SparHawk Mining Season 2013 - Cross Jewelers
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SparHawk Mint Green Teal Maine Tourmaline

Stories from the 2013 Mining Season

Lost Tourmaline Mine
Rediscovered Just 28 Miles
North of Downtown Portland

 

One of Maine’s most legendary tourmaline mines laid fallow for nearly 100 years, then a young guy came along with faith and vision, bought the property, and began exploring for gems again, and as they say, “The rest is history”.

We are pleased to report the old gem mine is now producing SparHawk Mint Green Teal Tourmaline in Poland, Maine – the world’s newest tourmaline find, and at the moment the most important tourmaline discovery in the world.

SparHawk Mint Green Teal Tourmaline is a rare color of green, the result of a unique chemistry of the rock in this part of Maine. This chemistry has created the brightest, most brilliant gemmy green tourmaline we’ve ever had the privilege to offer.

Since this new discovery, we’ve created a significant collection of SparHawk tourmaline jewelry.

The following stories, along with several videos, are what the jeweler saw at the Havey tourmaline mine, Poland, Maine, summer and fall, 2013.

The Silver Dollar Pocket

Historic Tourmaline Strike
June 8 & 9, 2013

 

 

Saturday night. June 8.

Standing in line to buy a theater ticket. Phone rings. Voice says “this is Jeff, we hit a pocket this afternoon, thought you might like to come up.” I said “What time?” He said “8:30.”

Sunday morning at the mine. The Silver Dollar Pocket.

Day breaks gray, over cast 64 degrees, humid. Later, spots of blue sky appear. Some sun with shifting shade.

The Silver Dollar Pocket is unlike anything I have ever seen at a gem mine in Maine. It was a cave-like opening in the cliff wall. Dark.  Mysterious. In the back, large smokey quartz crystals. In the front, green tourmaline crystals left in place, untouched as found. The overlying white clay had just been washed away. Crystals still wet, gleaming in the morning light.

Jeff has carried a 1924 silver dollar since he won it in a poker game 33 years ago. He placed it for size reference. I took a video and still photographs. After that the day just kept getting better.

A small crowd gathered, a scientist, a gem cutter, a jeweler and five of the state’s most important gem miners, drifted in and out throughout the day. Some stayed all day. Sounds: jack hammer separating rock, mine pump, water washing rock and rubble clean. Everyone looking for color. Talk: speculation. Talk: certainty. Talk: crystals held to the sky. Talk: wonder. Sounds: dogs barking, dogs running with sticks. Young guys working, old guys watching.

Watch the “Silver Dollar Pocket” video:

The Ice Cream Sundae Pocket

Sunday, June 9, 2013

 

Ice Cream Sundae Puddle Pocket

 

Sometime near noon Jeff opens a second gem pocket. A small opening in the rock, just enough room for a hand to slip in. This pocket is filled with water, a puddle pocket. A tray appears lined with a white towel with a blue stripe. Big green crystals are pulled from the pocket and laid out. Large white buckets are brought over to hold the small crystals.

Voices talk fast, talk over each other, a jumble of words. Two minutes of mine talk: “let me see that” “where did it go” “this piece probably goes to it” “when I pulled the first one out, a bunch of stuff fell” “ these two definitely go together” “it just doesn’t end” “let’s flush the pocket out” “but I can still feel something down in there” Hose comes out, end of hose buried in pocket. “are you pushing down?” “no just a light touch” “push it a little” “if a crystal breaks, it’s gonna break anyway.” The opening is narrow. Hand squeezes in. Hand full of green crystals comes out. Five men take turns for forty-five minutes. Fists full of crystals, one after another come to light. Trays and buckets fill.

 

Ice Cream Sundae Puddle Pocket in background

 

I sat at the edge of this new pocket watching four guys taking turns reaching in and pulling handfuls of green crystals one after another. I made the comment “I’ve always imagined this was what tourmaline mining was like” and they all laughed, you can hear their comments on our sixteen minute Ice Cream Sundae video (watch at the end of this story).

They made it clear this was not what their’s or anyone’s experience of gem mining was like… and that this day and this pocket were exceptional.

