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30. Herkimer Diamonds II -The Collecting Trip

Last Updated: 7th Jul 2017

By Frank Festa

Post Date: July 7, 2017
Trip Date: Summer 2017

Herkimer Diamonds - The Collecting Trip

The day began much like any other……with the exception of…the alarm was ringing and it was still dark outside. Normally I rise without a clock and pretty close to the “crack of noon”. I think the sun light shining in through the window wakes me up or maybe it’s the dog licking my face. Not so today. Today was the trip to New York State, to be a little more precise Herkimer, N.Y. From my house to the hotel in Herkimer, New York is a 7 hour drive. My friend joining me is already knocking on the outside door, excited for this adventure. He is not a rock collector but having several days off from his job was going to join me. Our gear was packed the day before, hotel reservations made in advance, all I had to do was wake up and get in the car. I am not a morning person so being a little irritable, off we drove.

After two or three hours, my yawning ceased, we pulled into a rest area for breakfast, changed drivers and continued on our way. Day break was just over the horizon. When it finally arrived the sky was overcast, with a little misty type precipitation. It would continue like that all the way to New York. During the entire length of our stay it was mostly cloudy with rain occasionally. The sun did come out a few times.

The time passed very quickly as we covered the entire gamut of conversational pieces and before we knew it our exit was approaching. Pulling to the side of the road I snapped a shot of the road sign for Herkimer. Who can guess where we had hotel reservations for……the Herkimer Hotel, where else! Our plan was simple…..arrive in Herkimer early enough in order to have plenty of time to explore one digging site. Having five digging sites available and a three night stay, the plan was doable.

The five digging sites were:

Ace of Diamonds Mine, Middleville, Town of Newport, Herkimer Co., New York, USA

Herkimer Diamond Mine, Middleville, Town of Newport, Herkimer Co., New York, USA

Diamond Acres, Fonda, Mohawk Township, Montgomery Co., New York, USA

Crystal Grove, Lassellsville, Town of Ephratah, Fulton Co., New York, USA

Hickory Hill, Fonda, Mohawk Township, Montgomery Co., New York, USA

Of the five, two of the digging sites are located in Herkimer County. The quartz crystals found in this county could rightfully be named Herkimer Diamonds. The remaining three counties, though in the Mohawk Valley, the quartz crystals found here would be called simply “quartz” or to be in line with MinDat's naming, Quartz (Var: "Herkimer-style" Quartz).

All of the sites listed are “pay to dig” sites. Simply meaning…the site is being operated as a gainful business and as such the public is invited to enter after paying the entrance fee. We did not visit any sites other than the five listed. Also, there are other sites in the area which are not open to the public, i.e., commercial sites.

Arriving in Herkimer, our hotel was right in front of us as well as a myriad of eateries. Stopping long enough to satisfy the growling in our stomachs, we ate and off we went. Check-in time at the hotel was 3:00 p.m. We were far from that and had plenty of time. From the eatery, and driving north on highway 28, we would stop and explore the first site we came across.

There are two digging sites on highway 28. Both are in Herkimer County. They are located side by side on bordering properties. These two could be the largest of the five, each having extensive workings. Both are using the word “mine” in their names and just for clarification sake there is nothing underground. Please do not visualize an adit into a hillside. These and the other sites listed are all above ground, on the surface, more of a strip mine type development. There is a rocky dolostone hillside which is slowly being eaten away by collectors, diggers and managements heavy equipment in the search for crystals. But, don’t worry………at the rate the hill is being dug away you will have at least one million years before it is gone. Plenty of time to get here.

Most, if not all the sites listed do have rules, namely, no power tools, jackhammers, jacks, heavy equipment. Also you will probably have to sign a legal waiver in case of an accident. Most of the sites rent tools: hammers, chisels, sifters, goggles. You can bring your own gear as I did. Everything you will need to know concerning the site and the rules should be mentioned to you upon paying the entry fee. If it is not, for your own safety, please ask.

