Smoky amethyst at Gypsum Moon Mine

We’re busy getting ready for our first dig, tentatively planned for this fall, and we’ve been working a new vein recently.

This is three of our team – Kay (sifting through recently excavated red clay for smaller points), and me (in the hole), and Marcy (doing the fishbelly flop in the recently excavated red clay, apparently a vitally important part of mining, just in case you haven’t read the Piggy Rockhound Handbook) – shortly before finding our first pieces of smoky amethyst yesterday.

We’ve been pulling out gorgeous clear and milky and smoky quartz points, but the purple had eluded us till then.

Pics of some of the smoky amethyst coming shortly, along with more details about this fall’s dig – leave us a comment if you want more info about that. We currently have an active list of participants, and plan to limit the number to 50 for the first dig.

February Birthstone Info: Carved Amethyst

February’s birthstone, amethyst, is purple quartz, 7 on the MOHS scale, which means it’s perfect for carving.

The word “amethyst” comes from a Greek phrase that means “not drunk.” The ancient Greeks named it that because they believed that amethyst prevented people from getting drunk no matter how much alcohol they consumed. They also believed amethyst prevented, or at the very least lessened the effects of, hangovers. So those canny ancient Greeks carved cups and bowls and goblets out of the stuff as drinking vessels for alcohol.

This is a carved amethyst bowl that I found in Amazon Crystals on etsy, and you can see more of it with details by clicking here.

Gorgeous carved amethyst bowl

The ancient Egyptians used it for jewelry, too, before the Romans.

Upper left: ancient Egyptian carved amethyst fish amulet. Lower left: ancient Egyptian carved amethyst beads. Right: ancient Roman carved amethyst intaglio.
This is a necklace made of stunning antique carved amethyst beads from Pansari Gems on etsy.

This is another particularly lovely vintage piece, carved amethyst beads in a 14 karat gold lavalier necklace, listed at Belmar Jewelers on etsy.

This is a necklace in our shop, multi strands of freshwater pearls with beautiful vintage carved amethyst beads from the 1960s – click here to see it up close and personal.

Kay’s pretty sure we’re going to find amethysts on our property eventually, because we certainly have plenty of quartz, and we have found the other minerals, like manganese and iron oxide, necessary to produce amethyst and smoky amethyst.  So we’ll keep digging, y’all.

More Fungus Amungus

We have so many different varieties of fungi in our woods that it boggles my brain, and they’re all beautiful. It’s on my list to get serious about learning to identify them, and harvesting and eating the non-poisonous ones.

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Do you see the little black ant on the lower right part of the mushroom up there? He was completely unfazed by the huge clumsy creature lying on the ground taking pictures. He was on a mission.

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Ever since I spontaneously named a previous blog post “A Fungus Amungus,” the phrase has been rolling around in the back of my mind. I remembered it from early childhood, but no details with it. Interwebs to the rescue: I traced it as far back as 1958, when Terry Noland released a song by that name. It was covered by another band in 1962. Click here to listen to Terry Noland’s 1958 version of the song – if you dare.

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Bright blessings,
CJ & Kay

Carnelian

Carnelian is the stone for the tropical zodiac sun sign of Virgo. From the 15th century through the early 20th century, it was also considered a birthstone for the month of August. It’s also the birthday stone for anyone born on a Thursday.

Carnelian is a lovely deep red to orange red to reddish brown color, and is a member of the chalcedony family (we both say kal-SED-n-ee, but KAL-suh-doh-nee is correct too), which also includes agate, jasper, onyx, chrysoprase, and sard, amongst others. Chalcedony is a variety of microsrystalline quartz. Its hardness on the Mohs scale is 7.

gorgeous piece of pockmarked carnelian rough - perfect for the jeweler, or to display as is
gorgeous piece of pockmarked carnelian rough – perfect for the jeweler, or to display as is

Kay cabbed a piece of rough carnelian and polished it up, then set it in a gorgeously simple sterling silver size 6 band, to make the ring shown below – you can take a closer look at it by clicking here.

carnelian cabochon ring

Gypsum Moon Mine: Strawberry Quartz

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One of the things we enjoy most on our early morning walks, away from our active digging areas, is watching the big quartz chunks that are gradually emerging from the earth. Often, after a good hard rain, a piece that was mostly buried one day will be ready to excavate the next, so we usually try to wait till Mother Nature’s done at least some of the work before we finish digging them out.

There’s one particular big piece of quartz that had us really intrigued, though, because we could see hints of the most extraordinary shade of reddish pink and all kinds of other major sparkles – red and silver and gold, oh my! – as well. A couple of weeks ago, Kay couldn’t hold out any longer, and we began digging. We finished excavating it about an hour later, then headed for home to clean it up and see what it was all about.

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Kay holding the strawberry quartz right after we dug it out.
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Success!

This is what it looked like in the late afternoon sun after we had hosed it down a bit at home. The quartz is smooth in some places, and there are crystals visible throughout. Takes your breath away, yes?

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Almost 12 full pounds of gorgeous strawberry quartz

So what, exactly, makes this particular chunk of quartz so vibrantly pink, as opposed to the other chunks that we regularly get from Gypsum Moon Mine, which range from clear to milky to pink to yellow to blue-gray? The presence of several other minerals, including:

  • Brookite, silvery grey rutile crystals scattered on the outside as well as embedded in the quartz itself.
  • Black magnetite which has oxidized to hematite, forming thin black or red crystals visible on the surface.
  • Limonite, a mineral mixture which can be found in the vugs and cracks and can be washed away, leaving behind some of the most interesting yellow, pink and clear crystals.
  • Lepidocrocite, exquisitely tiny red crystals, almost impossible to see individually without magnification.

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They don’t photograph well, but there are also plenty of tiny gold sparkles that can be seen glistening in the light, a beautiful shade of sunlight yellow. Not enough gold to make us rich, but still fun to find. We often think about the biggest gold nugget ever found in NC, which was found from right down the creek from us, over in Cabarrus County, in 1799. If you click here you’ll be able to read a complete history of the North Carolina gold rush – and there’s a timeline, with clickable links, so I really had a complete geek-out when I found it 😉

We love to hear from you, so feel free to post a comment or question – or joke, or recipe, whatever – below  🙂

Bright blessings,
CJ & Kay