A while later, I took a turn at the pocket and what I experienced surprised me. The best way to describe it was as I explained to someone several days later that it was like reaching into a huge half-melted ice cream sundae made with vanilla ice cream. Following my turn, this is what I wrote.  “The opening is small, just barely big enough for a hand to fit. The edges of the opening are sharp, lined with small tourmaline crystals, lepidolite and cleavelandite. The pocket is filled with gray chalky colored water. Its temperature is cool, comfortable. Reaching down and in half way to the elbow under water, I can feel the talc-like smooth white clay. I can feel the crystals all shapes and sizes embedded helter-skelter in the slippery white clay. I can feel the long smooth angularity of the blade like sides of crystals. I can feel the flat terminations and pointy terminations and long and short crystals. Moving my hand around I can feel the clay dissolve and crystals drop into my hand. Pulling my hand to the surface, water and clay spill away and there in first light are green tourmaline, some with rose colored tips.” Going back to the ice cream sundae analogy. The consistency of the white clay material was like half melted vanilla ice cream. Liquid on top, softening at the bottom. The density of this thick soup was such that when one swirled the hand and wrist around, crystals would float up in the soupy liquid and literally drop into the hand. I’ve had dreams of finding gems. This was better.

Some of the material in the pocket were little pieces of lavender lepidolite and cleavelandite and cookite the size of diced walnuts and larger. I asked Jeff what he thought he might call this pocket. He said the Red Tip Pocket because some of the green crystals had red pointed tips. To carry the Ice Cream Sundae analogy to conclusion, early June up country is when the first wild baby strawberries show up in the fields with little tips of red among the green leaves. I will remember this gem pocket as the Ice Cream Sundae Garnished with Strawberries Pocket or Ice Cream Sundae Pocket for short. While this is not the scientific explanation of the geologist or mineralogist, it’s the poetic explanation of what the jeweler saw and experienced. I will never forget what it was like and I don’t think the other four men who were there will ever forget what happened that day.

The sixteen minute iphone video (below) – shows handfuls of tourmaline being brought to the surface. The video is not at all professional but gives a really good idea of the gems found in this historic discovery. June 8th and 9th were a continuation of the SparHawk Mint Green Teal Gem find at the Havey Mine in Poland Maine. We are pleased to report SparHawk Mint Green Teal Jewelry will continue to be available this year and next in our Portland Maine Store.

 

Ralph Pride, Cross Jewelers, Portland Maine

 

Watch the “Ice Cream Sundae” video:

River of Gems Pocket

July 7, 2013

 

River of Gems being hosed down, white clay melting away, revealing crystals

 

Sitting on the porch, 11AM, reading the Sunday paper. Could hear the landline ringing inside. Dashed to catch it, only to hear the last five words on the recorder “Thought you might be interested.”

I knew who it was, caught him before he hung up.

Jeff said, “We hit a pocket yesterday afternoon.”

I said, “Compared to the Silver Dollar and the Ice Cream Sundae Pockets, what’s it like”

He said, “It’s bigger. It’s like a combination of the two pockets from last month.”

I said, “Is it pretty?”

He said, “Yeah!! The crystals are just rolling out of there.”

I said, “What time?”

He said, “4 o’clock.”

I called Jeff back later to ask if I could bring my son, Stephen.

Jeff said, “Sure.”

An extra set of eyes, ears, and cameras is always valuable. Stephen brought his Nikon and his video camera and ended up with some of the best shots of the day.

I brought my Nikon, my iPhone and an extra video camera, notebook and pen. We were ready.

We arrived at the mine ten minutes late… traffic. Jeff and a group of people were standing at the entrance to the mine which seemed odd. Jeff explained we were waiting for Jan, his wife, to arrive. Then we would all go down as a group. He had never done anything like this before. This suggested that this find was really important. Jan arrived at 4:20PM.

