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Hunting for "Diamonds" in Herkimer

Posted by Yvonne Raley on

I assume you've heard of the Herkimer diamond?  It's actually quartz and but nicknamed "diamond" because of its shape: double terminated (meaning with two points) and with 18 natural facets.  It was discovered in Herkimer County, NY.  The currently open mines are "Ace of Spades" https://www.herkimerdiamond.com/ and "Crystal Grove" https://www.crystalgrove.com/

I'd been wanting to go for some time and so this year when my travel buddy Jochen Hintze from Jentsch Minerals came to exhibit at the Edison Gem show, we decided to tack a short trip onto his stay and headed for St. Johnsville, NY on Monday April 8 for a two night stay on an organic farm (because why just stay in a hotel….right?).  I admit it was a bit chill with just a wood stove, no hot water and 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Who says I have to have all my adventures in Africa anyway?

After a relaxing evening (interrupted by trying to make the wood stove work) with local beer, home- made chili, several games of Ludo, and a chill morning brightened up by fresh farmed eggs cooked on a camping cooker, we headed out for Herkimer.  The Ace of Spades mine is located close to the center of town, and right behind the main building, for $10 a day, you can hit rocks with a rented hammer (they can be rented for $1).  The diamonds are hiding in little cavities inside, sometimes loose (these are called floaters) and sometimes attached to the host rock.  Whatever you find, you get to keep.  We found three attached to host rock (no floaters) - in about two hours - and only with some guidance about which rocks to split open.  So our treasure consisted in a find of about $2-3. 

At around lunch it started to pour so we ended up spending quite some time in the quaint shop.  We found out that in order to have a real bounty, you need to have the owners open up a larger pocket for you - they apparently know where those are, they will bulldoze the area and then split open the pocket in your presence.  If the pocket doesn't contain anything interesting, they will open up another.  But if it is too valuable, they keep it and give you another instead.  This decision is at the sole discretion of the owners, and the fun sets you back by $1700.  But to be fair, living off a mine like this isn't exactly easy and the owners say clearly that the activity of opening up a pocket is supposed to be for family entertainment, not for profit by expert miners or geologists.  So this isn't something we will undertake.  But we got some nice video for you of the hard work this kind of mining requires, and of course I also bought a few crystals and some faceted stones for you to purchase. 

I realize you can buy those directly elsewhere for less, so I am marking them up very low and you get the benefit of me having hand-picked each stone for cutting, excluding the included and brownish materials, making sure there's no window and no abrasion in the girdles (several gems had those) and picking gems that are easily settable in my designs. 

Here are some photos, if you'd like one of the more included crystals just let me know, it's yours free (shipping is free with any purchase or $3.50).  If you want me to get it drilled and made into a pendant, I'll have to charge something though.

 The inclusions, by the way, are.... you guessed it (not): asphalt.  Petrolium, in other words, or unrefined oil.

Jochen was actually very happy that instead of finding crystals, he found asphalt in host rock instead.  I have a lot of asphalt already, outside the house, mixed with gravel and flattened for driving, no host rock of course, but I still passed!  That's ok, I got my Herkimer "diamonds" instead.


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