The New American Gem Rush

Welcome to the Camp, Prospectors!
Aware that many of our guests have arrived at this decision to participate in The New American Gem Rush out of simple desperation and dire circumstances rather than ‘gold psychosis’, and intend not so much to “strike it rich” as to salvage their lives and property and possessions in an elegant case of  ‘use it or lose it’, we advise everyone, including those whose goal is to “hit it big”, to apply all the personal discipline, maturity, patience, and perseverance you can muster for yourself. Demand of yourself your best honest sincere efforts, your earnest attention to detail, and your willingness to contribute to, and be a part of, a team endeavor. Then remain confident that the only pertinent limitations or constraints on success have been dealt with effectively, and with due diligence and application of well-planned work, we can enjoy the simple reality that “Mother Nature never cheats us.”
I was surprised by the fact that only 3/10th of a percent of prospectors who rushed the Klondike ever found more than $15,000. worth of gold, though that was a substantial amount in the day. Today’s prospector has an unprecedented set of high-tech advantages, and the GEM RUSH is happening in the context that the niche-industry [artisan rare mineral production]
geology is relatively little known compared to industrial mineral deposits.
Very under-the-radar are innumerable small independent prospecting and mining projects, operated for the most part in secrecy and tight security. On that issue, today, from Facebook,  a comment well researched, which bears upon the source of confidence we share regarding security in the field, out prospecting, or around a mining camp. I just reviewed “Gold Rush: Alaska”, being reminded by their encounter with bears, of my own close calls in Colorado with Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bears in the 730 pound range, that NIGHT VISION or illumination, is as important as firepower, equally important in ARIZONA as Alaska, for we have bears at Amethyst Ranch, too.

The world’s largest army? America ‘s hunters!!
I don’t spend my fall weekends tramping around the woods in pursuit of a buck, but a lot of my friends and neighbors do.

……This blogger adds up all the hunters in just a handful of states, and comes to a striking conclusion: The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed. That’s great. There were over 600,000 hunters.

Allow me to restate that number. Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran ; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay.

But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week. Michigan ‘s 700,000 hunters have now returned home. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia , and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.

His point? America will forever be safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower.

Hunting — it’s not just a way to fill the freezer. It’s a matter of national security.”

The New American Gem Rush
© 2009, 2010 Old Tombstone Studio, Timeless Mining Company,
Amethyst Rose Mines, Amethyst Ranch, Miners’ Rendezvous Mining Camp
Funny – But – True Department:
Why gemstone prospecting?
A: Beyond the obvious, high-adventure, high-value nature of the quest and the prize, as a hobby or an avocation, Mineralogy is an ancient science- but the field of gemstone exploration and discovery has been reinvented, invigorated, and inspired by great technical advances of late, making the narrow specialty of gemstone prospecting a relatively new field where individuals may have to operate under the same regulations as corporations, but we also have the same technological tools available to us, as well as the distinct advantage of being smaller & much more flexible in a very volatile market.
B: For the first time in history, a ‘lone’ prospector is on a level with, if not ahead of, the largest mining corporations when it comes to opportunities in the field, i.e., discoveries there to be made AND within reach!
Who’s Who in the American Gem Mining Industry? How newcomers and
students may become apprentices, field collectors and miners. Why some don’t ‘make the cut’. Why some become degree-ed geologists, certified gemologists, award-winning gem cutters, carvers, and jewelry artists.
For the most part, PUBLISHED diggers, prospectors, miners, mineralogists, avid collectors, serious mineral dealers, geologists, gemologists, and other experts are your best and most accessible sources, through their writings and sometimes by personal communication. By “devouring” lots of the literature, you will find certain names repeatedly within your subject of interest. COMMERCIAL entities also dealing in or catering to the
interests of collectors and prospectors of tourmaline, or smoky quartz, for example, whose materials or mines are the subject of those researches among the publications you have found, should also be on your list. EXPERIENCED MINERS are a bit harder to locate or research, but again, mineral magazines like Rock and Gem are a great portal into that
population. The secret “back door” into the trade is through science and research, and the series of clues that leads to that, and other opportunities to acquire an education and some experience, is usually found in active mineral clubs, trade shows & conventions, organizations [ranging from local community college archaeology and geology classes’ field camps to
National Geographic type expeditions], and lots of such avenues [mine tours, ‘tourist’ mines, pay-to-dig sites, public s lands’ rock-hound recreation areas, etc.] to get contacts and access to resources. Attending Gem and Mineral Shows, & “Rockhound Round-ups”, will get you elbow to elbow with many of the Who’s Who of the trade. The most accessible and available of the chain of mine-to-market people are the jewelry, carving, and gem sculpting artists who produce finished products from rough gem-stock. They usually have a well researched list of contacts relevant to gem mines and their owner/operators. ONE ISSUE of Lapidary Journal, or a perusal of the internet, starting at , for instance, or a simple Google
search will launch your prospecting career with an avalanche of research trails to follow.
Of course, you may, like some successful gem prospectors, without following any trail but your own original field study, make a discovery that helps you meet the others in gem mining.
Just as likely, someone you meet at a museum, club, or university, or a show venue lecture, will introduce you to your first real World-Class professional gem miner.

