are heavier than other rocks, so pay attention to the weight of the rocks you are extracting!
First of all, what is float? It took me a while to get my head around this concept. My definition of float is simply any rocks or crystals that have weathered out of their original location — in other words Mother Nature has moved them via some process over time.
What could have moved the crystals? Glaciers, wind, rain, etc. Glacial movement is pretty easy to spot on the crystals, because they are broken, cleaved and/or have rounded corners like they’ve been in a rock tumbler. These crystals have been potentially moved long distances and there may be no correlation in where the crystals are located to where they originated from–in other words they may be randomly displaced and you may not find other related crystals around them. However I have found several times that pockets were moved (relatively) together by glaciers and there are concentrations of crystals that are completely worn in a somewhat small of an area.
Float coated smoky and milky quartz crystals found in a 10 foot diameter area about 6 inches under the ground. The left smoky is ~10 cm.
Wind and water (and ancient glaciers too) are common forces that move crystals from their original location in the seams/pockets they were grown in. Over the hundreds of millions of years (or perhaps just thousands, or even last month’s torrential rains?) the land has been eroded and the original locations of the crystals may have been partially or completely eroded away. If on a hill, the crystals are likely displaced downhill as they are eroded out of their original pocket. If on a flat area, crystals can disperse radially away from the pocket (which may at one time long ago been above you).
One misconception that I originally had about float was that the crystals would be laying atop the ground easy for the prospector to see. It took me a while to realize that float can be (and often is) buried. The layer of topsoil / organic matter is a recent addition to the ground (decomposed plants, trees, etc) in the perspective of geologic time. Most often I’ve discovered float that is buried in the boundary between the top soil and the granite gravel layers which can be visible or buried many feet deep. Note that with the hundred plus years of prospecting occurring in popular areas, it is very unlikely you’ll find crystals on the surface; but there is still plenty of float to be discovered!
Now that we’ve reviewed what float is in theory, how does one utilize this float concept to actually find crystals? When I find good signs on the ground I dig test holes (more about what are good signs in a minute). I try to dig deep enough so I’m at (or below) the boundary layer between the topsoil/organic matter and the gravel–the steeper the hills the likely this layer will be more shallow. I will also dig about a foot or sometimes two deeper to see if what I’m seeing at the surface continues in situ underground–signs of a pegmatite outcropping.
As I continue to explore the source of the float, I will dig an area of several feet in diameter, left and right, up and downhill. If I continue to find signs, then I will follow those signs in whatever direction they lead me, which typically trends uphill. The hope is that this investigation leads you to the originating crystal pocket or seam still in the pegmatite rock!
If there are no signs on the surface but the area in general looks or “feels” good, or if I’m feeling lucky, I dig test holes in best-guess locations and if I find nothing interesting within a 2-3 foot diameter, I move on to another spot.
I have also seen videos of folks using dowsing rods–the concept is they loosely hold L shaped rods in each hand and as they walk over an area with a crystal the rods will move. I keep thinking I should try this but I have no experience nor have done any research on this technique yet. Chime up in the comments if you’ve had success with this method!
A float dig. I was following signs up the hill (probably 10 feet here) digging only about 3-7 inches deep. Notice the pile of dirt on the right, this makes it ultra fast to fill in the hole once I’m done…literally 2 minutes. I often backfill the hole as I’m following the float. Notice the rocks on the surface above my digging, these are what you want to see, but in this case they are likely from another dig up the hill as they are not partially buried like Mother Nature would do.
What are good signs to follow? What do you look for on the surface to start digging there? How long do you follow the trail of good signs when they are not panning out? Well, that IS the trick, these are all the million dollar questions of prospecting! I’m still perfecting this myself and likely will be forever, but for now my answer is many things. Here is where joining up with a Crystal Club or digging with other prospectors is very helpful. I have found that even though I’ve read a ton on the topic and talked to many experienced prospectors, I didn’t really “get it” until I’ve gone and and moved some rock and dirt–experienced it; sometimes it even takes many times before what I’ve read or been told clicks. That said, however, I’ll try to give you some tips and rules of thumb based on what I look for.