Cream colored feldspar surrounding the mine

Here is what the area and scene looked like: hilly sloped land surrounded by tall pine trees. From the parking area a mine road slopes steeply down into the pit with a pool of gray-green water at the bottom, a yellow Caterpillar excavator is parked beside the pool. The mine is bounded on two sides by 30-40′ cliff walls. These walls were cut by various prospectors over the last century and Jeff’s work of the last several years. The rock in this mine, for the most part, is a light cream color feldspar making it very bright in the sun. The mine is surprisingly small. Jeff keeps the mine area neat and tidy. If you were 200′ away you’d never know there was a mine in the area.

At 4:25 the group walked down. At the bottom I held back for two minutes to set up a distant video camera. Everyone else had gone to the left and climbed up to the south wall and was standing around the opening in the cliff. I came up and looked in, over and between shoulders. Jeff had taken up position and was sitting on the sloping surface at the base of the cliff hosing down the pocket. Stephen had climbed up with his camera above the pocket. I found a position behind and below Jeff.

The first thing I noticed was what looked like a big block of pure white Philadelphia cream cheese. It was so white it was all I could see at first.

Focusing in closer on the area just below this mass of white were many dozens of large  green tourmaline crystals lying helter-skelter like pick-up sticks in this river of milk-colored water. Jeff continued hosing down the cream cheese white clay and as it melted away, more crystals appeared as the loosened tourmaline tumbled down the stream, glinting and glowing in the late afternoon light.

The real magic occurred when Jeff shut off the hose. The milk-water thinned, drained, and the full impact of the quantity and quality of these green crystals just lying about became obvious. Jeff reached down, picked up one of the larger crystals between thumb and index finger and held it to the sky and passed it back to his crew. He pulled the sieve over and very carefully scooped with two bare hands, double fists full of tourmaline. He did this several times until the sieve was full, then passed it back to two assistants who further rinsed the crystals and pocket material. They poked through the loose material a bit, pulled out several especially intriguing crystals, held them up to the light, then passed them around. A crystal held to the sky is a gesture of wonder, awe and respect. It’s the universal response at the discovery of a fine gem.

At this mine, in the previous month, two gem pockets on the same weekend were excavated. Trays were brought out, lined with white towels; larger choice crystals

Crystal held to the sun

were pulled out and set into the trays. Smaller crystals and pocket material went into white five-gallon buckets. Today the quantity of crystals coming out was simply coming too fast to sort. Everything (choice pieces, large and small crystals) was rinsed quickly, examined, and then tossed into the waiting five-gallon pails.

It’s now 4:35. Here is some of what was observed over the next two hours. Jeff is working on the left side of the pocket. He’s perched on a 20º-30º sloped surface. His right foot is outstretched, braced on pocket rubble. His left leg is partially tucked under him. He’s sitting on a sloping slab of wet, purple-lavender-colored lepidolite. His back is toward the wall. He has a hose in his right hand. A generator and water pump are humming in the background. A steady stream of water shoots out of the hose, He’s melting his way through the block of white clay. As he does, the clay dissolves, mixes with the water, It looks like skim milk flowing down in this stream, loosening the crystals and pocket material. In Jeff’s position, he’s sitting slightly to the left of the stream and at times he’s partially in the stream he’s creating. It’s an ideal location from which to reach as he leans into the pocket area about 3 feet long, 1.5 foot wide.

The space that he’s working in is tucked into the mine wall. A blast  the day before had removed the over burden and opened the left and right side of the pocket so that the interior is open to the sky, making it easily viewed by the ten people in attendance.

This is a textbook-perfect arrangement for this small group of ten people to be able to view this excavation unfold. To create this ideal viewing opportunity, Jeff had to be amazingly precise with his dynamite. This is something to think about. Gold dust is worth as much as a gold nugget. Tourmaline dust is worthless. A gem miner has to move slowly, deliberately, carefully. He has to read the rock right – to sense what he cannot see and as he gets close, to use ever smaller charges of dynamite to move rock, use hand tools, and then hope for the best. Gem mining history has too many stories of miners who were heavy on the dynamite finding only colored dust. This River of Gems Pocket was beautifully presented.

