DIGGING FOR HERKIMER DIAMONDS
[A fictional account of the discovery of a large Herkimer
By: Michael Walter
It was an average day in all respects; partly cloudy, cool and windy ,
with a hint of rain on the horizon. Typical northern New York weather. I
found myself on this day mineral collecting not far from the city of Utica
in what has been dubbed "Herkimer Diamond" country. The specifics of the
location will remain secret for reasons that will become evident further
into this story.
The goal of this collecting effort was the recovery of double terminated
quartz crystals called Herkimer Diamonds. These semi-precious gem crystals
can be found throughout a large region of central New York. They form in
dense gray dolostone (dolomite) that makes up the flat lying sedimentary
bedrock in this area. Normally, cavities called pockets, form within the
stone and shelter the Herks from the ravages of nature. Safe in their
opening they manage to survive for eons until a lucky rockhound, like
myself, happens to break into the pocket to steal its contents. The
pockets range from fist size to several feet in diameter. Big pockets can
hold thousands of Herks and sometimes calcite crystals as well. On
occasion enormous pockets such as the one on display in the Smithsonian
Museum Hall of Minerals, have been found. This rare find is a reassembled
pocket some five feet in diameter and perhaps a foot deep. It is lined
with hundreds of crystals ranging in size from one-half to approximately
The crystals themselves are the envy of any mineral collector. Like other
quartzes' they are often water clear and extremely well formed. Unlike
other quartzes' they are
almost always double terminated. This means they have crystal surfaces,
faces on all sides with no points of attachment to their surrounding rock.
Thus, the title "diamond". In all respects they look like an object made,
or faceted by man, however they are formed entirely by nature. Some
crystals contain inclusions of other minerals or water and gases trapped
there during their formation. Some will be attached to the dolomite matrix
in which they form while most lie loose in the pocket not attached to the
encasing wall rock. As specimens of these crystals become large they often
acquire internal fractures and sometimes a smoky brown tint. Both add
character to the specimen and are generally accepted as aesthetically
pleasing. Very few Herks attain sizes beyond a couple of inches and remain
flawless. Clusters of Herks can be found which sometimes reach several
pounds in weight.
Rarities in the world of Herkimer Diamonds are crystals called scepters
and those showing growth patterns called skeletal. The skeletal crystals
exhibit incomplete growth of the crystal faces. They tend to look hollowed
out. Scepter crystals are extremely rare, usually small and more unusual
in their form. Their crystals look like a traditional clear Herk which
has been placed on a thin hexagonal stem of black quartz. Seldom are these
specimens more than two inches in length. In even more rare cases a
scepter cap forms on both ends of this stem and is subsequently referred to
as a dumbbell scepter. All these crystals, no matter how common or rare
exhibit great beauty. They are highly sought after by mineral collectors
and command premium prices as specimens.
It was their prices that brought me to this spot to engage in some of the
most difficult work imaginable. The crystals I find, I sell. Granted, I
have my own small collection of Herks in all their varieties, however, the
best specimens go to my loyal customers. It is these customers that allow
me the luxuries of paying my mortgage, driving a four-wheel drive truck and
traveling wherever I wish to collect minerals. Their prices can range from
a couple to several thousand dollars. The top specimens will occasionally
reach five figures, but this is exceedingly uncommon.
So, as I was digging I found myself sweating profusely. The temperature
was only around sixty degrees Fahrenheit, but that's what happens after
several hours of swinging hammers ranging in size from eight to twenty
pounds. I would hammer a series of wedges into the cracks between the
layers of dolomite and attempt to break free large slabs of the rock.
Removing larger sections saves a great amount of energy overall. The
pockets form within a single hard layer. Reaching this layer as
expeditiously as possible is a good move since Herks are seldom recovered
from any of the overlying rock. The pockets themselves are quite dense
within this layer, usually forming within a foot or two of one another
Today the going was slow. I had reached the pocket layer quite early in
the morning and hit one pocket almost immediately. It was an average
pocket with a diameter of about ten inches. The contents, however, were
not average. Four specimens were recovered from this small void; a two
inch skeletal crystal, a four inch smoky skeletal crystal, a small one inch
black stemmed scepter and a two inch dumbbell specter! The entire pocket
contained quality pieces and no junk. All would be saleable. The dumbbell
was exceptional. Beautiful large clear tips and also a small stem with a
third smaller tip branched off the black stem. This was a large high
quality piece that would probably fetch $500.00 to $1,000.00 dollars from a
regular customer of mine, Jason. He was always anxious to jump on new
finds I made and always purchased my best pieces. Herkimer diamond
scepters were his favorite and so I already knew this specimen would have a
Funny how things can start off so dramatically and turn dismal so fast!