Who you ask to collect , research, or explore with, or who may offer you a collecting opportunity or apprenticeship is up to you. HOWEVER, it is FIELD TIME and field contacts and specialized experience which will distinguish you in the long run. The delusion of easy, quick money is the main downfall of failed prospectors. Just play harder than most people work & dig ,dig, dig! It wont be long, you will soon meet magazine editors, authors, museum curators, and… Gem PROSPECTORS….many more than you expected to be… are out there, active, and they KNOW the real McCoy!

Enjoy the hunt, the expedition, the minerals, the science, but the real treasures are in the hands and memories of the “Old Timers”.  So learn
their names, their tales and their trails. You won’t have to look long, you will soon find inspiration in several aspects of the trade as well as in some particular gem material…we all, no matter how experienced or jaded, no matter how many years we have mined valuable gem-stock, never get over, [nor would we avoid or ever give up] the thrill of finding certain
“favorite” stones.
So it is, that we each come to use our own ‘hero’- a digging legend’s
name- and even his tales and magic finds to summon, in our own dreams and studies and excavations, invocations of such good fortune, and a measure of our own successes. To many gem artists and others, benefitting from the gem miner’s work, there is a certain ‘enviable’ advantage to digging the “best of the best”! For the most part, though, it is very gratifying to discover how much, as scientific and adventurous prospectors, we share with
creative artists beyond obvious jewel arts to include fashion designers to film-makers.
How ambitious recreational collectors and small scale mining teams have inherited a legacy and a resource. *
*[See also: “The Great Northeastern Gem Rush”]
Many gems and specialty minerals remain in surprisingly rich deposits. WHY?
1. Though it may seem that large teams of well funded corporate geologists
and their well-funded long-term exploration programs have explored, developed, and exploited “ALL” the biggest and best deposits… this is neither true nor relevant, for even known deposits of some minerals CANNOT be extracted without the SKILLED HAND AND EYE of a specialty miner. Like apple picking, it may never be mechanized. For the most part, most gem and mineral specimen mining remains a “geo-surgical” skill done on a relatively
small scale in precious few square yards of ground by individuals with hand tools. Therefor, large mining companies with gemstone interests can and do yield over interests in deposits they control, or concede specialty deposits like pegmatites, to the small operators, in part due to some of those same obsolete assumptions about quality, quantity, or value relative to
mining costs on their scale of operation.
2. Though rich, extensive deposits, well documented and studied, are
occasionally enlarged a bit by refined studies or reworking ground or data with new technology- it is the very recent phenomenal discoveries of huge new, unsuspected gem deposits that has leveled the playing field- in part due to satellite remote sensing and the application of Ground Penetrating Radar. What has been revealed is that many previous assumptions about gem-bearing deposits are obsolete, that many of these deposits are richer
and far more extensive than anyone knew, and even in well explored areas, new strikes are constantly being made where efforts are appropriately applied. BEFORE 1978, for example, the known areas of miarolytic granite deposits bearing gem-stock in New Hampshire could be estimated in ACRES, but by 2005= HUNDREDS OF SQUARE MILES !
3. The general history of American Gem Mining has been of severe
competition from foreign, inexpensive sources, requiring very efficient mining of high quality materials marketed at the lowest possible prices. Commercial entities have preferred- and political bodies have encouraged- the exploitation and depletion of cheap overseas supplies rather that tap into any of our own resources. Perhaps someone was intending to ‘preserve’
these natural resources for ‘future generations’ under the assumption that our gem fields were small, finite, and perhaps, not as good. The current reality is of almost equal footing in terms of costs of production; ability to produce quality in quantity; & extent of resources and reserves; -while values worldwide have risen and stabilized at a favorable level for domestic
mines. Some American materials have attained recognition as the World’s Best & very profitable to mine. Some materials, previously marginal in value, have now become profitable to mine and process with low-cost diamond abrasive tooling or other manufacturing advances, and some are just plain newly desired “recoverables” as a side product of other mineral production efforts. New high-tech applications and sophisticated uses of “old” materials have renewed interest in curiosities and previously non-commercial