I’ve often been puzzled by some of the descriptions of pocket material and what in addition to tourmaline is present as precious gems are recovered. We have on display several mineral specimens showing tourmaline embedded in solid rock and I’ve seen this at various Maine mine sites where crystals are removed, breaking

Jeff in a pocket

apart the rock matrix using flat-tipped screwdrivers. Jeff’s mine has produced some of these hard rock mineral specimens. Most of his crystals are loose, perfectly clean and with just a light rubbing off of the white clay they are display case ready. Here’s more of what I saw at Jeff’s mine, on this July afternoon a void of sort within solid rock. As Jeff removed the overburden and melted his way through the white clay he revealed huge smokey quartz crystals at the top creating a streambed lined with lavender lepidolite. The streambed was packed with an oats and chopped nuts granola-like mixture of pocket gravel composed of bits of lepidolite, cleavelandite, cookite, and quartz, and embedded with hundreds, thousands of string bean-like green crystals of tourmaline. The mixture even felt like granola. This granola-like mix was smothered within and beneath a slippery white clay reported to be decomposed feldspar called kaolin. The white clay seeps down into the granola-like pocket material, kind of like putting a thickened heavy cream or yogurt on your breakfast cereal. The gems seemed to be resting at the juncture point of white clay with many tourmaline crystals imbedded deeper in the granola pocket materials. I’m told every pocket is different at the Havey. My experience has now been enlightened by these three serious gem pockets at Jeff’s mine. And each has been very different.

This white clay, or kaolin, for me is one of the mysteries of tourmaline gem mining – it seems to be the gem world’s bubble wrap, an amazingly efficient packing material protecting the gems. Jeff’s tourmaline was born 250 million years ago, deep within the Earth during the age of the dinosaurs. Over time the tourmaline moved closer to the surface of the Earth through various periods of glaciation and erosion. It’s mind-boggling to think of thousands of gems, almost as fragile as a wine glass, traversing that vast amount of time, intact with so many in such perfect condition.

As Jeff continues to hose down the white clay it simply melts away under the spray of water from the hose. Rivers of white water wash down, washing past the green crystals sitting in this artificial river. I ask Jeff if I could hold some of the white clay. He reaches up, tears off a chunk. Where I separate it, I can see dry white tear marks. It looks like kid’s play clay The piece he hands me is pure white. In the ground it looks like cream cheese. In my hand it feels more like window putty or like Fimo clay from an art supply store. I squish it in my hand. It’s soft, white and squeezes slowly through my fingers. It coats my hand in pearly white slipperiness. I knead it for a while, comparing it to the sensation of the same type of clay in the Ice Cream Sundae Pocket from the month before. This is dryer, more like kid’s play clay compared to what felt like melting ice cream in the bottom of a water-filled gem pocket. It makes sense though: add water, stir, and the clay liquifies and melts away. Same stuff. This contrast though, informs me about some of what is really happening inside of these gem pockets. I’m fascinated by the stuff. I offer it to the others. No one seems interested. They are all leaning in, watching the crystals come to light – mesmerized. Who could blame them?

Jeff with a handful of crystals

The steep slope allows the water to run fast like a river. The water is loosening the binding clay and pocket rubble, the tourmaline caught in the stream is tumbling down, turning, and glinting green. As Jeff had described to me earlier that morning, the tourmaline was just rolling out of the pocket. A rhythm became apparent. Jeff would hose down for two or three minutes, scooting the loosened material into little islands. Then with bare hands he would scoop whole double handfuls of tourmaline, clean, pristine, clear, brilliant, tourmaline resting on the top of the more opaque pocket rubble… scooping big handfuls into waiting sieves. How much in each handful? There are the crystals that can easily be seen on the surface, then all that were hidden within the pocket rubble – dozens of crystals of every size. Long slender crystals, 2″ plus, and shorter, thicker crystals to little flecks of green, many dozens, possibly more than a hundred in every scoop.

As the covering material was washing away, crystals were coming to light under a late afternoon July sun and showing their color: sea foam green, mint green, and watermelon. For the very first time this day, this hour, this moment, color coming to the light, born into a new day after being buried for millions of years.

