Prospecting Topaz near Pilot Peak

I was invited to prospect Topaz with an experience prospector, James, on his Topaz Claim near Pilot Peak about half way between Tarryall and Lake George, Colorado. Pilot Peak is likely one of the best Topaz localities in Colorado!  I have found topaz in this area before and was excited to learn more about prospecting topaz in the hopes that I can utilize this information to find that elusive stone in my favorite collecting areas around Devil’s Head.

Looking towards Pilot Peak, this area is jammed pack of claims. The only one (periodically) open to the public is the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.

Looking towards Pilot Peak, this area is jammed pack of claims. The only one (periodically) open to the public is the Topaz Mountain Gem mine.  On the eastern face of these peaks is the Lost Creek Wilderness.

Here are some links to prior topaz days around this area:

We started the day finding the claim’s corner points (and posts, which are required on all active mining claims) and James showed me some areas of interest that he had in his earlier prospecting trips.  The first spot we happened upon was where there were nice signs of pegmatite on the surface, some rocks had quartz with flat sides which is always a great sign!  We dug here for a little while but couldn’t find anything interesting in the area. We dug uphill a little ways but still nothing similar to what we found on the ground. Perhaps this was a little seam left over from long ago  that was then above the surface level and has been sitting on top of the ground since?  Perhaps we just missed the small area?  Regardless, nothing was found in this area although I definitely feel that the area is worth more consideration and putting down test holes.

Float that was worth checking out.

Float that was worth checking out.

Some "sides" in the pegmatite in the float that is a great sign

Some “sides” in the pegmatite in the float; that is a great sign

In another spot we found a seam of finer grained granite (aplite) with some pegmatite. Following the aplite seam around we found a couple of spots that opened up; one into a small pocket (that someone before us had cleaned out).  Although we didn’t find anything worth keeping, it was great to see these signs.  I also experienced that pounding with chisel into granite is a lot of hard work!

 Seam with pegmatite. We found nothing, but did some screening of the dirt around this.

Seam with pegmatite. We found nothing, but did some screening of the dirt around this.

Small pocket in the seam.

Here was the small pocket (with iron/red dirt). This vein flowed for about 100 feet.

Solid granite with pegmatite seam

Pegmatite lined this solid granite boulder, once part of the massive granite outcrop. White quartz with no signs of crystals.

We did quite a bit of hiking around the 20-acre claim area, which includes steep terrain filled with bushes and aspen trees, boulders big and small are everywhere.  There was a lot of up and down traversing the claim and by the end of the day we were exhausted, good news is it was awesome exercise!  The greatest part of climbing these hills was the magnificent views–part of the fun when prospecting the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

Cool cliffs in this area

Cool cliffs in this area

Looking south west towards the South Platte River

Looking south west towards the South Platte River

Large balance rock

Large balanced boulder!

Cool balanced rocks

Cool balanced rocks

Looking East. The Front Range is out there somewhere...

Looking East. The Front Range is out there somewhere…

Again thanks to James for all the information and fun day on his claim!  I learned quite a bit about topaz prospecting!

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!

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!

Cinco de Mayo :: Colorado Tarryall Topaz

Took the family up near Tarryall Northwest of Lake George to the Topaz Gem Mine for the first open dig of the year. Joe Dorris and his family are awesome supporters of Rockhounds and Gem & Mineral clubs and allow families to come and visit a few times per year.

We took advantage of this year’s first dig and started off pretty slow. We took a portable fold-up chair and after lunch the chair ended up getting blown into a big pit. I went to retrieve the chair and as I was bending down I saw a rock with shapes covered in dried mud. I rubbed it off and it was a specimen quality topaz of nearly 300 carats! That got everyone digging harder and everyone found one (except Trevor 🙁 ). Hunter found a huge bi-color (blue/champagne) cubic shaped beast (about 250 carats) and Daphne found a clear, near perfect crystal (about 8 carat) that doesn’t really need cutting as the facets are awesome! Erin found a couple of nice cutters too.

Hunter holding the two massive stones we found today!

Hunter holding the two massive stones we found today!

The kids posing for the camera digging for topaz

The kids posing for the camera digging for topaz

Daphne digging for topaz

Daphne digging for topaz

Huge bi-color Topaz

Hunter’s bi-color Blue/Sherry gem!

Blue Topaz

The big blue lunker I found by accident.

Daphne's beautifully faceted clear topaz

Daphne’s beautifully faceted clear topazGreat d

Blue topaz cleaned by Joe Dorris

Blue topaz cleaned by Joe Dorris

I had Joe clean my clue topaz and pressure treat it; a big improvement and it is now an amazing cabinet displayed specimen stone!