You are looking for the following, above and/or below the surface as float or in situ:
Anything with flat sides. Train your eyes to see flat surfaces; having flat surfaces means there was enough room for the rocks to start to crystalize which is evidence of a crack, seam or pocket in the host rock. Finding flat sided rocks is integral in the hunt for crystals.
Quartz. Pegmatites are partially composed of quartz, so you are looking for chunks of quartz either by themselves or mixed with Microcline / Feldspar.
Microcline. Like quartz above, microcline or amazonite is a good sign.
Graphic Granite. Granite by definition is composed of small crystals of quartz and feldspar. Pegmatite is when the crystal sizes get to a certain size. Graphic granite / pegmatite is where these crystals get bigger TOGETHER. Often in just one rock sample you’ll see the crystal size increase from one side to the other! (see image below). This sometimes means you are getting closer to where the crystals can grow better (i.e. a pocket).
Combinations of above. This means that all the right ingredients of a pegmatite seam are floating out of somewhere.
Crystals. If you’re finding whole crystals or multiple sides, well, you’re there! Congratulations!
Here are some good examples of graphic granite from one of my digs. Notice the quartz crystals getting bigger in size and consistent through the rocks. Click the image for a larger picture with more detail.
These pieces of quartz are great signs with many sides–but none are totally faceted which tells me they came out of massive granite. Also notice the microcline. Follow these!
Example of a good mix of quartz on feldspar, almost (but not quite) starting to look like a plate of quartz crystals. The upper quartz has a several flat sides! This chunk definitely kept me on the hunt!
One other technique I use digging float uphill is when pulling out quartz or microcline chunks I leave them on top of my tailings pile close to the spot I found them. If I’m not finding the source of the float or lose track of the good signs (or when I take a water break), then I’ll often step back, take a break and review what I’m finding from a distance (which is possible because I left my findings consistently in sight on top of the tailings). This technique will let me analyze my current prospecting situation from a different perspective. While analyzing the rocks as I have dug up the hill, I will also analyze the surrounding hillside for clues like other digs, surface rock, contour, etc. Sometimes I get overzealous in my digging and forget this simple step-back-and-analyze step which can be really helpful in minimizing the search for the source of the float!
Another way to find crystals using the “float technique” is to start at someone else’s dig and start to explore around (if a flat area) and downhill of that prospect/hole. It’s likely that there is float around or below that pocket that someone else has done all the hard work and located for you! Many times the crystals are really nice and have just rolled down the hill a little bit!!! The original prospector was only interested in the pocket material and left all the easy float finding to someone else! I’ve found some really nice crystals using this technique!
Of course, the best place to dig is in crystal pockets. This is where the crystals will likely be the best quality and most plentiful (but not always, ask any experienced prospector and they will tell you stories of hours/days of work in fabulous looking pockets with junk, crushed or no crystals). Whether you happen upon a seam or pocket in the pegmatite using float prospecting techniques, or you find the peg right away and dive in, this is the goal of prospecting–to hit the mother lode!
First, a little bit of theory from what I have discovered in the field and also from reading and talking to other prospectors. I think of pegmatites as basically a lava flow of harder rock that when forming had the right (and larger) concentrations of minerals we are searching for. Because it is a flow, it often will be long and extend across or into the hillside and will often be somewhat straight. This is helpful to know as you often can follow the pegmatite as it trends in a somewhat straight direction across the hillside.
If the conditions were right at that instant of time millions and millions of years ago, you have highly mineralized fluid that was flowing through the cracks in the rocks. If there was room in the host rock’s cracks then it would give the fluid a chance to crystalize in that “open space” in the rocks. Because we’re talking about an extended “flow”, the pegmatite can open up (i.e. crystals!), then pinch out, and follow that pattern again and again along faults or cracks over its length. You sometimes see this play out when following the pegmatite getting pocket after pocket along the length of the peg! This is something to remember as a previous prospector may have found a great pocket but didn’t finish it or follow it as it opened up into even a larger pocket along the length of the original flow!