Information about digging…….several methods can be employed in the search for crystals. Several variables will determine which method to use, but the most productive activity to engage in would be to work the “hillside”. The hillside is solid, very hard dolostone. Picture driving down the highway and passing a long, tall rocky road cut. This is pretty much what you will see at the digging sites and this is what I am referring to as the hillside. The work requires sledgehammering and using wedges to crack the solid rock, loosen chunks of it and remove those chunks from the mass. Too say the very least, it is extremely work intensive, hard, heavy work. Usually working the wall is not a one day affair nor a one man affair. Collectors or even collecting clubs will open a claim and spend days, weeks, months working their claim. There is a fee to have a claim and various time periods available, check with the site you are interested in. Why would one want to work so hard? The benefits are huge. Within the hillside are the larger “pockets” which can contain the largest crystals and many smaller crystals. Think of a pocket as a large vug. Working the wall gives a claimant the opportunity to find and recover the largest, best crystals of any activity.

Each site contains billions of loose rock, of all sizes, all gotten from the hillside at one time or another. These loose rocks are discards from claims and management providing for collectors a supply of material gotten with the use of heavy machinery. Simply cracking the existing loose rock lying about is fairly straight forward. Each rock has the potential to contain a crystal or two. Simply pick out a spot, sit down and start cracking. Me personally, I like to think of it as “practicing for federal prison”, making small rocks out of big rocks. Please remember...there are no good or bad rocks.

One can sift through soil and areas containing small broken rock. Most of the sites provide a huge pile of hillside material. Overburden will be part of this pile. When the site provides the loose material for the prospector, the material was broken, busted, smashed, tossed about, hoisted and dumped many times before it all is piled up. Rent or bring your own screen and sift through the soil. After all the breaking and busting vugs containing crystals burst and scatter many loose crystals.

Surface scan……simply walk about, bent over and look at the surface. You will find crystals.

Finally, before we begin, let me make this perfectly clear, I am not a representative of or have any affiliation with any site mentioned here. Any site descriptions are based on my personal view or opinion and are called “as I see it”. Unless of course, I have written, documented information from a site representative.

We arrived at the Herkimer Diamond Mines. And, as I personally enjoy history and historical accounts, will offer you a few tidbits of info concerning this site as given to me through the Herkimer Diamond Mines, Inc., 800 Mohawk Street, Herkimer, New York, email at diamonds @ntc.com, website at www.herkimer diamond.com. It began in 1955 when the property owner opened his farming property to the public for prospecting for the first time. The vugs, pockets and cavities were so close to the surface that occasionally the livestock, cows would break through the surface and fall into a “hole”. It would turn out the hole contained crystals. The property changed ownership a few times and the “mine” operated on a very small scale on an “honor system”. Would be prospectors would drop a buck or two in the mailbox as their digging fee. (Years ago, maybe it is still like this today, in Cardiff, Ontario at the Silver Crater site, visitors would drop a few bucks into the container sitting on the front porch.) As the crystals grew in popularity so did the demand and in turn more and more prospectors came to search for them. The site was sold to investors lead by a Mr. Atty. He and his wife began the early development of the site as a commercial venture. A rock shop was built as well as a campground for prospectors to stay while prospecting there. After the death of Mr. Atty, Mrs. Atty, sold the site. Rudy Scialdo and his wife, Rena then bought the site. Currently Dr. Renee Scialdo Shevat owns the site. Advertising it as having the largest rock, gem and jewelry store in the Northeast. They also have a museum, an authentic dinosaur skull, gem sluicing, an eatery, piles and piles of collectable rock and minerals in the shop as well as “diamonds”, a KOA, camp ground and local trout in the West Canada Creek. It is “an all service” facility to be sure.

Not being interested in shopping, we hurriedly walked through the store. They do have loads of rock and minerals for sale as well as loads of “diamonds” both loose and in the matrix. One thing that really upsets me is when you go into a store and find something you like but the item has no price tag. Now, you must walk around and find a clerk to ask "how much?" What if quite a number of items being offered for sale lacked price tags? Do you have to locate a clerk continually? When I encounter a situation such as this, I simply walk away.