Usually, when in an area producing scepters there are more to be found.
Sometimes as many as fifty or sixty specimens can be recovered in several
days of hard work. Now it was 2:00 p.m. and I had found nothing more since
that first strike. I wasn't complaining, however. That dumbbell was the
best specimen I had found all summer after two months of digging. I was
very happy with my success but puzzled by the lack of further pockets in a
normally rich layer. After a quick late lunch I got back to work searching
for pocket number two.
Finally! After pounding several large wedges for the better part of two
hours I heard the tell-tale pops and cracks created by breaking dolomite.
A large chunk approximately three feet wide, several feet tall and a foot
or so thick was breaking away from the wall of rock in front of me. It
took another hour of hammering, wedging and pry baring to finally tumble
this slab out of the way and reveal what lay behind it. What I saw was
totally unexpected. A hole the size of a bath tub wormed its way back into
the rock turning sharply to the left.
A pocket this large was startling. It was a foot wide at the wall and
opened slightly inward. Also, the floor of the void dropped at least
another two feet below the ceiling, making the depth of this cavern an
unbelievable four feet total. Very strange indeed.
Normally, Herk pockets are much wider than they are deep when they attain
enormous sizes such as this one. What was around the corner to the left?
Before I would answer that question I wanted to see if there were any
crystals in this part of the pocket. While lying on my stomach I reached
into the bottom of the pocket and moved around the small bits and pieces of
dolomite that filled its base. Bad news. No crystals.
Pockets containing no crystals are relatively uncommon, especially at the
site I was at, but not unheard of. This was looking like it would be one
of those "dry" pockets. How discouraging after such a promising start.
Generally, once a pocket is hit its finder will excavate its contents
entirely before leaving. Leaving for the day is opening the door for
someone else to step in and take its contents while you are away. That is
because most Herkimer diamond collecting areas are commercial sites where a
daily digging fee is charged and you can not stake a claim to any area of
the site. People dig where they please and when one leaves another can
continue in that same spot. I, however, was collecting in a section of
forest newly discovered by myself and another collector, Ted. We found the
site two years prior to this time and had managed to keep the location
secret. We had had great luck here for two years. In total this forty
foot long section of exposed ledge had produced fifty-five scepters and
several dozen skeletals along with the several thousand Herks of
traditional form. With the site being secret I could dig in solitude and
leave an open pocket without reservation. Even Ted was out of town that
week so I was truly alone to dig at my own pace. This was the only reason
I felt comfortable leaving the site on that day. I was camping in a small
clearing several hundred yards away. The next day I could return with
rested muscles and attempt to see around the corner to the left.
Rest was welcome after that intense day. I had begun digging at sunup,
approximately 5:00 a.m., and had only taken twenty minutes off for a quick
lunch. In all, almost twelve hours of hard manual labor with mixed
results. I remained anxious and hopeful through the night that the Number
Two pocket was going to produce crystals the next morning.
The Number Two Pocket
When I returned everything was as it was left. All my tools were
scattered about on the ground, the large hole discovered the day before
still penetrated the dolomite ledge where I had been working and I could
still not manage to see around the corner of this opening to view its
continuance to the left. My arm could reach around the bend in the cavern,
but there was nothing except the barren rock side walls for me to feel.
The ceiling and floor were both inaccessible to my grasping hand. I had no
interest in attempting to worm my body in, head first, to view around the
bend. Because I was collecting alone I made sure to exert more caution
than normal. Getting stuck in a hole in a rock ledge was not how I wished
to end my collecting days.
Something unusual hit me as I was fumbling near the opening assessing my
next move. The morning air that day was decidedly warm. Almost sixty-five
degrees and it was only 6:00 a.m. The air exiting the pocket was very
cool. In itself this was not all that unusual, but the fact that air was
exiting an opening that should be no more than several feet larger than the
already exposed section and that should have no second opening was strange.