This River of Gems Pocket group is a quieter group than those who assembled for the Silver Dollar and Ice Cream Sundae Pockets. All who were in attendance at the gem pockets opened in June were in constant chatter, everyone talking at the same time. Those in attendance at the River of Gems Pocket were a later-in-the-day group. A different group of friends and acquaintances. They stood in quiet reverence and awe. There were momentary exclamations that would ripple through the group like watching Fourth of July fireworks. There was silence or low, quiet talk. Then as a collection of crystals emerged, it was like one, two, three big fireworks lighting up the night sky, with oohs and aahs sweeping through the group. The same thing happened as Jeff would wash down the next layer. You could see it coming – color, more color, then as he shut down the hose, the water would thin and drain away and the full impact of green tourmaline crystals scattered across the slope would become fully apparent.

Crowd leaning in, watching crystals come to light

The mind and its sense of wonder drifts in, drifts out. There are moments when I say to myself, is this really happening?… Is this real? As I’m standing here I reach down and pull a 2″ crystal out of the white bucket. I run my finger down the length of the crystal, it’s smooth and perfectly clean, I see its striations in its reflected surface, running my fingernail perpendicular to the length reveals the long striations have depth in their minute corduroy-like surface. There’s something other worldly about a crystal.

Jeff said he had worked the mine on Saturday and had come upon this gem pocket around 4 o’clock, saw its promise and potential, cleaned up the area, secured it, then went home, called a few people, then spent a sleepless night in anticipation and wonder like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. He had something going on during the day Sunday, so 4PM was the time he set for the unveiling and final excavation. He easily could have cleaned the pocket out on Saturday, but instead wanted to share the experience.

As one in attendance, it was rich, powerful, unforgettable… an experience for which I will be forever grateful.

 

Ralph Pride, Cross Jewelers, Portland, Maine

 

Watch the “River of Gems” Video:

The Columbus Day Pocket

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum Day
 October 14, 2013

 

Gem cutter Sean Sweeney and Jeff Morrison
October 14, 2013

After I got back to Portland, I got out of the truck, looked back, the dark seat was twinkling silver with flecks of mica. Sherlock Holmes could have easily deduced where I’d been. It was a good day at the Havey Mine. I took several series of photos, one series I call “Rock Star Gem Cutter.”

Fall at the Havey

Sean Sweeney, one of American’s top gem cutters, looked like a rock star from the sixties. His glasses catching the light became mirrored sunglasses with his white walrus mustache when he popped a tourmaline in his mouth and held it like a cigarette, my camera came up. Sean is quite serious as he studies a mine site explaining its geology and the specifics of various minerals as they appear in the rock; pure delight and the kid in him comes out the moment gems start flowing.

Rock Star Gem Cutter, Sean Sweeney

I also took a number of great pictures of Jeff and Sean relaxing in white plastic chairs in the mid-afternoon October light. With a dozen people around, Jeff has a lot on his mind. He seems most at ease with Sean. Best photos ever of Jeff at his mine. Gem mining stills and video were hard to get today of actual gem mining. Jeff had two scientists in attendance and people from Maine’s new gem museum, The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.

Because of the depth of the pocket on the left, whoever was pulling material out literally had to crawl halfway in to excavate the pocket. The geologist from Spain had a thick head of black curly hair. She was petite and by the time she and all of her hair got into the deeper part of the pocket, it was hard to see beyond her.. The New Hampshire scientist had short hair and a base ball cap. I was able to get a few i-Phone videos while he was working.  In the far left pocket area were a series of large smokey gray quartz crystals. This is where most of the early mining action was.

Museum Day at the Mine

On the right side Ann Marie from the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum spent most of the morning digging. On the right side there was more room for filming because the opening was larger. Ann Marie had what seemed like vast quantities of pocket material, a fine granola like mix of feldspar, pastel green tourmaline, finely chopped pink tourmaline and bluish cleavelandite. Occasionally there were pieces of gemmy green tourmaline.

Sistine chapel moment

At one point the entire floor of the pocket was scattered with tiny pastel pink and green tourmaline crystals. It was only a moment in mining as she scraped away hundreds approaching perhaps thousands of little granular chunks of opaque pastel-colored pink and green tourmaline. All went into the bucket. A few minutes later, the color thinned and there was more of the ordinary color mix of pocket material.

