For years we have been driving past Herkimer, New York, on our way to and from New England. I have always wanted to try my hand at mining the famous Herkimer Diamonds. This year I finally got my chance!
Herkimer diamonds are actually not diamonds. They are actually incredibly clear double-terminated quartz crystals. We have found similar crystals in Payson, Arizona, but Herkimer is famous because the crystals are double terminated, which is very rare, and the area is full of these amazing crystals. These crystals began forming around 495 million years ago, when the area was a shallow sea. So, you can also find fossils among the rocks, as you are mining.
We met my brother in-law and sister-in-law at the Crystal Grove Mine in St. Johnsville. (Near Herkimer) We really only chose that mine because it was the closest one to where we were staying, in Albany, New York. It’s a decent mine and small campground. We couldn’t have fit our RV in there because of the low trees, but it’s a beautiful spot for a tent or small trailer.
We paid $12 per adult and $10 per child. We also rented some tools for about $7 because we forgot to bring ours. (We left them in our storage in Arizona. Oops.) We ended up using our 2lb hammer and the rented 3lb hammer and large chisel the most. We also rented a sifting kit, but hardly used it. In the future I would bring some huge hammers, chisels, buckets, eye protection, water, flashlights, and some long pointy tools to get into the cracks. Long tweezers work great. Now, of course, if you are a true miner, you will have fancier tools of the trade. We are just regular folk with an interest in finding cool stuff, so if you are like us, you don’t need to invest in much!
We had a great time searching for the crystals. The mine wasn’t busy when we were there, so we felt comfortable letting the kids hammer away. A boy near us found an incredible large crystal encased in the surrounding stone. That motivated us to keep pounding away. The rock is incredibly hard. The trick is to find fissures (cracks) in the rock face and chisel away until you open up a cavity. We found a few small crystals in the rock and accidentally broke a few as we were getting carried away with the hammers. But, we found most of our crystals in the tailings pile and on the ground, under rocks. The kids had a blast just hammering the rock! We didn’t find any award winning specimens, but we had a really good time!
They had a nice little grassy area with picnic tables that we ate our snacks at and looked over our finds. We stayed for around 3 hours. We actually filled a bucket with potential smaller rocks, to bring with us. Papa Nut is always soooooo thrilled when I collect buckets of rocks! Not! But, I wanted to bring them for the kids to hammer on when we got to New England. Just for fun. Plus, you never know…one of them might have that elusive huge crystal! Fingers Crossed!
Some of our teeny crystals
You can see that we didn’t get anything perfectly faceted. Just some pretty crystals.
Our larger crystals
Some of our druzy quartz
Crystals in the rock
Our “take-home” rocks.