My only experience with this type of setting was while doing cave tours as
a vacationer with my wife in Colorado. In caves air flow is possible due
to the caves numerous openings to the surface. Herkimer diamond pockets
have no openings less the one a mineral collector creates when breaking
into the newly discovered void. The pocket's similarities to a cave are
striking with the exception of size. Some collectors prone to exaggeration
throw about the term cave when describing large pockets, but this is only a
tongue in cheek description.
On that day the Number Two pocket was looking less like a pocket and more
like a cave. My excitement was rising to a fevered pitch because I
desperately wanted to see the remainder of this pocket and hopefully find
some quartz. The corner created by the bend to the left would be my next
point of attack. Several small fractures ran through this knob of rock
which blocked my view. The work began with my setting smaller wedges in
these cracks and hammering them home. It was an awkward position to work
in, but soon the knob which measured several feet in height began to
separate from the wall rock. It was breaking into several blocks which
would present no trouble to remove from the opening created the previous
day. The first block tumbled free. Once removed, the second was extracted
within moments. Still no view. Finally, the third block which was
considerably larger was worked out of the opening and tumbled off the
slight incline on which I stood. As my eyes began to focus on their new
view into the opening it became clear; cave was a term that applied to the
Number Two pocket. The opening shifted to the right and began to plummet
downward at an alarming rate. The diameter of this new passage was several
feet, which could easily allow my body across the floor of the entrance
until my head was over the drop off. Pitch blackness was all I could see.
My mind was racing now. This was unheard of territory for anyone
collecting Herkimer diamonds. It truly was a cave and I was going to be
the first to enter its depths, and perhaps, collect some goodies to boot.
An all out adrenaline fueled spirit found me back at my truck digging into
my bags for several new tools. A flashlight, head lamp and small mirror
on a flexible handle were with me on return to the Number Two pocket.
If you wonder why I didn't solve some of the darkness mystery by simply
tossing a pebble into the abyss and listening for its impact; the response
is easy. If there were crystals to be found here they would more than
likely have accumulated in the bottom of the opening. This is the case
with almost all Herk pockets. Attachment of crystals to the walls of a
pocket is unusual. Dropping a stone into the opening could only serve to
damage potential specimens. I had no intentions of satisfying my curiosity
in this way.
Once back in the entrance my head lamp showed an amazing sight. The cave
was at least the size of a large room. The floor was perhaps eight to ten
feet below me and the room was twenty to thirty feet in diameter. It was
oval shaped like traditional pockets, but so far beyond the dimensions of
any pocket previously discovered, that they would be dwarfs by
comparison. It then dawned on me that maybe this was not a pocket at all.
It actually was a cave. I had found no quartz or even an indication of
crystallized minerals like dolomite or calcite. What a roller coaster ride
this was becoming. Having discovered the largest Herkimer diamond pocket
in history or discovering a small empty cave are two totally different
Now the direction was down. First back to the truck for more gear. In
my emergency kit from the extended cab I recovered a twenty foot tow chain
and two fifteen foot sections of rope.
A small, but solidly anchored, tree was growing about fifteen feet from the
opening. The first section of rope was secured here and the second section
to the end of the first. Once strung through the opening and over the drop
off it looked sufficient to reach the floor of the cave. After setting
aside the chain I put a whisk broom and a large screw driver into
my back pockets, turned on my headlamp and began my feet first
entrance into the openings. This was intimidating and awkward. My legs
first hung out over the drop off, next my waist. I clutched the rope like
it was my only link to life. Hand under hand I descended until my feet hit
bottom. To my surprise I was greeted by cold water up to my ankles. It
was so calm that my light had penetrated through it showing me the rocky
The views that followed were nothing short of Alice-in-Wonderland images.