We paid the entrance fee, understood the rules and were ready to get dirty. This site has a nice facility to change clothes and do what is necessary. Though I did not specifically ask, there appeared to be no parking at the actual digging site as no vehicles were there. Nor did I inquire if it would be possible to drive up, drop our gear and then return to the parking lot to leave the car. Yes, this was something that we should have been aware of from the beginning. I take full responsibility for not inquiring. We only carried a few select tools, water, cameras and what have you, and walked the distance to the digging area, which in “my personal opinion” was farther than it should have been. Not to mention upon returning, we needed to make three trips back and forth to carry not only our tools and other gear but the specimens we dug up. Keep my lack of information in mind for your future trips.

The actual digging area is quite extensive. Basically a flat, rock filled area next to the dolostone hillside. At the time of our visit, there were no large predug piles of rock and soil for prospector to root through. Several active claims could be seen by the blue canopies against the hillside and the sound of sledgehammering. This method of working with sledgehammers and wedges is just not for me. Earlier, I pointed out to my novice rock collector friend, Josh, how we would approach the search for crystals. It did not include hammering on the solid rock wall. Instead we cracked existing rock, sifted and surface searched. We started out together just long enough for Josh to get the idea of what to do, then split up. The federal prison system would be proud of me. Who knows how many rock fell to my three pound hammer and chisels. I could have paved someone’s driveway with all the small pieces that were made.

Earlier I stated there are no good or bad rock they all have the potential to contain a crystal or two and this is true. One could actually sit in one spot all day cracking and cracking. Me on the other hand, I just like to walk around and “get the feel” of the entire site. Which I did, occasionally seeing or passing Josh. We would stop and compare “finds”. Usually, I will carry with me two or three – five gallon plastic handled buckets. It is my belief being in the field is no place to recover a specimen. I prefer to take a specimen which is lodged in the matrix, home as a single unit, for later extraction. So, I normally bring home lots of rock, hence the need for several buckets. When I fill a bucket, I simply leave it and on the return carry it back to the vehicle. Josh and I worked the first digging area slowly and carefully, cracking an untold number of rock.

Hours later, we moved to the second area across a small creek using the short bridge on site. The second area is very much like the first, flat, a rock strewn area against the hillside. We worked both areas until almost closing time then carried our finds back to the vehicle.

With some time remaining before closing, I wanted to explore the material thrown out of the “commercial dig pit”. This spot is a pit on site. It is off limits to the public, it is roped off and well-marked. Thousands of loose rock removed from this pit are scattered in all directions well beyond the roped off area making them public material. After cracking many many rock from here the material did not prove to be anything out of the ordinary. I did, however, recover several fossils including parts of trilobits and shelled marine animals. I do collect fossils should they be found but do not go on fossil collecting trip. Finding marine fossils in this area proves this area was in fact under water at one time

As our time ran out and closing approached, we gathered our gear and made it back to the parking lot. We packed our finds in newspaper, washed, changed clothes and made our way to the hotel and dinner. Yes, it was a long day but we were here and had our first “diamond” specimens. Between the two of us we had several crystals and a lot of dolostone waste material, calcite crystals and fossils. It was a good day.

Next morning…….that alarm clock again, at least this time it was daylight outside. Today’s plan was ambitiously simple, locate three different sites, take photos and recover crystals. When making plans for this trip I had meticulously located directions, had satellite images, maps on my laptop and GPS coordinates. When traveling from site to site there would be no question on which direction to drive, what roads to use, exactly where the next site was located.

The first site on the list to visit for this day was the farthest, possibly twenty miles from hotel base camp. Take highway 5 through Middleville, Little Falls, St. Johnsville to Nelliston, no problems. Our destination was Hickory Hill Diamonds.

