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Christopher Wentzell's Mindat Home Page

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Christopher Wentzell's Mindat Gem Mine & Home Page

Registered member since 9th Mar 2011

Christopher Wentzell has uploaded:
302 Mineral Photos
217 Locality Photos
6 Other Photos
I am a gemstone miner/prospector/collector. My first collecting experience was panning for gold in the Truckee River on a family vacation with my Dad when I was 4 years old. From then on, summer family vacations included traveling to different sites across the western USA, Canada, and Mexico.
I have been involved with rocks, minerals, lapidary, gems, prospecting and mining ever since that time. My primary interests and specialties are in Precious Opal from the Virgin Valley area of Nevada, USA, and the Gem and Lithium bearing pegmatites of Southern California, particularly the Pala District.

I am also very interested in documenting the history of the mines and miners of these regions and have been working on a book for many years about American gemstone mining. Maybe someday I will get the chance to finish it. I am particularly fond of older photos and descriptions of gem mining areas and finds. I also enjoy collecting mining memorabilia from these old gem mines and deposits, and when I have time, finding old "forgotten" or "lost" mines. For nearly the past 20 years I have also studied American Mining Law, most of which was settled in the late 1800's to early 1900's, with exception to a few distinguishments. I often find that the miners themselves are as, (if not more), interesting than the mines and treasures they seek. I consider the most "valuable" piece in my collection not to be an actual mineral specimen, but rather an old rusty pick that George Ashley had given to me when I was 15 or 16 years old. I was so inspired by this that I began spending my weekends "growing up" at his place and primarily on Hiriart Mountain, and branching out studying other deposits in San Diego County. Besides my family (first and foremost), George Ashley, Blue Sheppard ("always look deeper"), Bill Larson, Ed Swoboda, Byron Weege, Pete Bancroft, Ruth Kirkby, John Sinkankas, and a handful of others, were the largest early influences in my becoming a collector, and miner myself. My heroes are all miners, collectors, geologists and prospectors who came before me, as well as those now and in the future.

In 1992 or 1993 I formed "Dominion Gem Mines" in southern California. In 1994 I formed "Dominion Opal Mines" and moved to Nevada to mine for opals to pay for a mining operation at the Katerina Mine in Pala, which never transpired. I formed the Virgin Valley Opal Miner's Co-Op with Leah Brashear, Larry Olds, and others in 1994-1995. I learned alot about life and people from my experiences in Virgin Valley: the "opal wars" started and then, due to a bad choice of "friends" I was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 15+ years for their actions; The courts and wheels of justice were slow to work, but the courts finally listened to me and agreed in 2009 that I was innocent. For this reason I have strong feelings about preserving and defending Constitutional Rights and helping those wrongly convicted seek help; I despise corruption. In 2010 I moved to South Dakota. For a number of years I held a group of opal mining claims in Virgin Valley, Nevada, and in 2011-2012 I sold them so that I could return back to my roots in the Southern California pegmatites, and I began to focus on prospecting/mining in various other locations as well. In 2011-2013 with my good friend, Ron Keller (as American Gem Exploration & Mining,) we began working a new Rose Quartz claim in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which we have since abandoned. I was a Member of the Coteau Des Plains Gem & Mineral Society (Watertown, SD)(Midwest Federation) from 2011-2013 and served as the editor of the club newsletter as well as on the Board of Directors through 2013. In 2013 I joined up with a friend as Dominion Exploration. In 2014 I lost the legal battle for my interest in the Katerina Mine at Pala, even though the Judge stated it was a "close case." Another lesson learned. The world and life is not fair, but you have to move on and keep going.

In early 2015 I formed Dominion Gems with William Pinna in Las Vegas, Nevada and in South Dakota. I currently reside in Watertown, South Dakota for the majority of the year working in my family's art gallery/studio (Birchtree Gallery & Northern Lights Stained Glass) and designing websites in my spare time, and I spend part of the year in the western USA to prospect, mine, buy & trade minerals, gems, and lapidary materials. My current affiliations (2015) are the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society (member) and the American Opal Society (member). My most recent collecting interests are focused on the following:

1. San Diego County, California, USA, gem pegmatite minerals, crystals & specimens;
2. Homestake Gold Mine (Lead, South Dakota) minerals, ore samples & collectibles;
3. Howardite (aka "Rattlesnake Jasper"), a rare lapidary material from Nevada;
4. Virgin Valley (Nevada USA) Opal specimens and historical information;
5. Other aesthetic or unusual specimens that catch my eye for one reason or another.

I travel quite a bit in search of old collections to purchase as well as to dig my own specimens and gem material, and I buy/sell/trade exotic lapidary materials from the western USA. I am working (2017) on several hopeful locations in Wyoming and other locations in the western USA. My father, Al Wentzell, owns the WRT Stonetree/Dominion Opal Group of Mines in Virgin Valley, Nevada, which continue to produce precious opals.
If I had a favorite mineral, it would have to be Kunzite. My favorite show at Tucson is the Westward Look. My favorite Museum is the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. My collection will someday be left to a museum, I haven't decided which one yet because I want the specimens where people can see them everyday, and not locked up in drawers or a vault, even though I currently keep most of my collection in the Bank and rarely get to enjoy it.

More to come in the near future..... Thanks for stopping by my page here on Mindat, and feel free to contact me! Always be inspired and know that you can overcome anything in life if you work hard at it!

The video below is of opals from the WRT Stonetree/Dominion Opal Mine Group in Virgin Valley, Nevada, owned by my father:


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