The great Blue Cap Productions video on Rhodochrosite at the Sweet Home Mine in Alma Colorado details that pockets were often found at the intersection of faults. I have found this to be true in some cases with pegmatites pockets I’ve found, as two pegmatites intersected there was a pocket. Additionally, Joe Dorris of Glacial Peak Mining has documented that when the pegs bend they often form pockets (which were eddies during the liquid phase?). This is also something I’ve experienced and definitely keep an eye out for.
Pegmatite is currently often surrounded by gravel or dirt. Over geologic time, the surrounding rock may have decomposed into gravel while the harder, more mineralized material is still in place. So once you are upon the pegmatite you’ll likely know its boundaries by gravel. Knowing this, I don’t spend much time when digging test holes if there is just gravel, but if there are chunks of peg, quartz or microcline then I continue as I may be digging into a pegmatite; and if I was into the peg and then enter into just gravel, I change my direction as I likely have found a border of the peg. When finding bigger chunks of rock, ensure they are pegmatite and not just solid granite. You won’t find many crystals if you are not in the pegmatite!
Note that have seen instances where all the surrounding rock is completely gone leaving just a trail of crystals in the gravel or dirt! So again none of these techniques is absolute each and every time!
I categorize the peg in a couple of ways, as described above (chunks) and also as solid masses (this digging takes the most effort). Sometimes I get into a peg that is still holding together as more massive rock and there is a seam sandwiched between top and bottom plates of granite. In that seam, especially when it has the opportunity to widen, I sometimes find small pockets of crystals. Following these openings the trail of crystals sometimes dives deeper; and that is where things can get interesting as you may be into a pocket. Note that these chunks of pegmatite can be quite large and heavy, requiring pry bars and even chisels and hand sledge hammers to extract, so ensure you are employing safe leverage and lifting techniques (a hurt back doesn’t allow one to dig for many crystals) and always wear eye protection! In these cases I follow the peg in all directions as the crack/seam may be rather long and wide but not very thick, but eventually it could widen and form a pocket. Here is a video example of this (these are HD video, so change the resolution if you have the bandwidth!).
So these are the techniques that I am currently using to find crystals. I am fairly successful in finding some crystals, but finding the great crystals or pockets is still somewhat elusive to me! My thought is it’s all about moving dirt and rock to maximize the chance of getting lucky. Comparing it to the lottery, you have to play to win! Regardless, employing these techniques has brought me success and hopefully will aid in your success too! As stated before, I would love to hear your techniques and ideas in the comments or by emailing me; I’m looking for any ways to improve!
Here are some videos showing me finding crystals out of a pegmatite pockets or seams. Pay attention to what is surrounding the areas with crystals as that is what you will be targeting when you dig! Additionally, I have accumulated a playlist of people extracting crystals from around the world, you’ll want to check it out!
For more articles on my prospecting adventures click here.
You should also check out the other blogs I follow with great information about prospecting in Colorado:
I was able to head up to the hills again, twice in one weekend (albeit a long weekend) for about 4 hours on my way home from a camping trip, decided to prospect a little in a new area. I found some ground that looked promising, and out came some nice peg. I dug the peg for a while with no luck at all, but was persistent because it was too late to prospect out new ground for the day.
The smoky quartz crystals I found over about 45 minutes of carefully digging through the pegmatite.
Right before I gave up for the day I hit into a half baked clear quartz crystal; with no point and completely fractured; but with the flat sides and about 3 inch length I got renewed interest in this peg. I have found that clear quartz when digging for smokies sometimes is a sign that smoky quartz is nearby. I carefully dug for about 10 minutes more and a small gemmy smoky quartz crystal popped out.
Gemmy smoky quartz that started my renewed interest in this peg
It has been a while since I hit a small pocket, I actually like harvesting small crystals as it presents a challenge of being careful and clean in the hole. Many prospectors have no interest in anything of this size, but to me a crystal is a crystal regardless of size. 🙂 It is easy for the small crystals to be covered in dirt and swept away, so I had fun for the next 45 minutes or so meticulously pulling out tiny smoky quartz crystals!
I love how this crystal is irradiated only for part of the crystal, the rest is clear!