Hickory Hill Diamonds is only open to the public on a handful of days during the year. During our visit they were not open. The plan was just to locate this site and take photos not to do digging. We located the site and parked off the road in a grassy area. Then walked back a short distance and took numerous photographs. This site reminded me of what all these crystal sites were and/or would have appeared as in the early days (1800’s). A rocky outcrop is exposed to the surface out in a pasture, if there were only a few cow roaming about it would have been perfect.

The site appears very small in relation to the site we visited the day before. The entrance/driveway is gated and posted. A roadway sign is visible with the site name and a phone number listed. Another sign at the gate lists the days the site would be open for business. I respect ones privacy and did not call the phone number listed on their sign. And, as you can see that phone number is blocked out in the photo. From our interpretation of the site, it appears as though the owner or manager is preparing for the next public opening as the heavy machinery is in the field, possibly loosening solid material to create piles. I doubt very much they allow claims to be had simply because of the limited number of days of operation and the actual size of the site, but maybe they do. Since we did not enter the property and only viewed it from the roadway I can not offer much more in the way of info. Any farther information would have to be self-located. We did succeed in our goal of getting photographs. We spent very little of the day locating and photographing this site which is why I planned a three site day.

Our next stop would be Diamond Acres, located not far from Hickory Hill. This site was quite interesting in that it offered just a little problem as to locating it. We pretty much knew where it was, the problem was we just could not locate it. The “Acres” at the time of our visit, had no road sign. We had directions, maps, GPS but it still eluded us. Josh was driving, I was navigating looking at satellite views, we counted houses back from the intersection. "This has to be the driveway according to the satellite views." From the road it was very difficult to see anything. And, without some sort of marker or business sign we just weren’t sure. It just didn’t feel right to drive up an unknown driveway in an unfamiliar part of the country in a very rural setting. Creepy things usually enter my mind. Ya, I watch too many movies. Taking a chance, we turned off the road and drove in. There was a mobile home to the right and various vehicles to the left. The property appeared to be campy. Josh drove up to the mobile home and parked. I cautiously got out of the car being keenly aware of dogs protecting their property. Walking up to the door to knock when I spotted the rocks laid out on a table. I yelled to Josh, "this is the place." Knock, knock, knock……no answer. A note posted on the door stated “be right back”. We looked over the rocks and just then a car pulled into the driveway, the owner. A wonderful lady named Linda greeted us. We stated our business, she showed us around, gave us all the information we needed including a warning about not entering claims, signed a waiver, paid the entry fee, which was unbelievably little and we were ready to go. There are no modern facilities here for diggers. We changed clothes at the back of our vehicle and located the “out house” as pointed out by Linda.

From the small grassy parking area, the actual digging area is a short walk through the woods. We carried just the essentials: tools, cameras, buckets. Located the dirt trail as described to us and proceeded ahead. Being in the woods, we sprayed for bugs and ticks. The trail is maybe wide enough to get an ATV in and out. The night before it rained so the soil was wet and muddy, the puddles we dodged. The sun was out in full force and we were in the shade of the trees. It was a perfect collecting site. Not far along we spotted the first loose rocks.

This site did not appear to be as commercial or as well developed as the some of the other sites. It is in fact non-developed. Set on 30 or 40 acres, most if not all is in the woods under the umbrella of trees and primitive as if no one had ever been here. It is a tranquil place, quiet. When we arrived, a few other prospectors had parked their cars in the parking area so we were not alone. Finding the first loose rock at the bottom of a small rise, we climbed up to see what was above. There was a huge hole in the side of the hill with rock scattered everywhere. A man was there rooting through the rock. We exchanged greetings and moved on not knowing if this was a claim or not.

