One our favorite new shows on TV is Prospectors on the Weather Channel. It follows three or four teams of prospectors in the Colorado high country looking for gemstones, mainly up on Mount Antero west of Colorado Springs.
We went to the Museum of Nature and Science yesterday and got to see some of the gems they’ve collected.
Probably the two most famous ones are Diane’s Pocket of aquamarines and the huge red crystal of Colorado Rhodochrosite taken out of the Sweet Home Mine in Alma, Colorado.
Aquamarine is the official state gemstone of Colorado. Serious prospecting for aquamarine began in the Mt. Antero area in the late 1800s.
The best aquamarine finds on Mount Antero have been on the eastern side of the mountain at elevations over 12,000 feet. The challenges of looking for aquamarine on Mt. Antero are its altitude, weather, and remote location.
At over 14,000 feet in elevation, the weather can be cold, and the aquamarine hunting season is limited to about three months of summer. Wind, lightning storms, and frequent afternoon rains and hailstorms can be life-threatening at low temperatures and high altitudes.
Mt. Antero has grown in popularity with gem hunters after being featured on television prospecting shows. Today there can be a few dozen working claims at any given time on Mt. Antero, and visitors must be careful not to trespass on someone’s claim. Many claim holders are very unfriendly to visitors because they have put in a lot of sweat and effort hoping to find a nice cavity of high-value gems.
In addition to Mt. Antero, a few other Colorado locations are known to yield nice aquamarine crystals. These include Mt. White, which is connected to Mt. Antero by a high saddle. Nice specimens have also been found on Mt. Baldwin and Mt. Princeton, all peaks of over 12,500 feet and located nearby.
The most famous mine in the world for superb rhodochrosite crystals is the Sweet Home Mine, located near the community of Alma, Colorado. It was opened in 1873 as a silver mine and was worked on and off for silver until the 1960s.
Afterwards, we went to see the new ‘Whales: Giants of the Deep’ exhibit from New Zealand. That was really cool.