SparHawk Tree at the Havey

Jeff will see it some winter night as he sorts through one of his white five gallon pails. He will see the flecks of the tourmaline mixed in but he will have missed those few moments of concentrated pastel color. He’s probably seen similar displays of a sweep of color at various times at his mine. It was my first.

The most interesting discovery of the day was a small puddle pocket hidden in plain view on the floor of the left pocket. All day, everyone who had been reaching into the back of the big pocket had been lying on top of this small puddle pocket. Sean though, sensed what might be hidden within. He plunged his arm into this secret puddle pocket, going two thirds of the way up to his shoulder. He pulled out quite a few fist fulls of fine, gemmy tourmaline. When he finished, his hand, arm and bare legs were bleeding. He seemed pleased though.

I’ve now seen six gem pockets at Jeff’s mine this season and while there are similarities, each has possessed its own personality. Each pocket seems to have its own unique way of presenting.

 

Ralph Pride, Cross Jewelers, Portland, Maine

 

World Series –The Red Sox Pocket

October 30, 2013

 

 

October 30th, 2013 Wednesday 10:30AM Jeff called and said “we hit a pocket yesterday, thought you might like to come up.” I said, “I couldn’t, was staying home with a bad cold. Coughing like crazy.” Jeff described what he was finding. Bigger crystals. No kaolin. He said “the tourmaline has an olive tint in the “C” axis, and olive near the tips. He said “it might be the last big pocket of the season.” The crystals were nice and he’d taken a lot out yesterday. I thought again, thought this is serious, it’s gem mining history. I said “I’ll come…maybe for just an hour.” Jeff said, “Dress warm. It’s cold down in the pit.”

10:50 headed out of my driveway. 11:02 passed Congress Square and Cross Jewelers. 11:46 arrived at the gate (the mine is just forty four minutes north of the store) There was a chain across the road. I parked outside and walked in. It’s a crisp 45 degrees, high thin clouds, hazy sun.

I walked down into the pit. Silence, no one’s here. I’m the first one. The caterpillar’s parked near the working wall. Black rubber tire blast nets pushed up against the wall. Cat arm securely pressing down on the blast mats. The site is secured. The last time I was here Jeff showed me a line of black tourmaline dotting across the base of  the mine wall. The line is still here. Jeff said almost all of the pockets he has found are above these splotches of black. The wall face cuts through these black tourmaline crystals, leaving circles of black. Some of these are the size of grapefruits, some the size of oranges and some are smaller cherry clusters of black. Above the black tourmaline are gem pockets, voids hidden somewhere within the rock, containing large smokey quartz, a sandy gravely mix of loose material and tourmaline crystals. In Jeff’s mine most of the tourmaline is a minty green teal color called SparHawk. He’s also finding some bi-color and watermelon crystals. The gem pockets are hidden within the wall and could begin a few inches to several feet or more beyond the surface. In my simplified non-geologist explanation it sounds easy. It’s not. There’s a lot of mystery, a lot of speculation, and a ton of work drilling and blasting. It can be weeks, months or years between gem finds. Jeff is currently in a particularly rich area of his mine. Things are going well.

I’m sitting on a rock in the sun. I’ve been here about forty-five minutes making notes, thinking about why people have a fascination for gems. They are rare. They are beautiful. Gems speak to us about the deeper mysteries of nature. Traveling intact through time for millions of years, born to the light… to be cut and polished and given to honor and celebrate our highest ideals of love and affection.

It’s good to have this quiet time. This is the first time I’ve been alone at Jeff’s mine. I can hear the wind whispering through the tops of the pine trees. The mine is surrounded with tall pines. The tops are eighty feet above the bottom of the pit. The wind makes a sound like ocean waves in the distance only the sound is coming from high above. The breeze catches leaves in the shorter trees and brown leaves drift down into the pit. I can hear a plane in the distance. There’s a truck on the mine road. It’s Jeff. He backs in. We talk a bit. Jeff goes down to start the cat. He removes the blasting mats from the wall. Ray, his mine assistant arrives. They consult and then get right to it. Jackhammer, pry bars, then screw drivers prying, sweeping out the loose material, slowly working through.

