In upstate New York, there is a wealth of quartz deposited within veins of dolomite, sitting fairly close to the Earth’s surface.
These deposits have become what we now call Herkimer Diamonds, with a distinctive shape and shimmer.
We can even go to the mines, and for the price of admission, keep whatever treasure we unearth.
Herkimer Diamond Mine (New York): Introduction
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In the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, these veins of semiprecious stones can be found, specifically, a special type of quartz crystal only found in this region.
The Quartz has come to be known as a Herkimer Diamond. It is known to be a double-terminated quartz crystal found within dolomite.
The main location this quartz can be found is in the Mohawk River Valley in Herkimer, New York, and is often found in naturally exposed outcrops of rock.
Due to easy accessibility and abundance, there are many people, rock hounds, and regular folks, who travel to these mines yearly for the experience of mining their own gems right out of the ground.
It has become an attraction for tourists as much as it attracts serious geologists, and mines have capitalized, some even located adjacent to camping sites to enable guests to make a vacation out of it.
Take advantage of these natural rock formations and try your hand at mining.
There are several things that you should know before you begin to get the most out of your trip to the Mines in Herkimer County, New York.
This is a way that you can mine, yet it is overlooked by many.
All that scavenger mining means is that you scan and search through the already broken pieces and try to identify any Herkimer stones that may have been missed.
Usually, we find quite a few small gems. This is also the best method of mining for young ones, no hammer is required.
Find and Break Mining
The best chance of finding the quartz crystals hiding here is to find a vug.
Vugs are the places in the rock where the crystals row and are basically pockets or cavities in the rock.
So, finding a so-called fuggy rock and breaking it open is one of the best ways to find these stones. Be careful though and wear goggles.
The Dolostone surrounding the crystals is very hard and pieces can fly off and easily hit someone as you mine.
Cavity or Pocket Mining
This method of mining finds the largest quantities of Herkimer Diamonds.
The process involves breaking into larger cavities in the walls of the mine to find the large vugs of quartz.
This process requires tools, knowledge of the mine, and plenty of patience. This method will sometimes yield thousands of quartz crystals in one cavity.
The trick is to break larger pieces into smaller pieces and then extract the crystals from there.
The pockets will also be the places to find clusters of quartz, and doubles, which are two crystals that have grown together.
Exploit Fracture Existing in Rock
Mining for the Herkimer Diamonds in the open mines often requires a good bit of physical labor.
To work smarter and not harder we often use the natural cracks and crevices already present in the surrounding rock.
These are exploited with hammer and chisel, cracking them further and exposing the quartz.
This way, we don’t have to work as hard and can mine more, getting more bang for the buck, so to speak.
The Structure of Herkimer Diamonds is Unique
The thing that makes these quartz crystals so special is the structure that they have.
The double termination means that the crystals come to a point at both ends.
This, and the 18 facets that are part of what makes these stone Herkimer Diamonds and is a defining characteristic. This is part of their appeal.
Explore the Different Mines
In and around Herkimer County several mines are open to the public for mining.
Though these mines all contain the Herkimer Diamonds, not every mine is the same, and there will be different sizes and color variations depending on what mine the stones come from.
Exploring different mines is a great way to maximize results, especially when on an excursion for more than a single day.
The mines are all located in Herkimer County, hence the name, and there are quite a few to be explored. Some of the most popular mines are:
- Herkimer Diamond Mines
- Ace of Diamond Mines
- Crystal Grove Diamond Mines
- Diamond Mountain Mining
- Diamond Acres
Any of these mines are a great place to find the double-terminated quartz we call Herkimer Diamonds.
Look for Heavy Silicate Deposits
Quartz crystal is chemically known as SiO2 more commonly known as silicon dioxide.
That means that one molecule of silicone had bonded with two molecules of oxygen to create the compound.
Environmental factors will control if it forms crystals or another structure.
This structure can also be referred to as silicate.
Since this is the compound that quartz is made up of, finding places with larger, heavy silicate deposits will help us find the quartz crystals, in most cases.
You Can Camp Next to the Mine
Many of the mines in the county of Herkimer are also outfitted with campgrounds.
This is to allow rockhounds and families alike to spend multiple days trying their hand in the mines.
This is an especially fun way to experience the mines with families as there are great cabins and campsites to choose from.
Even Celebrities Are in the Know
Herkimer Diamonds are not a huge, or a well-kept secret.
Even the Duchess of Sussex herself has been seen wearing these lovely gems.
This is to drive home the point that planning ahead when coming to mine is a good idea.
There are limits to how many people can mine at a time, and occasionally the mines can be very busy.
If we are going for a day, we always buy our passes ahead of time so we don’t miss out on any of the fun.
The Herkimer County mines are an interesting place where geology, hard work, and organic chemistry have come together to form minable deposits of unique crystals.
The various mines provide endless opportunities to find and extract Herkimer Diamonds from the Earth for yourself, a sparkling reward for a hard day’s work.