‘ores’ like gadolinium or the tellurides. Many opportunities go to the first few parties to recognize them, so make your field time count with appropriate, ambitious, and thorough research.
How to operate relatively independently of corporate industrial mining.
Just as amateur recreational mineral collectors do, DIGGING rail-road-cuts [with permission] and ‘abandoned’ quarries, pay-to-dig sites, as well as team efforts on private or leased mineral producing sites, are ways to transition into semi-pro gem and mineral specimen mining. Some companies with large exploration projects allow application by qualified prospectors to ‘work’ in some areas with certain restrictions and considerations, like safety classes, liability insurance, and references. DO NOT HOWEVER- DIG on B.L.M.,
State, or National Forest Land not even ‘recreationally’ if you have done any commercial collecting anywhere- without going through the “red tape” and learning the rules. There are enough public lands in the B.L.M . and Forest Service System Lands open to commercial prospecting and collecting under relatively workable rules, affordable fees and available permits, that seeking private property mining rights can be left for after the apprentice stage*.
It is not to late to get your business license. Again, it cannot be too clear: ALWAYS have permission in writing before entering private or public land and before responsibly disturbing or restoring the surface or removing anything. {*for states without appreciable Public Lands, the reverse is true.}
How to contract with commercial mines for specimen recovery.
While this may best be left to more experienced miners, if you live in the right town, almost anyone can find their way into employment or association with a mining company or it’s associates and sub-contractors. One may need to bring an enlightening report and proposal before the corporate board, but IT IS POSSIBLE to be “on call” in case recoverable specimens are encountered during regular mining. Occasionally, though the company may
not be amenable to allowing non-employees into the mines or quarries during operating hours, sometimes they can allow salvaging during weekends, or arrange for ‘ore’ to be dumped where salvagers will not be at risk or interfere with operations. More than one generous mining company has had to cease allowing collectors into their mines when some
absent-minded collector has lost a hammer, which was scooped up with a load —
subsequently damaged a rock crusher. So bear in mind that such a venue may afford access to large quantities of specimen-bearing ground, but the delicacy of the arrangement and its potential for failure may bring other opportunities out of reach or close a door to academic or recreational avenues to experience and projects.
How to find a job in the gem mining trades.
Quite simply, the trade magazines, the trade shows, and internet ‘groups’ are an easy way to find ways into the gem industry, even without a formal education or degree.
Ambitious collectors and small mine operators, skilled miners and equipment operators, are in short supply and always in demand. We commercial gem miners often have to help each other, taking turns on each others’ projects, for lack of enough qualified help available. With
an education, experience, or a successful apprenticeship, one may reasonably expect to be in a good position to decide whether to explore and develop one’s own property or mining claim, or whether to undertake contract mining. Of course, there are tremendous advantages to having a college degree in geology or mineralogy, and of course there are still many
conventional paths to becoming a full time field geologist and/or miner. Today, thanks to the Internet and an enthusiastic network of entrepreneurs, many people are skilled and educated and capable of becoming licensed and bonded commercial gem and mineral specialty miners without a formal education.
How to learn the geology and minerals, no matter where you live, from home.
1. How to “prospect on paper” before going into the field. **
A. Choose a target mineral or a target deposit which hosts that mineral. For instance, if one picks aquamarine, a book or internet search will reveal several well known domestic sources in the literature, many of which are in the high density population areas of the Northeast. In spite of most of the ‘classic’ locations being gone or inaccessible, a few can still be studied, or the specimens and host rocks can be studied at Harvard University’s