The cave was at least several room lengths in size extending to the north,
away from the direction I had dug into the ledge, for at least sixty or
seventy feet. The only water present was the pool I was standing in and
that was actually no larger than a child's swimming pool. I stepped out of
the water on to the slippery clay covered floor of the cave to get my
No stalactites hung from this caves ceiling nor did stalagmites rise from
the floor. This was a large hole coated mostly by clay like mud, damp,
cold and, I was sure, pitch black if my headlamp failed. The ceiling was
only slightly higher than my extended hand at all points throughout this
cavern. Mud covered everything. Generally, the coating was thin, but in
some areas near the walls or any elevation changes in the floor the mud was
thicker. It looked like perhaps up to a foot thick as my boots would
sometimes sink well below their tops as I stepped in these sediments.
The next three hours were an adventure like I had never before
experienced. I poked with the screwdriver and scraped away mud with the
broom in hopes of finding some sign of Herks in this cavern. Most of the
walls revealed tiny quarter to half inch dolomite crystals coating their
surfaces below the mud. This might have been attractive if the walls of
the cave had been completely hosed off. Their color was a light pastel
pink. Dolomite crystals, however, are looked at as being close to
worthless by the worlds mineral collectors. They are very common opaque
and quite uninteresting in their form. At this point I was thinking that
this discovery might be of interest geologically, but from a mineral
collectors point of view would still classify as a dry hole. Search as I
may, there was no sign of quartz, or for that matter, even calcite.
After a total of six hours of exploring I sat down on a large protrusion
of rock from one of the walls and allowed my headlamp, whose beam was
beginning to dim, a scan of the cave. My tracks seemed to cover every
square foot of the void. Many of the reachable areas of wall were clawed
up by my scrapping away of mud and I was literally covered from head to toe
with mud. Where to look next?
A ledge of sorts lay on the opposite side of the cave from me so I walked
to it. The mud seemed thickest here and was difficult to explore. The
ledge was only about four feet above the floor so I could manage with some
difficulty to climb up onto it. After this effort my face and headlamp
were covered by mud, as well. I finally realized how dark it actually was
down there. After scrapping the lenses clean I viewed a narrow opening
extending westward from the main body of the cave. On my hands and knees I
could shimmy my way into the channel which was about three to four feet
wide in most places. After I had entered several feet into the opening I
started noticing sharp pains in my hands and knees. These were similar to
what one might feel if he was to go hands and knees across a gravel road
covered in mud. I immediately shoveled away the several inches of mud on
the floor below me to reveal larger dolomite crystals. They were up to two
inches across, still pink in color and all solidly attached to the floor of
the opening. In fact, they covered all the walls and ceiling too. The mud
completely obscured them from view.
These crystals were a welcome sight. Though dolomite crystals are common
and not generally considered to be a collectors species of mineral, these
were quite nice. Their unusually large size, good crystal form and pink
color could make them nice specimens. They were saddle shaped crystals
that formed as a complete coating over all the surfaces on the ledge and
through the opening. The clay was so thick and dense I was not overly
concerned about my damaging the crystals as I crawled over them. An
enormous effort would be required to chisel away sections of this wall rock
and remove the crystal masses in tact, but at least the Number Two pocket
would not be a complete bust. Because of the large surface area on this
ledge and within this opening, I would count on hundreds of specimens of
dolomite clusters being recovered from this spot. It was not the "Mother
Lode," but a nice find just the same.
Because of the new found excitement with discovery of these crystals I had
failed to realize the last of my headlamps batteries were failing. I
quickly slid off the ledge and back into the pool of water below my rope.
Now a serious problem presented itself. Covered by mud I would get no grip
on the rope with my hands or traction on the wall with my feet. The dimly
lit entrance into this cave was no more than eight feet above the cave
floor, but I could not reach it. Even after washing my hands thoroughly in
the water I still failed to gain the purchase necessary to escape. To
compound matters the headlamp was now completely dead. The only light in
the cave was a dim shine from the entrance hole out of reach above me.
A brief panic set in. I was so close to getting out yet couldn't.
My wife would not consider me missing until two more days from now when I
failed to return home. Ted was out of town and no one else would come here
because the site was a well guarded secret and at least a quarter mile from
the nearest road. I reached the site via a skidder trail used for logging
purposes. No one would find me for at least a couple of days.