A little farther along from this spot we located a smaller open area with lots of loose rock, no ropes, no claims. Here we started. After several hours we were still there. This spot proved to be a very productive spot. I myself had in my bucket, many smaller fist sized rock with clear crystals in just a little matrix. Personally, I prefer to display finds in their natural setting as opposed to being loose. We dug a hole just a few feet deep and a few feet wide because the rock here was already cracked and loose. It was still a struggle to break the rock free and remove them from the hole. Far too much work. But cracking the buried rock apart proved to be productive. One loses sense of time in a spot such as this, cool and shady. We cracked lots of rock and had numerous crystals. With time marching on and still one more site to find, we packed what we had and set our buckets out on the trail. I wanted to explore a bit and get addition photos, so leaving our buckets we followed the trail for a bit. What we found next was a sight to behold.

What lay ahead was jaw dropping…..absolutely unbelievable, there were more claims here than were in California during the gold rush of 1849. Roped off sites on top of roped off sites, with no place to dispose of their waste rock the claimants stacked the rock making walls out of it. It looked like an ancient archaeological dig. All of these sites had to have been old diggings due to their size, depth and amount of waste rock. Most went down maybe 12 to 15 feet through solid rock, or maybe like we discovered, the rock was already cracked. It was worth the price of entry just to see these marvels of human endeavors to find the riches. With the single trail now branching out into several and claims at every turn, it was now 1:00 p.m. and time to move on.

After seeing these claims, certainly nothing could out do them. Well we were mistaken. Down at the bottom of a claim, with not a sole in sight we saw something every collector hopes to find. Up on a rocky ledge were tools: hammer, wedges, pry bar all the tool needed to work in solid rock and beside the tools were large quartz crystals, very large. Count the number you see (zoom in). And, if that wasn't enough, a large rock lay at the bottom of dig site with a giant quartz crystal just staring right back at us. This was just too much for me. I could not, in a million years,understand why someone would go off and leave everything exposed like this.

We doubled back, picked up our buckets. Back at the car we packed all the finds in newspaper, changed clothes and drove on. I really enjoyed this site and would return here if ever in the neighborhood. The site was very scenic being wooded, cool due to the trees, undeveloped and natural. Viewing the claims was highly impressive. No other site has such advanced diggings as this. We may have missed it but I don’t think there is a hillside or a rocky wall here. I think we were on the hillside. I want to thank Linda for a great collecting visit.

The third and final site for the day was to locate and collect at the Crystal Grove down the road near St. Johnsville. I planned to work this site last because they stay open till 7:00 p.m., the latest of all five. It was back down to highway 5. where the road sign read “Crystal Grove Right at the Light”

Crystal Grove is a great site to visit. The shop is clean, small, offering books, rock and mineral specimens, “diamonds” and jewelry. We talked with the man in the shop who was wire wrapping crystal clear diamonds for earrings. Besides digging for crystals, I also wanted to get local opinions of just what a Herkimer Diamond is as far as point of origin is concerned. I asked this same question to a goodly number of people during our stay here from various place throughout the area. Just as my post on MinDat did.


The replies were as varied as those who responded to my post. Some stated only crystals found in Herkimer County, others stated anywhere they are found and some the Mohawk Valley only. So, with as many varied opinions as I ran across, I formulated a simple idea. It all comes down to this…there really is no such thing as French Fries or French Toast, Irish Whiskey, Georgia Peaches, Polish Sausage, Canadian Bacon, English Muffins, Mexican Jumping Beans, Frankfurters, Jane Doe's, Billy Goats or poisonous tomatoes. There it is in a Brazil Nut shell. It is what it is or what you want to call it.

The digging area is just up the road from the office/shop, actually this site has two gigging areas. The parking area is a very large grassy field allowing one to park right next to where they will dig. This offers the convenience of gear unloading and reloading later. We parked 20 foot from where we started cracking rocks. This site may have the lowest rock wall of the five sites we visited at 3 to 4 foot tall.

Again, the wall is too much work for me. Just cracking existing rock is far more easier but far less rewarding as far as locating the “big ones”. And cracking we did. Eventually we both realized we hit the “mother lode”. The rock here was loaded with crystallized quartz. And, the soil was a treasure waiting to be harvested. We had found ‘El Dorado” and spent all of our time right in this same spot. When you find “the spot” you’ll know it and we found the spot.

