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!


  1. Wow! You certainly had a great find on your last trip of the year. My favorite is the one in the photo you tagged La Nariz. Those phantoms are certainly interesting. If you found some phantom pieces with badly broken tips, it might be worth having someone saw off the tip so you can see the pattern looking inside the crystal. There was an interesting thread on Mindat about something somewhat similar here. http://www.mindat.org/mesg-6-342383.html It is about Trapiche Quartz. This summer I collected some quartz as a guest on another claim that had thin milky quartz “shells” on top of clear quartz that merged between true phantom and regrowth quartz. That area was also associated with some nice fluorite.

    Hopefully we can collect again on my claim/s sometime next year with hopefully the results you showed on this trip except with topaz!

    I do have a question where you sourced the phosphoric acid as I hear that is one of the steps in really cleaning up the amazonite specimens and I do have some that would really pop in color as it looks fantastic when wet.


  2. I was able to get the Phosphoric Acid from some friends in the Colorado Springs rock club. I believe it was a one-time opportunity I think and I have been very careful with my consumption of it. I have another lead I’m looking into and if so I’ll let you know. Looking forward to 2015!

  3. Just moved to Parker from Arkansas. I’ve never done any rockhounding but my research showed Devil’s Head to be a good starting place for me as it is fairly close, looks accessible by car, and fairly friendly to a neophyte like myself. I’m not a total wilderness newb, I was a land surveyor in Arkansas for 5 years. Found your YouTube video first which led me here. Thanks so much for sharing all your finds and tips, very inspirational. I’ll be off to study images of Pegmatite and everything else you mention to prep for my first trip. Hopefully I’ll get a run in this summer, gotta get some gear first.

    1. Hi Zac. Thanks for watching and reaching out! For you Devils Head is probably the closest place to collect Quartz Crystals, and Topaz. Tools needed is fairly simple,
      1) Get a small shovel (I have a military shovel that folds up–this is great because it also locks with a right angle between the handle and shovel and I use it almost exclusively this way–something like this). Highly recommended, this will be easy to hike with and versatile; a must really!
      2) I’d recommend some kind of pick. This isn’t required as long as you have the shovel I mentioned above as you can use the shovel for test/probe holes if necessary. Picks make quick work of digging, and also can be used as pry bars.
      3) Perhaps a long flat blade screwdriver for small pry jobs…although I warn against using it once you are in the quartz, metal breaks quartz!!! So, I’d recommend some kind of wooden brush. A branch from a tree would also work for digging out material where you don’t want to scratch or break your crystals. If you find an antler, that is a great tool! As you can see from my video, I personally use wooden paint brushes from my local hardware store…the cheap throw away kind! Just have to be careful as even these brushes have metal.
      4) Gloves. I recommend the thin work gloves you can get at your local hardware store. Buy a 10-pack, you’ll probably go through gloves every one to two outings. Quartz crystals can be VERY sharp!

      As far as Devil’s Head, I’d recommend parking at the Log Jumper 677 trail (just south of Topaz Point picnic area, which is a mile or two south of the Fire Tower) and walking that trail to the west. You’ll see lots of diggings and start examining what folks have done, what kind of rocks are in their dump, what Pegmatite looks like, etc. Although this area is pretty dug up, there are still lots of crystals in this area! This trail will also give you a nice route back to the parking; you should always bring maps and compass; but using this trail makes it simpler until you are very familiar with the area–I read stories of folks getting lost up there about once a year rockhounding. Something you don’t want to experience!

      Good luck, share your experiences and let me know if you have any questions!

  4. Wow, thanks so much for all your help and advice! I’ve been doing a lot of research. I got supplies today, finally giving up on finding a local rock hammer. I purchased a 4lb hammer, 5/8″x10″ chisel, and a good quality short shovel. Been rounding up other general stuff (got my paintbrushes, of course) and made a few successful test runs for petrified wood around Cherry Creek just to get out and do something. We lived in the woods in Arkansas so wading through Cherry Creek alone was therapeutic. My wife remains interested so for now, I have a hunting partner. Hope you don’t mind if I share links to your blog and YouTube posts on Facebook at Colorado RockhHounds, people are pretty cool there. Thanks again for everything and hope your summer goes really well!!

  5. Hi Zac, feel free to post the information as you wish; I hope that anything I’ve learned through experience or otherwise can be shared so others don’t have to spend the amount of time picking up the techniques the hard way like I have :)…believe me, I’m still learning a ton myself!

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