Jeff and Ray

The sun is shining. The high cliff walls cast deep blue shadows in the pit. Jeff was right, it’s cool. It’s a different place than two weeks ago with a crowd in attendance. Jeff and Ray proceed with business like certainty. They gently excavate, pause, examine, tossing out scrap and tossing keepers into the bucket. They are finding the mine wall. The line is still here. Jeff said almost all of the pockets he has found are above these splotches of black. The wall face cuts through these black tourmaline crystals, leaving circles of black. Some of these are the size of grapefruits, some the size of oranges and some are smaller cherry clusters of black. Above the black tourmaline are gem pockets, voids hidden somewhere within the rock, containing large smokey quartz, a sandy gravely mix of loose material and tourmaline crystals. In Jeff’s mine most of the tourmaline is a minty green teal color called SparHawk. He’s also finding some bi-color and watermelon crystals. The gem pockets are hidden within the wall and could begin a few inches to several feet or more beyond the surface. In my simplified non-geologist explanation it sounds easy. It’s not. There’s a lot of mystery, a lot of speculation, and a ton of work drilling and blasting. It can be weeks, months or years between gem finds. Jeff is currently in a particularly rich area of his mine. Things are going well.

I’m sitting on a rock in the sun. I’ve been here about forty-five minutes making notes, thinking about why people have a fascination for gems. They are rare. They are beautiful. Gems speak to us about the deeper mysteries of nature. Traveling intact through time for millions of years, born to the light… to be cut and polished and given to honor and celebrate our highest ideals of love and affection.

It’s good to have this quiet time. This is the first time I’ve been alone at Jeff’s mine. I can hear the wind whispering through the tops of the pine trees. The mine is surrounded with tall pines. The tops are eighty feet above the bottom of the pit. The wind makes a sound like ocean waves in the distance only the sound is coming from high above. The breeze catches leaves in the shorter trees and brown leaves drift down into the pit. I can hear a plane in the distance. There’s a truck on the mine road. It’s Jeff. He backs in. We talk a bit. Jeff goes down to start the cat. He removes the blasting mats from the wall. Ray, his mine assistant arrives. They consult and then get right to it. Jackhammer, pry bars, then screw drivers prying, sweeping out the loose material, slowly working through.

Ray on break

The sun is shining. The high cliff walls cast deep blue shadows in the pit. Jeff was right, it’s cool. It’s a different place than two weeks ago with a crowd in attendance. Jeff and Ray proceed with business like certainty. They gently excavate, pause, examine, tossing out scrap and tossing keepers into the bucket. They are finding a significant number of crystals the size of thumbs and index fingers. The really nice ones Jeff wraps in newspapers. Jeff pulls out a wrist-size big green tourmaline. I film its removal. Jeff brushes it off, turns it around. It’s all green with a brown crust on the back. Before he wraps it in newspaper, he looks at the bottom, holds it up, we are both surprised to see it’s also a huge watermelon crystal.

The watermelon surface is bigger than the size of an apple cut in half.

Jeff and Ray quietly continue then Jeff calls me over. He says, “You might like to get a picture of this.” It was a particularly fine, long crystal with three breaks in it. The sections were glowing green. For reference I had a two and a half dollar gold piece. I set the coin next to the crystal. Even in the shadows, the crystal had its own inner light. I took two dozen photos. The big crystal and several other crystals were removed, wrapped, and placed in the bucket.

Gem mining and even watching it is addictive. There’s a casino like rush as stones are pulled out as crystals and their colors are revealed.

I was cold. I had a cold. I didn’t feel good. I kept thinking I’ll stay five more minutes. There would be more, then more, then something spectacular would appear. Then another half hour would go by. I’d intended on staying just an hour. It was three and a half hours before I left and Jeff and Ray were still at it.

And yes, the Sox won the World Series that night against the Cardinals. It was a good day.

 

Ralph Pride, Cross Jewelers, Portland, Maine

 

 

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