A Mineral Collecting Story From "The Good Old Days"

Write By: tmmadmin Published In: Mineral Collecting Stories Created Date: 2015-01-23 Hits: 2776 Comment: 0

17 gem crystals from the Big Pocket

In September, 2006 I attended the Franklin, NJ show for the first time, hoping to buy some quality specimens. I was not disappointed, as the tailgaters were out in force, and there was lots of great material to choose from. After picking up our purchases, Jeanne and I headed over to Ogdensburg, to the Sterling Hill Mine Museum. We had been given a tip that the museum was holding its annual gem and mineral sale to clear out some of its excess specimens, and we decided to go take a look. We perused the goodies laid out on tables in the picnic area, then introduced ourselves to president and co-founder Richard Hauck, who showed us around the storage warehouse. It is a fairly large metal building, packed to the rafters with flats and boxes of mineral specimens piled onto heavy metal shelving. The specimens were of every quality level, from 25¢ to hundreds of dollars, all donated to the museum since it first opened in 1990. Amongst the flats we discovered a box marked "Smoky Quartz, Lovejoy Pits, Conway, NH." The locality, now closed, had its heyday in the 1950s, producing superb specimens of pegmatite minerals such as smoky quartz, topaz, and amazonite. Inside the box were about 30 smoky quartz crystals plus a bunch of smaller shards, along with an envelope with the return address of Wesley Crozier of Fair Haven, N.J (who died in 2000). Written in big letters were the words, "Smoky quartz crystals Big Find - 1959". Inside was a hand written document, which was an account of finding the crystals, along with a list of the size, weight and gem percentage of each crystal. I negotiated an acceptable price with Hauck, and we brought the lot home.

Later that year, we showed off the crystals at a meeting of the Keene Mineral Club, displaying them on an overhead projector to show off their flawless honey brown, gem interiors. We sold a few of the crystals, and had my friend Larry Bolaski, of Springfield, VT cut the largest one into a 335 carat gem stone. After that the crystals lay dormant in our basement until April of 2013, when a customer who is a collector of New England minerals visited our showroom. I showed him the box of crystals and told him the story. He was captivated, and picked one out for his collection. I promised him that I would type up the story and put it up on our website to share.

When I got around to doing that, I realized that Crozier's story is more than just a good collecting story - it is a link to a bygone era of mineral collecting in New England. Collectors often joke about the legendary times in the 1950's when you could go to a locality and simply pick up the gem crystals that were scattered everywhere on the ground. Obviously an exaggeration, but in this case, pretty darn close! So, here's an amazing story about finding a smoky quartz pocket in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, told with genuine excitement… and the tale comes to us directly from the "good old days" of collecting in 1959. I find this story a special treat, because rare that we get a glimpse of what amateur mineral collecting was like in the past.

- Eric Greene


Lovejoy Pits, Albany, NH

by Wesley A. Crozier

3.7" 1420 carat terminated gem crystal

The May/June 1955 issue of Rocks and Minerals magazine included a feature story concerning an important topaz discovery at Lovejoy Pits, Conway, New Hampshire. This article also told of quantities of smoky quartz crystals, some very lovely. Naturally the interest of the writer was aroused. In 1955-56 the family vacationed in Oxford Co., Maine, but pressure of time made it impossible for me to visit Conway. The same thing happened in '57 and '58 when we vacationed in New Hampshire. As time passed, there was talk n collector circles that the Lovejoy Pits were tired, or worked out, that it would be a waste of time to visit them. But visions of sugar plums still lingered, and the writer was a sitting duck for the circumstances of 1959.

In the third week of August, 1959, the family again chose New Hampshire for vacation and we settled down on the shore of beautiful Newfound Lake. The very next day Peter Farley and I visited our friend, the bee and mineral man, Mr. Edward Tivey, Sr., of Ashland, NH. He is the State of New Hampshire bee inspector, a mine operator, and an amateur mineralogist. We viewed his collection and saw a nice group of Conway matrix specimens, the usual small smokies on crystallized microcline. From that moment the die was cast, this had to be the year for smokies.