After my heart stopped racing the solution quickly presented itself. I
took the rope handing in front of me and formed a loop using a bowline knot
about four feet above the cave floor. I placed my right foot in the loop,
pulled myself upright on this stirrup and the entrance was now at the level
of my face. The rest was strenuous but simple. I worked my elbows onto
the lip of the entrance, grunted, groaned and eventually had my torso in
the entry hole and finally squirmed my way into the oppressive heat of the
After stripping naked I slid into the warm water of the beaver pond. The
muddy clothes came with me and were slapped repeatedly against the waters
surface to help remove their heavy coatings of mud. As for myself, the mud
had not remained on the clothings surfaces but had managed to penetrate
everywhere. As I moved through the chest deep water a mucky brown wake
followed me. In part the mud came from the pond's bottom, but mostly from
me and the clothing I towed with me.
Having managed to get reasonably clean I exited the pond and walked back
to my truck which was about a hundred yards away. My mood was elated. Not
only had I just made a wonderful geological discovery, that discovery was
entirely on my own land. This site was part of a several hundred acre wood
lot that my wife and I had purchased eight years prior. We did not burn
wood in our home which was approximately three miles away, so this forested
section of land had remained virtually untouched. All that was there was a
small stream, its beaver pond, several partially grown over logging roads
and numerous rock ledges ideally suited for my hobby and business. The
discovery of the cave was unlikely to make me rich from its minerals, but
would surely become a conversation piece or perhaps the topic of a magazine
Once back to the truck I put on my street clothes, left my tent and tools
and drove home. On the way home I pondered over how best to extract the
dolomite crystals upon my return. It would be difficult work no doubt, but
I would be prepared.
Two days later I was ready to begin work. The day prior I had set up
an elaborate system that I hoped would cure the problem of the mud. I had
a five horsepower, gas run water pump that I used to empty collecting pits
and sometimes our flooded basement in the spring months. To this I
connected sections of one and a half inch plastic hose and ran a line from
the beaver pond into the cave. The pump was stationed about half way
between the pond and cave, fueled , primed and started. Instead of pumping
water out of the cave I pumped water in at an alarming rate of one hundred
and forty gallons per minute. After climbing down my sturdy homemade
ladder into the cave I would use the setup like a fire hose to wash the
walls of the cave free of mud. Especially the area on the ledge, which had
the large dolomite crystals. It was a fairly slick arrangement: water to
wash with, my digging tools in five gallon pails inside the cave, a
homemade ladder, several battery powered lights, a fully charged headlamp
with a backup on reserve would all serve to make this phase of the
operation far more pleasurable than the first day in the Number Two pocket.
An hour of hosing, primarily in the ledge area of the cave, revealed
layers of beautifully formed, light pink dolomite crystals coating that
entire section of the cave. I was guessing that I had washed off
two-hundred to two-hundred and fifty square feet of beautiful dolomite and
I had still not found the back of this channel into the wall above the
ledge. Now the entire channel was filled with mud so even though the water
flow and pressure was beyond my expectations, the going was still slow.
After a total of two hours of hosing I had proceeded into the wall fourteen
to sixteen feet. The tube like opening had remained consistent in size,
about four feet in diameter, and had traveled upward for most of its
length. The top of the tube was now about equal in height with the top of
I went to the floor of the cave and found over a foot of water covering
its entirety. Simple solution, reverse the hoses and pump the water on the
cave floor out. During the time this was going on I took pads and sections
of old carpets, brought for this purpose, into the cave and covered the
nice dolomites I had exposed. Next I crawled into the tube. Near the very
end I was greeted by a surprise. On the dolomite crystals in the last two
feet of the tube were Herks! Hundreds of shiny crystals one quarter to one
half inch in size were peppered on the light colored dolomites. Being
water clear I would have missed them if not for their sparkling
reflections. It was wonderful. None of the Herks were large, but I was so
excited to finally find what I had been looking for all along. I had long
since written off any potential for the cave having Herkimer diamonds in
it. There had been no indication that there would be anything other than
dolomite to be found here. Then it hit me. I was back up on the pocket
level of the area's bedrock. Herks were only found on this one level and
the cave was below that level. Now that the opening was returning to the
pocket level would more quartz be found? It seemed so.
The back of the tube was still packed with mud and appeared to continue
on. The opening had even widened to about five feet in diameter. Still to
low to stand, but encouraging. Another reversal of the hose and I was back
to work. The previously uncovered dolomites and their carpets and pads
were getting coated by mud once again. I didn't care. Quartz was what I
had come here for and now I was finally finding some. Suddenly a large
section of mud toppled away from me and I almost slipped toward it. It
fell into another large chamber.