Unfortunately Mother Nature was gearing up for something. The sunny day was quickly turning to dark black rain clouds and then a deluge of water dropped out of the sky, we were soaked. Running back to the car was an effort in futility. And, as quickly as it came the rain stopped, the sun returned and back to the rocks we went.

When we first arrived, I noticed a man at the far end of the parking area standing beside his truck. He was at the other collecting site named “Black Diamond Mine”.

After the rain he drove over to our local and was rooting around. We greeted each other and occasionally carried on a conversation in between breaking rock. This man appeared older but he was strong as a bull. Not using a three pound hammer like me, he was a sledgehammer man. And he used it like my three pound hammer. I was impressed. Driving from the Rochester area of New York alone, he too was here for a few days. I told him not only was I here for crystals, I was also here to gather photos and information for an article on a rock website named MinDat. He said he was familiar with the site and his rock club used it often. Though he did not want to have his photo taken he said I could name his rock club. So, having his permission…... Hello out there to the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club this ones on Bob. I sure hope I got that correct.


All three of us worked till about 7:00 p.m. give or take. I seriously hated to leave. I even explained to Josh that the next and last site could not possibly compare to this spot we have right here and even suggested we return here tomorrow. But I did need first hand info from the last site and photos. With the sky darkening again, Bob was the first to leave. We easily carried all of our finds to the car, packed them, changed clothes and drove out. An opening in the clouds allowed the sun to shine through intensely, the rain fell heavily shortly thereafter creating a wonderful rainbow which I just had to pull off the road to photograph.

The Crystal Grove was a very productive site. We dug up quite a number of wonderful specimens in many of the rock we cracked. They were actually falling out of the rock in some places. We sifted dirt and found many loose crystals. Patience is always a good companion.

The last day of our trip arrived. So far we had visited four of the five sites on my list. And, the trunk of the car was already loaded with rocks. The last site was the Ace of Diamonds out on highway 28. This site sits high above the highway. We decided to continue past the entrance, turn around, and enter it from rt. 28 going south. At the top of the grade, the office/shop sits and just a little farther on the parking area. I liked this place immediately as the parking area was part of the digging area. Just get out of the car and start cracking.

We started out photographing everything in sight as with all the other sites. Best to get photos while still having clean hands. I walked up and down the rock pile, walked back down the grade at the entrance, took photos of the office building and of course their iconic “diamond” suspended with cables from a large piece of heavy equipment. Afterwards, we visited the shop, looked at everything and talked with the owner/manager. He has a fine collection of quite large “diamonds” for sale….with prices listed on each item. I love when a dealer has a price label on each and every piece they are offering for sale. We paid the entry fee, got the list of rules and off we went. This site has a respectable facility for changing clothes, taking a shower and the rest. Selecting a spot right near our vehicle, we began hammering.

And……within minute’s right off the surface I pulled in a beautiful semi-clear diamond. It’s like going fishing. When they’re biting keep on fishing. So is the case with diamonds. When you find one look for more. Working together we covered an area maybe 12 foot by 12 foot. We cracked most of the loose rock within this area piling them up so as to be out of the way, then surface scanned, and since the soil was also full of smaller rock we used our garden scrapers to scrap and loosen the surface turning up many loose crystals, then we screened also turning up several crystals.

One thing that should have been mentioned earlier…you will find lots of broken crystals, crystal pieces and what appears as clear glassy shards of quartz. Remember I talked about all the smashing and breaking of rock, and piling and moving of material to form a large pile? In all this movement crystals are dislodged from the vugs. Some of these crystal remain intact even with all the pounding they take. Many others are crushed or broken. It may be over simplification to say finding loose crystals is easy.

