Saturday, September 5, 2009

Amethyst, the lovely purple stone~

Did you know that Arizona is America's leading gem mining state? Here you will find vivid, natural colors of Amethyst, Peridot, Turquoise and Garnet that just seem to come alive in our desert southwest. I've spoken a while back about our Sleeping Beauty Turquoise and our Copper mining that we have in our state, so today I'm going to tell you about the Amethyst mine that we have just east of downtown Phoenix. As a little girl, I was raised in Scottsdale on the edge of town and the Salt Rive Indian Reservation. From that point east there was nothing to obstruct the view of the Four Peaks mountains. At night we could see the lights way up on the side of the mountain, between the two southern peaks. This is where the mine is located. You can see the mine is this photo towards the right between the two most southern peaks.

The Four Peaks Lode as it is commonly known, was discovered back in the 18th century. It is one of the most unique gem mines in the world. Now, after many years of inactivity, the mine is being worked and we will again see the helicopter flights. You see, this mine is in a very remote spot up on the side of a mountain about 60 miles east of Phoenix, up about 7,100 feet in elevation. The location of the amethyst mine is at one of the most remote and rugged parts of the Mazatzals mountains, the Four Peaks Wilderness Area in the Tonto National Forest. Therefore, the only way in is by foot trails or helicopters. All the mining is done by hand for the most part and the precious uncut Amethyst is carried out by mules or helicopters. The miners usually stay there in the mine shafts for protection up to seven days at a time, then they either hike back out with their mules or take a helicopter ride back to the valley floor.
Amethyst is known for it's extremely powerful and protective strengths. It has strong healing and cleansing powers and enchances spiritual awareness. For centuries, amethyst has been considered the royal gem because of its color. Purple was the emblem of rank or authority and the color most often associated with European monarchs. It has been reported through Spanish history that significant shipments of these gems found their way into crown jewels of five countries back in the 18th century.

The Mineralogical Record of March 1976 describes the process by which these crystals were formed. "The amethyst of this deposit occur in linings of voids in faults of the Mazatzal quartzite. The voids were intermittently filled with hot liquid solutions from intrusions below. Successive stages of quartz deposition occurred, as evidenced by alternating concentric rings of colorless quartz, hematite and amethyst around the angular fragments." The purple color that enhances the quartz is caused by the presence of manganese in these hot solutions that flooded the cavities in the uplifted peaks millions of years ago. The more valuable darker colors reflect a higher manganese content. The value is also dependent upon its clarity or lack of foreign material in the solution as it was being deposited.

It is known that a prospector named Jim McDaniels did rediscover the deposit about 1900. He was following a quartz "float", usually a good precursor to gold. Instead he found the canyon floor littered with purple crystals. This is what gives the Four Peaks that purplish look. Gold and silver were the only objectives of most prospectors in those days so the site was merely noted and left untouched. They didn't start mining this site until the 1940's and it was active for about 50 years. They closed the mine then, but recently it has been reopened again and the mining has continued.

Arizona is probably the only state in the U.S. which produces top quality stones, according the Ken Phillips Chief Engineer for the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources Department. He further says, "The best amethyst from the Four Peaks mine is considered to be as good as that found anywhere in the world." Another reference book, Mineralogy in Arizona, states, "Superb gem-quality amethyst of a rich, red-violet color was produced from the Four Peaks mine and rivals the best Siberian material, which is the standard of the gem trade."

I am the proud owner of a piece of this precious Amethyst that came from this mine. It is really exquisite! It measures about 6 inches by 4 inches in diameter. It's quite a big specimen. Honestly, I'm not sure how my family acquired this amethyst, but it was my brother who brought it into the family. While he was in college he was studying Geology, and his class would travel all over the state for geology expeditions. As you can see, it's a rough cut, this is how it comes out of the mine. But it has the richness of the deep purples and light lavenders. It truly is breathtaking.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Amethyst in Arizona. Next I'll do some research on the Peridot and Garnets in our state.
Have a great day!



Canadian Rockies Art - Nathalie Girard said...

Oh wow!!! Donna, this is such awesome information!

I LOVE Amethyst and you have such a lovely specimen of it... it's really stunning. I could sit there and stare at the picture for hours.

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information. I've learned a lot about one of my favorite stones by reading your post :)

I look forward to your next installment in this series!

Creative Treasures by Donna said...

Thank you Nath! I'm glad you enjoyed it! We have all sorts of little surprises here in this state....beside creepy crawly things! LOL! ;-)

mairedodd said...

i love learning about things like this... thank you for your comment on my blog... i wasn't gloating about our weather, just last week it was pretty gross here... i am just grateful! i have heard arizona is beautiful... someday i would love to visit sedona... your piece of amethyst is beautiful...

Creative Treasures by Donna said...

Thank you Marie. I appreciate that kind words. Yes, we do have an interesting state. :)

Veganosaurus said...

This was such an interesting post Donna. Thank you so much for sharing all this info. with us!! :)

Amethyst is one of my favorite crystals and the specimen you own is simply fabulous! Wow!

Can't wait to read about the other stones you see the gorgeous jewelry you create with them :)

Creative Treasures by Donna said...

Thank you Sus! I appreciate you stopping by.

Cindy Pack said...

Wow Donna! Thank you so much for sharing this with us! From now on I will be asking you all my gem questions! :)

dhendricks said...

I just stumbled on your blog post. My great Aunt, Cecile Storer, used to own the Four Peaks Mine in the 60's and 70's. She had geodes in her house in Fountain Hills about 3 ft tall and also owned several shops, including one in Fountain Hills until close to her death a few years ago. I used to get Four Peaks Amethyst jewelry every Christmas (of which I didn't quite appreciate at the time as a child). Here is my blog about it if you are interested -