3.3" 1105 carat terminated gem crystal, with sawn bottom

On the morning of August 19, we drove the 60 miles from our rented cabin on Newfound Lake to North Conway in 90 minutes, finding the road excellent all the way. Using the directions in the Rocks & Minerals story, we drove straight to the pits. There were hundreds of holes, indicating the sites popularity with collectors. Two and a half hours later we wondered why we had come. A lot of exciting scratching and digging had turned up nothing of consequence and the whole area seemed to have a tired, dug-out look. Just before we became discouraged, however, I was fortunate in striking a vein which produced a specimen similar to ones shown in the article, though there was no topaz, for which the site is noted. . We spent the next three hours winning about 60 of these, as we worked the vein back underground. I did some exploring while Mr. Farley was relieving me at this pleasurable work. I found a lovely tip of a terminated smoky quartz crystal in an abandoned hole. As the vein became less productive, exhaustion overtook us so we packed up and returned to Newfound Lake.

4.2" 1535 carat terminated crystal

The next day, while we were collecting at one of the North Groton pegmatites, I began to think about that crystal tip. I figured there must be more if that one was left behind, and the characteristics of the granite had seemed promising. That evening we decided - back to Conway on the morrow!

The following morning at 6:30 AM we hit the road to Conway and, knowing the route now, made it in 75 minutes. With one definite purpose I mind, I immediately set to work digging out the abandoned hole to make more room. Then, with my trusty Estwing prospector's pick, I got down on my hands and knees and nose and explored every inch of exposed wall. After 15 minutes of fruitless tapping, a piece of crystallized spar fell and from behind it a black crystal rolled out that was about 1½ inches long and nicely terminated! I must confess to readers of this story that at this moment I became slightly excited. And even more so as another crystal and still others followed the first! And they were bigger!

I had come upon a pocket four feet from top to bottom, four inches in width and extending 2 ½ feet away from me as I probed it. It was solidly packed with debris which included a fluffy clay, crystallized microcline (some quite large) coated with albite, microcline with small smokies, and of course the loose smoky quartz crystals.

4" 1700 carat double terminated gem crystal

Almost all of the removing was done with bare hands as I didn't want to chance any damage to the beautiful crystals. This resulted in innumerable cuts but they went unnoticed at the time.

It required three hours to reach a false pocket bottom, then another one and a half hours to reach the true bottom. It took that long to empty the pocket and to satisfy myself that nothing had been overlooked. A total of 60 pounds of pocket material was removed and brought home, of which thirty pounds was discarded. We returned to Newfound Lake feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Yet another surprise was yet to come. After dinner that evening I decided to clean some of the crystals. I scrubbed a three incher, held it to the light, and let out a shout! I couldn't believe my eyes! It was a rich honey smoky color and perfectly transparent from tip to tip! A perfect, gem, smoky quartz crystal three inches long! Two other larger crystals, each four inches long, proved to be 100% gem stock, as did many other large crystals and many of the smaller crystals. The remaining crystals were 70% to 90% gem stock. This was a tremendous surprise after the 1955 Rocks & Minerals article had indicated that only a small percentage of the Conway smoky quartz crystals were gem stock.

Backlit section of a gem crystal

62.4 carat Smoky Quartz Gem Stone

The fifty finest crystals will be held intact for exhibition purposes. All have been numbered, weighed and measured. The largest is a barrel shaped, doubly terminated crystal four inches long weighing 323 grams. The smallest is about an inch long and weighs only a few grams. They are all bright and lustrous and did not require acid cleaning. There were 29 crystals 1" in length or less.

All of which goes to show that the tired out locations many only be as tired as the collectors who worked them.

Side view of 4" double terminated crystal

Total weight of crystals: 2,981 grams (6.6 pounds)
Gem or faceting percentage: 75% or 2,234 grams (11,170 carats) in terminated crystals
Fragments: about 4 pounds. Many will cut gems.
Other: 13 pounds of crystallized microcline, some with smoky quartz crystals and albite.

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