I could now walk upright into this new cave section that made me realize I
really was Alice, and I was, in Wonderland. The hose was thrown back down
the tube and I gawked awestruck by my surroundings.
Everything sparkled in the luminescence of my headlamp. Quartz almost
everywhere! No more mud. Only that which had fallen into this room of
glitter. I only took two steps into the room and this was on the mud that
had just fallen inward. The floor was covered by crystals of all sizes.
It was a shocking display that had me breathing heavy and my heart racing.
I had never dreamed that a place like this could exist. Kneeling down to
catch my breath I picked up the first specimen from Alice's pocket. It was
a five inch Herk that was almost water clear. Being a mineral dealer made
me think about what this specimen would cost. Then it hit me that there is
nothing to compare it to! The highest price I had ever seen on a Herkimer
diamond specimen was $35,000.00. The one I held was probably a superior
piece and there were at least twenty specimens as good or better than this
one within arms reach!
Still on my knees I more closely inspected my surroundings. The walls and
ceilings were coated by large dolomites up to two inches in length just
like the entry tube on the Number Two pocket's ledge. Sparsely scattered
on these walls were Herks. They appeared to be firmly attached to the
dolomites. The ceiling height ranged from five to seven feet. Alice's
pocket was about eight feet wide where I stood, tapered down to about five
feet near its center and then expanded to twelve, or perhaps fifteen feet
at its farthest reaches. In total this hour glass shaped cavern looked to
be forty or fifty feet long.
Scanning the floor revealed Herk of all sizes. Mostly clear, but some of
the largest crystals had a lovely smoky tint. The biggest crystal in my
view was only four or five feet away from me. It was easily two feet
across, maybe three, and had two smaller attached crystals as big as
grapefruits. There were some internal fractures in this monster crystal,
but overall there was no damage to it. I immediately knew it was world
record in size, maybe weighing as much as two hundred pounds.
I began picking up crystals within my grasp and found all of them to be
loose on the floor of the pocket. I cleared away places to step so I could
move further into the cave. Picking up crystals and setting them on others
near by allowed me to clear spots to walk. Once crystals were moved aside
the floor of the cave was totally barren. There were not even dolomite
crystals. Using this method of clear stepping spaces I progressed toward
the center of the cave making discovery after discovery as I went. Two to
four inch water clear Herks were common. There were literally hundreds of
these. Clusters of crystals were also quite common. I encountered several
that were at least a foot in diameter and composed of fifty to several
hundred crystals. One shocking discovery hit me after about a half dozen steps into the
first half of the chamber. More important than the value of these specimens was the huge number of pieces
that were of such high caliber as to outclass their counter parts in the world's top
museums. The specimens from Alice's pocket would be these museum specimens
replacing them. These would be the specimens in the worlds top private
collections. These would be the specimens to be studied and researched
due to their unusual geological occurrence and the tremendous dimensions.
These would be the specimens all mineral collectors would remember their
Once I reached the center of the chamber more unusual finds were noticed.
Because the chamber was hourglass shaped I was unable to see around the
bottle neck created at its center by the walls that tapered inward. Behind
the wall to my left I noticed what looked at first like a pile of poor
quality translucent gray crystals. This actually was a huge mass of
ingrown calcite crystals and Herks. Because the luster was not mirror-
like on the calcites the reflection off this mass was somewhat dull. On
closer inspection it proved this find could be even more impressive than
the world class crystals already seen. The mass was composed of hand sized
gray calcites that were disk shaped rhombohedrons. These were growing on
and out of enormous football sized skeletal Herks. There were seven large
Herks composing the body of this piece and hundreds of calcites rising from
the faces of them. This entire three foot specimen looked to be partially
attached to the floor and far wall of the cave. I could only imagine the
surgeon like work that would need to be done to remove the entire cluster
of crystals without damaging it. Again my heart was racing.