Tumbling rock and soil together over and over and over, all the rock, regardless of their size are covered with soil. As crystals become dislodged from vugs they too are mixed up in the soil. Rain wets the soil, creates muddy conditions, the soil adheres to everything. Go outside rub one finger in the soil and you will get the idea. So when finding crystals loose in the soil, until they are washed and cleaned, one really has no idea of their true nature. Yes, we did find many loose crystals and finding specimens in the field you don’t stop everything to walk to the washroom to clean a find. You just place the find in your container and continue on. I take all my finds, whether a loose specimen or specimen in matrix back to the vehicle at the end of the collecting period. Wrap them in newspaper and return home with them. At home, is the time to slowly, patiently unwrap, clean and examine them. So, we did locate many crystals their conditions were really unknown. Hours later, we split up eventually covering the entire pile.

This site offers a huge “U” shaped sluice to wash specimens and to screen smaller rock. They offer a large pile of soil and a large pile of smaller rock for the prospector. And, large sturdy tables to sort your sluiced material so one can look over their cleaned material. I did not use the sluice but I did surface scan the piles and the discarded material thrown out after being screened.

At the back side of the central huge pile the dolostone awaits the energetic, the hillside. Claims are visible with the blue canopies offering some relief from the direct sunlight. I like to stay back and just look over what and how these claimants work. It is truly amazing. It is a wonder to even be able to crack this rock. Let alone crack it while in mass.

Walking up and over the central pile, I returned to a spot where I collected specimens years earlier with my best partner and son, Adam. Those specimens were of fossil stromatolites and a greenish- blueish colored rock unknown to me at that time. From information recently located concerning this rock it may very well be glauconite. I was hoping to be able to collect several additional specimens of stromatolite and this “odd colored rock” during this visit.

I posted photos of the greenish-blueish rock on the message board of MinDat under “identity help”. Those that responded are unsure about the identification of this rock. See MinDat post…


I was fortunate to have located a reference by Cushing, H. P., Geology of The Vicinity of Littl Falls, Herkimer County, New York State Museum, Bulletin 7, Geology 6, 1905, page 67


Cushing states “Near or at the summit of the Beekmantown formation, is a very-cherty layer, becoming locally a pure mass of chert, which is sometimes red in color. This cherty layer often has a mineralized appearance, due to abundant, small, bluish green spots which have some resemblance to green copper carbonate (malachite). There is however no copper at all in the rock and the green spots appear to be constituted of glauconite.1”

“'Glauconite is a mineral of varying composition, but essentially a silicate of iron and potash. In sedimentary formations it has often a close association with the skeletons of minute organisms ; and, since the chert is likely of organic origin, the association is a natural one. It is not at all indicative of any mineral content of value in the bed.”

Cushing’s description very closely matches my own for I was also in a cherty layer of rock that, like Cushing, had the resemblance of green copper carbonate, though no copper is in the area. The rocks also collected by myself have an abundance of small, bluish green spots and the overall appearance of copper carbonate

As far as the stromatolite fossils, though the location has been destroyed, many many rock fragments are locatable. I had uploaded two photos of the fossils a year or two ago. MinDat could not confirm the identity of the fossil so the photos were placed in the “user gallery only”.

Please see this website concerning stromatolite fossils at the Ace of Diamonds.


Stromatolites were involved in the Great Oxygenation Event that took place billions of years ago. There are hundreds of websites to read over this event, here are just two……



Josh and I finally met up and headed to the digging area behind the office building. The piles there all appeared to be “fresh” material recently and mechanically removed from the hillside. Both rock of enormous size and smaller sizes were mixed in with overburden soil. This area had the best potential of all. Walking closer and closer……….who do you think we found? Ole Bob from the day before at Crystal Grove. He was hard at work with his sledgehammer slamming into some of the bigger rock. We greeted each other, setting down his hammer he walked out from his spot to talk. Out of his pocket he pulls a very large, fairly clear crystal. Wow!

Next to Ole Bob, but at a respectable distance was another guy with his big sledgehammer. This guy was like a machine…..bang, bang, bang, over and over. He was cracking everything in sight. Much later, through a series of short conversations I learned this man and his wife, working there with him, had amasses some big beautiful specimens. Another Wow!