In one section of the peg there was some nice micro plates of quartz with crystals, but it finished as soon as it started and was tough digging as it was surrounded by very hard peg (I had to use a chisel and hammer and attack it around the pocket). I was able to pull out many gemmy smoky quartz before calling it a day. The peg continued on, so I suspect I can go back another day and continue to collect ultra small crystals. Some of these crystals were the smallest I’ve ever dug; so I was very happy with the day!
Neat tabby that was totally gemmy!
This one was odd; neat growth at the bottom of the tiny pocket!
The smallest plate of smoky quartz I have ever found. Way smaller than the tip of my pinkie finger.
A piece of microcline crystal with a small seam of tiny smoky quartz
As always, clicking the image brings up a larger version, and you can review my other rockhounding adventures here.
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…
One of the many interesting smoky quartz/microcline combo plates from the pocket
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!
Not yet soaked in acid, smoky quartz with phantoms and healed terminations
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.
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 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!
This quartz was smashed ages ago and shows the phantom crystal up close and personal
Gemmy Smoky with Phantom
Gemmy quartz with phantom
Gemmy Quartz with Phantom prior to the acid bath
Smoky 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 Smoky Quartz with Phantom
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!
Over the last 15 or so years I have collected alluvial smoky quartz crystals along the roads in our neighborhood while out and about. Others in my neighborhood have also shown me crystals they have found. I have seen some Native American points found in the area made out of smoky quartz too that are quite amazing.
These quartz crystals are alluvial and are obviously a ways from where they started. I am assuming these originated in the Devils Head area and were ground down as they were transported by glaciers. Many of these are very gemmy inside and could be used for cutters.
At the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society rock show many years ago I visited a club booth where one of the members found a huge alluvial smoky crystal along Fountain Creek that was on display. This particular stone was a large gem (perhaps eight inches in diameter) and they had another similar size quartz they found faceted; both came from the creek bed. That is when I decided that the larger stones don’t facet well (at least to my eye) — although the faceter did an excellent job it just didn’t sparkle like the smaller cuts.
My small collection of Smoky Quartz found along the roads near Larkspur Colorado.
This one came from a rut at the side of a road under some pine needles
This I found just a couple of weeks ago while walking the dog. Very gemmy inside.
Just goes to show that prospecting can be easy and very close to home; just need to keep a trained eye on the ground!
Did some digging today on the Rampart Range area on the Northeast side of the Pikes Peak Batholith. This location is known for mainly Smoky Quartz but also sometimes Amazonite and Topaz crystals. I started off prospecting a new area and did not find much so I wandered off to an old pegmatite I have worked in the past and went further into the zone I had found some crystals in previous years. I was lucky today and found many smokey quartz including a couple of small plates, and some weak colored and shaped Amazonite.
I originally came upon this area as I saw some loose pegmatite upon the ground that was somewhat graphic. Graphic granite is where the crystallization gets more pronounced and starts to get shapes and facets on one or many sides. I was pulling large (50+ pounds) chunks of pegmatite out of the ground and then I came upon a zone that was much smaller chunks of rock. After pulling out a couple of pieces smoky quartz started to fall out and then I saw a ceiling plate with a crystal intact. This plate was about 20 pounds so I left it; but I did bring home two plates intact and was able to find 5 crystals that fit back into place…which was worth the haul of these very heavy rocks to the car.
I plan to hit this site one more time as I want to ensure the pocket pinched out, which it appeared to do; but the previous seam of crystals I found along this pegmatite did the same thing, so it obviously opened up a couple times.
Part of the top plate of the small pocket. This crystal had fallen off but I was able to repair it.
Another view of the top plate in the main part of the pocket!
This was along the bottom of the pocket
These two were repaired back together
I love the point on this one.
This crystal is mostly gemmy inside.
Kinda odd facets, but awesome crystal.
Nice large crystal.
Love this point!
Some of the repaired and larger crystals; many or gemmy
These are mostly gemmy
Smaller but gemmy crystals!
Part of the larger bottom plate near the center of the pocket.
Some light colored Amazonite crystals.