Mineral Museum, in the New England Room. As you see enough beryl specimens, you can’t help but notice N.H. and Me. are prime sources of fine gem crystals, and that a few are still producing, and that native gem crystals ARE out there & still being found. If your home location is the mid-west, Colorado or Idaho may have your ‘target’ locale. Either way,
without leaving a computer, you can find enough pictures of pegmatite and miarolytic pocket beryls & aquamarines, as well as of the granite host, that you should be able to distinguish pegmatite even as pebbles in gravel. Then, as you actually go afield and seek a site, there should be a small ‘deja-vu’ experience, but before then, you should find as many details as
possible from all the literature you can find; geologic maps, topographic maps, casual magazine articles, and as much science as you care to absorb. Give yourself a chance- be thorough- and if exploring alone, be SURE you know exactly where you are going. You can’t help but find yourself at the right mine dump eventually, where you WILL find some beryl pieces and even some crystals, and eventually, gem aquamarine. As in a fishing trip, one can manage alone, but first-timers or collectors getting serious about prospecting do a lot better when they go afield with experienced guides. Some of the most successful prospectors, and I count myself, admit they do 90% of their prospecting on paper. That’s another way of saying
it saves you a GREAT deal of time in the field, to the point where research can make exploration very efficient, or at least it will increase your chances significantly.
B. Research Specialization, by necessity or design, can develop from your access [or lack of it] to certain deposits, and those included in A Gem Miner’s Guide are but a few within the featured regions. Some collectors, like gem prospectors and miners, concentrate their studies and digging to a set of similar localities, mines, specific chemistry or specie.
Among the many specie of valuable specimens, Quartz deposits (and many of its crystallized gem varieties have extensive deposits) are the most abundant, accessible, and readily studied.
They occur in both granite miarolytic and granite pegmatite formations, and- luckily for student- prospectors, in several other geologic environments also. The initial focus on quartz deposits independent of miarolytic and pegmatitic ones in this Guide is intended to accommodate that fact as well as to include a wider set of possibilities for students and gem miners using the Guide to utilize it fully- to be able to apply it on their own expeditions, and
to experience the difference using this method of “Reading Quartz Crystals” will make when applied to the other gem deposits. With luck, your research may reveal something of interest near your home base. While time on the ‘Net, in the library, at a museum, touring rock shops, going to mineral club meetings, devouring maps and mountains of knowledge is highly recommended, very worthwhile, and must be included in the long list of trails to gem prospecting wisdom, no amount of preparation is complete until you get to the point where the truck is packed and you are setting your alarm clock for sometime before sunrise.
Fishermen and hunters know the feeling, sort of, but there’s nothing quite like a genuine, sincerely mounted Gem Prospecting Expedition to a locality that is known to produce!!
2. How to prepare for a collecting trip or expedition. **
How to make the most, with your friends and partners, of the gear and tools
including high tech, that have now made gem mining a renewed frontier!
If your goal, for example, is to find metallic minerals, or specimens that are found associated with metals, it stands to reason that a good discriminatory metal detector with certain features could be advantageous. Of course, the areas you choose to prospect with even a specialty detector can prove challenging due to soil moisture, depth, rock conductivity, vegetation, or even an over-abundance of signaling metals. Gradually, as one gets familiar
with the field environment, borrowing, renting, or testing different instruments with your friends can save you time and money.
Refining a mineral search methodology without search results is like trying to adjust your bait to see what the fish will bite on…it’s trial and error without a
bite or finds. So the art of careful and thorough examination is as important as anything you can pack for exploration…G.P.S., maps, digging tools, camping gear etc. So to tailor your particular approach to the geologic environment you may need to include certain tools, like a gold panner carries a magnet to separate magnetite [‘black sand’] from his gold, you may