This had become the most pleasurable walk I had ever taken. I was wishing
for more light then my headlamp would provide so I could inspect each
crystal more closely. I swooned with the thought of the hundreds of hours
I would have to spend in this cave extracting, wrapping and bringing to the
surface these exquisite specimens. No one had ever seen Herk crystals of
this size and quality. These pieces would rock the world of mineral
This glorious walk now found me beginning entry into the second lobe of
this glittering ballroom. Now the frequency of skeletal crystals
encountered was increasing. I scanned ahead with my light more carefully
and for the first time noticed something I had failed to before. About a
dozen steps in front of me on the farthest end of the cave was a slight
rise, perhaps a foot or so in the floor, approximately five feet in
diameter was an area where the crystals were stacked in a thicker layer.
As with the other areas of the caves floor the crystals were so tightly
packed against one another their individual outlines and details were only
possible to see when you were right beside them. Generally, the floor
looked like a solid glittering mass of glass from more than a couple feet
The dome near the back of the cave caught my interest because it appeared
different. The crystals did not look tightly packed together. It looked
as if there were gaps or spaces between them, however, the spaces between
the crystals seemed to glitter too. As I approached and achieved a better
visual focus on this dome I recognized the blackened areas between crystals
were actually scepter stems. Thickly included with dark anthraxolite, an
organic material much like anthrocite coal, they glittered like the clear crystals but
were opaque. It was at this point I felt my knees begin to wobble. I was
only several paces away from the dome and was already sure that even the
smallest of these scepters were far larger than the biggest ever found.
Also, the pieces I was moving on the floor in clearing my foot path began
showing the first signs of scepter growth. Most were two or three inches
in size and the vast majority were dumbbell forms with occasional branching
scepters off their main stems.
To date the largest sceptered Herkimer Diamond I had found was slightly
less than four inches long. There were rumors of a six inch to eight inch specimen, but
confirmation of that was lacking. I was now two steps away from the dome
and every piece on the floor surrounding me was a scepter in the three to
nine inch range! Several floor pieces were scepters that had formed
ingrown masses that radiated in all directions like stairs. Their centers
were dark with anthroxolite and each tip was capped by a clear Herk, some
several inches in diameter.
Standing beside the dome coated with scepters was an indescribable thrill.
The crystals were not attached in any way to the dome, floor or wall
behind the dome. They simply lay there waiting to be picked up. I took
great care in lifting and inspecting several of the crystals on the dome.
The largest was a baseball bat sized dumbbell that laid on the edge
nearest to me. Its stalk was thick, perhaps four inches, and the tips
were the size of softballs. One tip was a combination of several ingrown
clear crystals between two and six inches in diameter. This specimen was
truly like the scepters held by royalty from which this crystal form
received its name. I did not try to pick up the specimen fearing it might
break under its own mass. This one would have to have a special gurney
constructed for its removal from the cave.
In total the walk across Alice's Pocket took over five hours. When I
turned to exit I noticed for the first time the aching in my legs created
by the slow, sloth like trek across this short distance. The walk back to
the chambers entrance took only a matter of minutes, but was racked with
every imaginable emotion. Guilt for having walked through and knowingly
planning the dismantling of such a special place. Fear of any damage that
could be incurred by these totally unique specimens during their
extraction. Joy at being the first to discover and view this geological
One year to the day I now stand here in the American Museum of Natural
History in New York. Surrounding me are the specimens I was first to view
in Alice's Pocket with the "Baseball Bat" standing vertically in the center
of this temporary exhibition. People will begin to enter in about ten
minutes and I find myself sweating bullets. There have been mixed emotions
by the public concerning the discovery of Alice's Pocket. I fully know
these people will never realize the thrill it was to stand there headlamp
glowing that ballroom of quartz. They won't understand the months of
pleasure I spent in that pocket inspecting and removing each crystal
specimen. There is one thing they will probably understand, however, after
viewing these exceptional works of art. That is that Mother Nature out did
herself when she created the treasures of ALICE'S POCKET.
The truth of the matter...
During the summer months the author is an avid
field collector of mineral crystals. One of his areas of focus over the
past decade has been the specimens of the Herkimer Diamond region of
central New York. His discoveries have been limited to pockets up to six
feet in diameter and Herks of ten inches in length. Though he has
recovered numerous museum class specimens those of Alice's Pocket remain
fictional. So far.
On the other hand, this book is factual...
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