We enjoyed digging and screening for emeralds and other gemstones down in North Carolina. We looked for some place closer to us in New York. There really isn’t much in the way of good gemstones in New York. Oh well. But there are the Herkimer "Diamond" mines over in the eastern part of the state.
We had known about the Herkimer Diamond mines for years, but had never been there. We decided it might fun to try. Our wedding anniversary was coming up, so I thought it would be fun for us to get away, and maybe trying digging for "diamonds".
Herkimer Diamonds are not real diamonds, but are double terminated, water clear quartz crystals. Supposedly they are rarer than real diamonds. Rare or not, they are nowhere near as valuable as real diamonds.
There are several Herkimer Diamond mining places. I did some research, and several reports seemed to indicate that Crystal Grove was the best place to get diamonds.
I took Friday off from work. We left about 8am and arrived at Crystal Grove a little after 11am. I had reserved a cabin weeks earlier. We checked in, paid for a couple days of mining, and unloaded some of our stuff in the cabin. The cabin smelling great, like freshly cut wood.
Then we headed down to the mine. There are actually several mining locations, but the proprietor said the Tears of Wenedi mine was the best. I had bought various tools such as a new sledge, shovel, wedges, and crack hammers. I made some wedges from spring steel leaf springs as mentioned in various articles. So the first place I headed to was the wall. A couple serious guys were already working on one piece of the wall. I found some other places, trying to find some cracks. I found some small cracks, and worked on splitting them open. Within the first few blows of the hammer on the chisel, I managed to hit my knuckle and was bleeding all over the place. It didn’t hurt, and eventually I got it to stop bleeding. I did succeed in splitting off some small pieces of rock, but only revealed more rock. Over the weekend I did learn more about how to split off big chunks of rock by watching the two guys. They broke off a huge amount of rock.
When trying to break off chunks of rock wasn’t working, I tried breaking smaller chunks of rock with the crack hammer. This wasn’t very productive either. My wife chose to dig over in the soft dirt, and she was managing to find some stuff.
I started searching the ground, looking for flashes of reflected lights. This was producing more than digging at the wall or breaking rocks.
I hooked up with a guy named Dave and he showed me how he was finding diamonds. He was filling a bucket with dirt, and then screening it in one of the mud puddles. Fortunately I had brought one of my screens from home. This method worked very well and was very productive. The trick with this method was where to get your dirt. I tried digging mud out of the puddles, dug dirt from the base of the wall, dug dirt out in the open. The best place seemed to be long the base of the wall. Dave asked the couple serious guys if he could take dirt from where they were working and they said okay. I asked them too, and they said okay for me too. This produced the best stuff. Much of what we found were shards of broken Herks. But I kept most of these thinking my wife might still be able to use them for her crafting. But I found many small doubly terminated crystals, crystals with attachment points, and crystals still attached to small pieces of rock. I also found chunks of calcite, and rocks with what I think were dolomite crystals. Anyway, I did this for two days in a row and feel like I was beaten with a baseball bat. It was hard work!
My wife had our dog on a leash, went and dug in the soft dirt that was in the shade most of the day. She found some nice stuff too, but not nearly as much as I got. It was nice that we were able to bring our dog and not have to check her into a kennel.
The campground itself was nice. The cabin was clean and had a small space heater as well as a ceiling fan. The ceiling fan didn’t seem to do much however. I think it was mounted too close to the ceiling. Opening the windows and get a cross draft worked better. The bathrooms were clean. The showers were decent. They are different in that you have to pull a cord to get water, which will shut off when you release the cord. So you end up showering with one hand up in the air and scrubbing with the other.
Check out was the only issue. We packed our car up and were ready to leave before 8am. But there was nowhere to leave the cabin key. There was a drop box to leave checkin stuff for overnight arrivals, but the slot was too narrow for the key chain to fit. The office was scheduled open at 8am, but according to their website, they may not open till 10am early in the season. Fortunatly the manager came out to check on her dog which was barking at our dog, and I was able to give her the key.
I enjoyed our visit, and would like to come back sometime.
Crystal Grove is located at 161 County Highway 114, St. Johnsville, NY 13452. Their phone number is 1-800-KRY-DIAM. They have a website at: http://www.crystalgrove.com