These will require a long soaking; but I kinda like them as is…
I started by digging more into the harder country rock directly behind where the pocket from last year pinched out. I went about 5 feet (of hard rock digging) around that area and found nothing of interest. Then I decided to head the other direction, which was piled with tailings and pegmatite rocks so I had some housecleaning to do. Immediately upon getting below the surface I pulled out a microcline that looked good…probably less than 2 inches below ground. I took another scrape with the shovel to remove sticks and top soil and a girthy 2 inch smoky popped out of the ground! This is the closest pocket to the surface I have ever found, the pocket bottomed out about 4-5 inches deep!
I took some video pulling out medium sized smoky quartz from this small pocket. As quickly as it started, it ended. I dug for 5-7 feet more but determined that the pegmatite at that point would have been above the current ground level. It was getting late and I was several miles from the car, so I buried the hole, packed up and hiked out.
Upon thinking about this more, I will pay another visit to this area and start prospecting down the hill for float that may have come out of the seam over the millions of years of erosion in this location (usually I find float and dig uphill towards the hopeful pocket). Never thought of doing this before so we’ll see if this twist on my normal routine pays out. ???
This small cluster was at the bottom of the pocket. Note the back side where the graphic granite is obvious. This is what I look for when digging test holes or while prospecting! Curious on the light colored smokey in the center.
Some examples of the smoky quartz I found (still to be cleaned). The right most is the one with the broken tip. Interestingly, so far this year each pocket/seam I’ve hit has one (and only one) nice smoky with a broken tip….in each case I have found it near by. Interesting…
Went up picking as tradition on Cinco De Mayo and had some luck eventually finding blue amazonite and smoky quartz crystals. I was prospecting an area I’ve never been to before and wasn’t having much luck, after about 5 hours of nothing (and many miles of good exercise) I decided to check out somewhere else. On the hike back to the car I found some float pegmatite that had a shade of “green” and I started digging (you’ll see examples in the video similar to what I saw). After about an hour of digging test holes (about 2 feet deep) I hit some peg that looked promising and so I started to follow it.
I continued to hit color but only in what looked like a small crack. The color didn’t seem to follow anything specifically, but generally the color was in a certain area so I continued to follow it. Eventually I started to find crystals, most just sidewall or partial crystals with one or two flat sides, but that is a great sign so I continued.
I was about 1-2 feet down and following the peg when a seam started to open up and produce more traditionally shaped crystals. The video shows several spots along the way including the largest opening in the seam which was probably a good 5-6 inches tall and a foot or so wide. The seam continued producing smaller crystals and 1-2 sided microcline/amazonite for another 10 or so feet before it completely pinched out. I continued for several hours in all directions but didn’t find anything else worth while.
The crystals were double-coated with iron oxide and a thin white milky quartz type coating. This proved to be very difficult to clean up. I started with Iron Out for 72 hours and then I used a 10% Phosphoric Acid solution in a low heated crock pot for over a month along with a water gun to chemically soak and chip away the coatings. Several stones I was able to get most of the coatings off, but the blasting of hot chemical through the millennia in this pegmatite took its toll and etched many of the smoky quartz crystals and stained the amazonite. Where it has etched them the coating is very difficult to remove.
My favorite part of this dig, however, was that the sky blue Amazonite. Not the typical green that you find in the area. I have not yet invested time in creating cabochons but I suspect this amazonite will be gorgeous if used this way. Thus, I didn’t clean but about 1/3 of the crystals I brought home figuring someday I’ll be grinding away the coatings and not worrying about the specimen quality of the stones.
This was a cool crystal, obvioulsy needs more soaking but will give you an idea of what has come off the rest of the crystal
This was a cool cluster that was in the center of the largest part of the seam/pocket. Most of these are gemmy, and flipping it over they are mostly double terminated.
The smoky quartz “teaser” from the video.
I suspect this is amazonite, but I really liked the coating without any cleaning!
This Amazonite / Smoky Quartz combo was one of the several I found. This was at the bottom of an opening that was not in the video. Unfortunately 6 weeks in a hot acid bath didn’t clean it fully.
I like this one as it shows the quartz and amazonite starting to separate and form euhedral sides from the host graphic granite rock.
This was the largest smoky quartz I found as seen in the video. I love the termination!
