Maine has been blessed with three major gem finds of amethyst. Unfortunately, the most popular sizes simply weren’t cut. Cutters tried for the biggest, best, record-setting gems. We set aside our urge to create jewelry and instead spent 35 years simply collecting the best of the best in sizes people love. We’ve recently given in and decided to set up the prettiest Maine amethyst we’ve collected over the last thirty-five years of a century. The result is a rare collection of hard-to-find gems mounted in our most popular design…the Lady Captain’s Ring. Our primary source was Maine Amethyst Mine #1. Read on for the story of this initial discovery and revelations at the mine.
Mine #1 Sweden, Maine Music Camp, Encore Coda. The music camp was located next to a small lake. The first time I visited, I could see kids with oboes and violins walking about. I could hear good, better, and best music coming from various buildings. I could see sunlight sparkling on the lake. It looked like a nice place to spend a couple of weeks of summer. I remember a fleeting feeling of wishing I’d spent more time focused on music in High School.
The owner of the music camp bought a corner property up the hill adjacent to his camp for proximity protection. He then discovered it had a layer of gravel. He wanted to build a ball field down by the lake to expand the appeal of his music camp. He hired a contractor who arrived with a front-end loader and trucks. It all started off nicely. Trucks arrived and dumped, arrived and dumped. The low-lying land next to the lake was building quickly. Then the trucks stopped coming. The owner waited awhile and then finally walked up to the site and was astounded to see purple crystals lying about and big chunks and slabs of amethyst crystals sitting at the edge of openings in the native rock. He sat down and waited.
Eventually, a truck appeared with the front-end loader guy. Apparently, the front-end loader cut through the shallow gravel, hit the ledge, flipped a piece of ledge over and it was covered with a thousand purple amethyst crystals. Reportedly, the worker yelled, “Eureka, Tourmaline!” and proceeded to load his truck with crystals to haul away. The music camp owner shut him down and immediately hired a professional gem mining company that came in and proceeded to mine the location seriously.
I visited the site three times; all three were during active mining. It was a view of pure white, milk-white quartz that ran diagonally through the corner lot. The quartz was 20 feet wide and laced like Swiss cheese with hundreds of pockets of amethyst.
When gem professional miner Phil called to tell me about this discovery, he said he’d never seen anything like it. He said they were lifting out huge plates of white quartz, one side covered with hundreds of purple amethyst crystals. I told him I couldn’t imagine. He said that up until this moment, he couldn’t have either.
He gave me an invitation for my first trip up to the mine. As mentioned earlier, I stopped at the music camp, and they sent me up the hill. The view of this amethyst mine, at first sight, was unimpressive. It looked like bare rock surrounded by gravel. Phil and his partner were doing a blast that day. I saw the rock, and gray mud pools, the drills, the drill holes, the yellow wires, and the dynamite. They told me to move my car. I was parked far away. I felt safe. They said, “Seriously, move it.” I did.
When it was blast time I asked if I could stand with the dynamite guy at the blast box. They said, “No. Go out into the woods and find a big tree. When you hear the blast make sure you’re standing behind the tree.” I said, “You’re kidding.” They both said, “No. Seriously, a big tree.”
I found my tree. I heard them yell, “Fire in the hole!” three times. Then the earth shook. I peeked out from behind the tree, and took a quick picture. Then I heard branches above me breaking, saw branches above me falling, and could hear rocks falling far out, beyond where I was standing. I was glad I moved my car.
This was when I started to feel astonished. We walked over to the blast area. I could smell the dynamite. I could smell broken rock, and I could smell the mud. Phil and his assistant appeared with long steel prybars and started pulling shattered rocks apart. It was all mud-covered rock. Phil sat down in his rubber boots in the mud-filled water. He and his assistant reached down into the mud and pulled out what to me looked like mud balls big ones, little ones, and tossed them into a cardboard box. I watched for a few minutes. Then I finally said, “What are you doing?” Phil tossed a mudball at me and said, “Wash this off.”
The mud was deep gray, thick, and clingy. As I scraped it and rinsed, I could feel angles and a point emerging out of the mud. It was a beautiful amethyst crystal. The point was purple, the color thinning as the eye moved down the length of the crystal. I admired it. I wondered if it was a gift. Phil wasted no time and said, “When you’re done admiring, toss it in the box.” They worked for a long time, fishing around the mud for chunks of anything. They would occasionally toss me a sample. I continued to find rich grape purple amethyst crystals.
Gem mining is a surreal experience. The mines are all different. Certain gems reveal themselves differently, and every layer, every level excavated, potentially requires morphing and adapting on-the-fly to new ways for gems to present or simply hide themselves from view. I would never have imagined mud balls found beneath a foot of water would contain a precious, beautiful gem. Mining, at times, is like an archeological dig. It felt like I was Mel Fisher finding Spanish gold doubloons on a coral reef.
Many who go to a gem mine, go to work. They come in old clothes and boots. They arrive with full knowledge; they are free help for a day and are ready for the privilege to carry rocks, move hoses, re-fill gas in the sump pump, and run a lunch errand. If you ever get invited, you’re expected to work, and if you don’t you don’t get invited back.
As gems were cut, we had an early opportunity to review the best of choice gems. We sold many pieces of amethyst jewelry in the beginning. Over the years, we collected a treasure trove of Maine amethyst gems. Do we have all sizes and shapes? Not by a long shot. We do, however, have some of the very best colors of amethyst found here in Maine.
We have recently begun creating rings and jewelry again using Maine amethyst. We’ve amassed a best-of-class collection of fine gems and have started building designs around them.
Precious Metal: 14K Yellow Gold
Gems: 6.5mm Maine Amethysts
Earring Style: Pierced-Post
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