Sunday, February 15, 2009


As any American rockhound should know, the countryside surrounding Hot Springs, Arkansas, is like nirvana. Within easy driving distance are Magnet Cove, an actual field of diamonds, and about a dozen accessible places to collect quartz crystals. Ubiquitous rock shops also have plenty of local materal that typically sells at fair, if not bargain prices.

For quartz crystals, a visit to one of numerous public quartz crystal localities is likely to prove a ticket to both fun and value. The fee to collect is rarely more than $20, usually less.

Three years ago when passing through in February en route to Tucson (then as now), I either telephoned or made a quick stop at most of these locations to gain perspective. With but one day to collect(then as now), I picked the Ron Coleman quartz crystal mine.

To find it, take Route 7 to Jessiville and look for signs. Access is from a large affiliated rock shop at the end of a dirt road. Collectors recieve a burlap bag in which to carry their treasures. The crystals are mined in deep pit that's off-limits to visitors. However, for $20 (less for kids and seniors) the extensive tailings are available to comb over and dig. They are routinely topped off with fresh material from the pit.The fee is good for the entire day, and collectors can leave and come back as they please. Anyone who fails to collect $20 worth of quartz crystals can request a refund.

I like that winter is not a busy period. Not only are the dumps less picked over than in high season, but the chance of showers is greater. Rain darkens the dirt and makes the colorless to milky crystals easier to detect.

Most of the crystals are single, some are twinned, and fadens are not uncommon They range in size from miniscule to about a pound. One need but crawl about the pilings with a trowel to find crystals at the rate of about one a minute. The more experienced collectors usually opt to dig into the tailings, one spot at a time, in the most recently replenished areas .They use various tools such as shovels trowels and hand rakes. The only other collector except me on this chilly recent January afternoon used a homemade hoe/wedge/hook type contraption he’d fabricated from farm equipment.

He was Obe Willix, a friendly jovial resident of the area who’s been a collector/dealer most of his life. He favors finding spots that seem promising and digging at them quite extensively, one spot at a time. Since crawling around the surface to cover as much area as possible had worked for me before and to spare my back, opted to crawl around as in the past.

Every once and a while I checked on Obe. He was collecting at least as many crystals as I was, significantly more of them larger than mine. It interested me that three years ago, I’d been able to score at least as many of those larger crystals within a similar time frame by simply scanning the surface of the tailings.

Perhaps the pickings were leaner now that three years had passed, or maybe the soil was more rain-darkened. Next time, though, I think I'll dig.

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