I really like this stone for the natural facets and the gorgeous sky blue color!
Largest amazonite of the day, about 3.5 inches.
This parallel/stepped growth smokey quartz pair had a chunk of amazonite attached.
Many of the smoky quartz are gemmy, which I absolutely love the root beer color of this kind of quartz. Likewise, I have saved many of these stones for faceting if I decide to pick up that part of the hobby. I also procured many garden rocks.
Hiking out in the twilight it had been a very long day and I was exhausted, but deeply satisfied!
My buddy Terry introduced me to Devil’s Head locality back in 2009 through his friend Bill, who is a long time Picker all over Colorado. Thanks to Bill I’ve had a ton of fun pickin’ here! We’ve been wanting to meet up for years but one thing or another has prevented it from happening, until now! Terry and I took a Friday off of work and headed up to Devil’s Head first thing in the morning. There was a fresh snow earlier in the week and we figured there would be some left in the shady spots; but not enough to ruin a good weekend camp trip. Well, there was a little more snow than we thought, about 3-4″ in the road going in, but it was supposed to be a gorgeous weekend so we decided a little snow wouldn’t hurt us.
I had all the camp spots scouted out in the area and there was one I always have been fond of, and luckily because of the early season and Friday morning (and covered in snow!) it was available. All these campsites are first come first serve. We parked and Terry started to set up camp while I dug snow away from where we wanted our tents.
Bill brought a friend Cliff who was a first time picker and they met us later that evening. The day was gorgeous and we had a wonderful weekend camping trip. We picked two days, one day at a spot that I have had luck in the past and one that Bill had luck with many years back. At my spot we found some crystals but nothing super. The second day I bumped into a small seam of small, root beer gemmy crystals.
It was a great weekend and Bill had some useful tips that he shared from his decades of experience. I went up the following weekend to finish up a spot but didn’t have any luck. Overall, a wonderful camping weekend early in the season, and a beautiful view from our campsite. Also, some nice smaller gemmy crystals to bring home.
Campsite was awesome; needed a little snow shovelling though. NOTE: The snow proved very handy to keep our beer cold!
View of the eastern Pikes Peak Batholith and Pikes Peak!
View towards the west
Wonderful view of Pikes Peak each morning
Boogie found this under a fallen tree. Believe it was a grouse.
Devil’s Head small seam…most are gemmy root beer colored smoky quartz.
Went up to Devil’s Head again as the weather was supposed to be gorgeous (and it was!) on November 10, 2013. I am prospecting in a new area and wanted to go back and check out a couple of signs I found on my way out the last trip. I dug up the area and found some partial microcline and a few smoky quartz crystals.
My next spot was based on a float rock I found. You’ll see it in the video, lots of white quartz in the pegmatite so I dug directly below. Ended up finding a cool seam which turned into a small pocket. The crystals were decent sized (1 to 4 inches) and the microcline was euhedral.
The euhedral amazonite (faint color, common for Devilshead) including some Carslbad twins
The seam and pocket extended for about 24-30 inches (a couple of directions) and had easily 20 pounds of microcline crystal fragments (many came back as garden rock). As you can see, there is a greenish tint to the microcline making it amazonite (that means it has traces of lead in the mineral). This is the second time I have found amazonite at Devils Head, here is the account of the first. There are several smaller Carlsbad Twins in the find too! Amazonite is much more common (and deeper color) as you head southwest further into the Pikes Peak Batholith, so it was a treat to find this day!
The largest faint amazonite / microcline euhdral crystal
The smoky quartz was very interesting out of this pocket; I’ve seen milky quartz coated smokies in the area before, but never “granite countertop” coated smokies like this! It is really a neat color/texture! I have noticed that soaking these longer the outside coat is slowly coming off; so I have a few crystals that are going to soak for a while to see what the quartz looks like underneath.
Great color, texture and shape to this smoky
This point was right next to a large root that found the seam and followed it
One of the smokies from the video
This shows the “granite countertop” coating that was on all the smokies
Cool smoky quartz from the video, love the coating!
The “keepers” from the day – reference is a gold dollar, not a penny