similarly use screens, a magnifier, even an ultraviolet lamp or specific gravity liquids to examine sands, though you seek rock outcrops eventually. Like a gold prospector, you may concentrate on stream-beds as sources of eroded hillside outcrops- sampling of which taken from the streambed –saves you a lot of walking. This is particularly necessary where
vegetation cover obscures bedrock, the topography is low, or glacial gravel covers native ledge. You cannot overdo it. Gold dredging methods, particularly “dry washers”, shaker tables, and other such methods of separating minerals of distinct specific gravity can yield, in
some environments, gem garnets from gravels which are deceptively uninteresting- gravel without much to suggest a show of gems.
There are several well known instances of farmers’ fields revealing what lay hidden beneath or nearby on adjacent slopes, and even huge, bowling ball sized amethyst crystals found in glacial gravels 20 miles from their source. {Hint: Saco River Valley**} Generally, though, unless you are on top of the source, or very close to the deposit’s debris field, whether glacial or in situ erosional, there are but a few places within gravels where anyone could reasonably expect success. It is our great good fortune that there appear to be at least 400 square miles within New Hampshire alone –of granite and
monzonites and quartz syenites which host gem-bearing pockets. Part of your field time prospecting will be spent WITHIN those small areas [and sometimes it’s only visible in your shovel] where it is undeniable. In other words, you’ll know it when you come across a majority of those productive areas, for their landscapes are either cratered or otherwise disturbed by previous diggers, revealing in ‘float’ or other natural erosional debris the host rock or the associated minerals if not quite a lot of the target material itself.
Sometimes a lot of test holes, random sampling, or considerable walking and seeking will be required, but when you do find your first discovery, it may surprise you how it seemed so obvious. That’s not to say you won’t experience what so many of us gem finders do- we marvel at the stone in hand and the fact that, except for it being the real thing found in the ‘right’ place, there was scarcely a clue of the beauty hidden beneath…or the fact that more lies there still.
Reliably, my guests- upon visiting my more remote gem discovery sites- express their wonder that the locations were found at all, much less that places such as these remain to be discovered, exploited & enjoyed! **[See also: “Gem Prospecting Northeastern Pegmatites”]
So, you already have experience collecting, or you have even done some real
specimen or gem mining!? You know that pegmatites are the single most productive sources of the most concentrated deposits of quite a few gem specie. But you are also aware that “pegs” are notorious hard-rock environments which defy exploration with only hand tools, except where mining, weathering and erosion, or even glaciation, has broken the outcrops
advantageously. In general, though, but for small percentages of existing pegs outcropping, and smaller parts of them exposed or visible in spite of their soil and vegetation cover, and smaller portions yet-decomposed sufficiently to afford a good sampling of their inner minerals, pegmatites are defiantly secretive, even when containing remarkable crystals. 

One of the south-east N.H. areas with previously unrecognized gem tourmaline and aquamarine within its Perthite pegmatites- in Nottingham and Epping, has, since 1984, provided finds that proved that even an area studied and thoroughly explored, subjected to prospecting and mining for feldspar, mica, and beryl since WWII- can still produce significant
quantities of high quality gem-stock, convincing sceptics that “some” places still have high gem potentials, just as the U.S.G.S. reports of the 1950’s suggested. Your questions then, are: “How do I get into one of these hard-rock crystal vaults? Do I go for the specimens “already
mined” or made “accessible” by Nature? Do I go to an existing mine or quarry operated by others, or find an inactive mine to operate myself? Do I continue to learn from and explore known deposits once I begin to figure out how to find pockets, or should I go looking for “new”, relatively unexamined deposits? The guidance in this book can help you make those personal choices.

Above: Emerald sorting & grading by Frank, with his former Columbian mine partners.
PART ONE: How to collect for hobby, recreation, and therapy – legally, on private and public lands, for your own, non-commercial use, within limits. {For new collectors, novice and apprentice student gem and mineral specimen seekers and diggers.}
1. Fee-collecting private localities, and how to find them.
If you happen to live in an area which has such opportunities…