Josh and I pulled out our puny three pound hammers, it was comical to see the sledgehammer guys verses the three pounders go at it. We cracked and cracked, surface scanned and sifted through the soil. I heard Ole Bob call my name. Looking up, he was now holding on to a screen and another very large crystal. I jokingly yelled back “you planted that in there, it’s the one you found from before”. I walked over to see what he had… it was big, internally fractured and beautiful. Before the day was over Bob would dig up three very large specimens not counting the smaller crystals he found. Josh and I had several crystals but nothing comparable.

Using a despicable tactical maneuver, I slowly but surely worked my way around the pile and over to the area where Bob was and where his three big crystals came from. Now being opposite Bob on the other side of the pile, my work, as they say, was carved in stone. I started out cracking larger rock but a three pound hammer just doesn’t have the power for the size rock I was hitting. I moved to smaller rock and “yee-haw” I hit pay dirt. Trapped within the vug was what appeared to be a larger sized crystal. Only days later would my find fully be realized.

Like always there is never enough time, this site closes at 5:00 p.m. and there is still more to see of this site. This is an extremely extensive site. There is also an upper area, higher on the hillside. I still needed photographs of this area. We packed our belongings, bid our fellow diggers good luck and walked to the vehicle. The upper area can be driven to so off we went, past the central large pile, past the camping area, higher and higher.

The amount of loose rock up atop the hill is unbelievable. There is enough material up there to keep a digger busy for the rest of their years. We only had an hour before closing. First things first, photographs. We shot everything, barely missing a blade of grass. With that completed we picked a spot and worked it.

Half an hour later my puny hammer proved its worth and did big hammer work. I had been cracking rock for almost 3 days now so this particular rock was just another rock in a whole line of rocks. I lifted my hammer high to the sky and quickly, powerfully slammed it into this rock……. out it popped. I actually saw it go flying. A very large crystal freed from its vug after millions and millions of years. It is a perfectly formed crystal with just a dab of matrix still attached, completely and totally internally fractured, appearing white in color probably due to the number fractures. When you crack open a rock which in turn cracks through the vug walls and a crystal is in that vug, the crystal comes out very clean looking, as if it had just formed. What a find.

This site being as large as it will sound a horn to announce closing time. With the horn blaring, we returned to the car and shortly thereafter a jeep drove up the hill to remind prospectors, though no one was here but us two, it was closing time. A few last photos and back down the hill, now heading for the hotel and dinner.

The collecting trip had ended but photos and memories will remain. We located five out of five collecting sites in three days, took hundreds of photographs, had a car full of finds, made new friends, asked a lot of questions and had a lot of fun during the entire trip. It was an extremely productive trip, returning with numerous specimens in the matrix and loose. It was a trip well worth doing.

76 pound of rock

Though I will not go into details about what happened after returning home, here, the next step was to gently unpack and unwrap the specimens. There were some surprises and some disappointments as each specimen was about to be washed and cleaned.

Thank you

Remember: Even a small hammer can do big hammer work


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Frank, I very much enjoyed the last 2 articles you posted here on mindat - I can only imagine how much work it takes to organize. The reference to Herkimer-vodka was a huge surprise - perhaps in an attempt to regulate the market trade, we can state that every carat of Herk is equal to one shot of Dan Aykroyd's vodka!

Matt Courville
10th Jul 2017 8:16pm
Loved reading your Herkimer article. We had a good friend who spent his winters here in Arizona and summers in NY. He often went to the Ace of Diamonds Mine and always had great loose and matrix specimens. We got a very nice one from him out of his personal collection. He always told stories of his sledging at the mine and I loved hearing about it. He has passed away and reading your article took me back to his time and it was great to see the photos of the location he spent so much time in. Great article.
Rolf Luetcke

Rolf Luetcke
16th Jul 2017 9:21pm
great work Frank, I admire the detail and copious amount of work you put into your articles

Andrew Debnam
18th Jul 2017 2:22am

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