Retail Value: $899
Weight- 10 pounds
Width- 10 inches
Early in 2001, I received an interesting phone call from my friend Joseph, a mineral dealer. He said a fellow had dropped by to show him a truckload of crystals for sale. Joseph didn’t know what to make of it, as the crystals were gray, and supposed to be fluorescent. Fluorescence in quartz was unheard of…..
When Stuart showed up with his crystals and black light (shortwave ultra-violet C light source), I was knocked out by the strange formations and unearthly colors! Under ultra-violet light, almost all the pieces were slabs of glowing pink feldspar (known as microcline) with bright green glowing quartz growing on them in rows. Under sunlight, the microcline is practically pure white. On one side of the slabs were gray crystals that fluoresced. On the other side were green chlorite “phantom” crystals that did not fluoresce.
The strangest thing was that all the crystals lined up in rows, like little crystal cities. In between the rows were spaces that looked like streets.
These tiny neighborhoods expressed the feeling of cityscapes and skyscrapers in miniature.
Upon closer examination, the quartz crystals showed inclusions in “phantom” patterns of fluorescence. Typically, the crystal tips would have layers of glowing green under one or more facets. The green, under shortwave light, has swirling patterns and feathery edges. When I sent a crystal off for micro-probe spectrographic analysis, they found the layers were so thin, and so interspersed with quartz, that they couldn’t determine what was in their chemistry.
The formation of the crystals in the pocket was unusual. The crystal cave was shaped like a long vertical tube, with a smooth domed top. Instead of coating the walls, the microcline plates were stacked up side by side, like books on a shelf. The miners could shine lights between the plates, and see deep into the pocket through clear air gaps. It’s a mystery how one side of the plate contained chlorite, and the other side has green fluorescence. The two inclusions never mixed on the same side of the same crystal.
I believe these stones have a very complicated chemistry and geological history. There seem to be many traces of exotic elements in them. The chlorite, by itself contains
In addition, the glowing green color probably comes from chalcedony layers.
These crystals were mined above the 13,000 foot altitude in the Rocky Mountains. They are from a famous gem digging location called Mt. Antero. This mountain, in the Sawatch Range of Colorado, is best known for its gem aquamarine crystals. Dozens of other kinds of crystals are found there too, including fluorites, topaz and phenakite. The Mt. Antero aquamarines are so spectacular, that Colorado declared them as the state gemstone.
It was the aquas that drew the miners to this area. As they explored the mountain, one miner found a hole in the hillside that led to the fluorescent quartz pocket, now known as the Subway Mine. This has to be the most dangerous mining locale ever found. The hazards are numerous.
Because of the altitude, the area is iced over for 9 months of the year, and inaccessible. In fact, during the mining season of late June, July and August, the miners had to excavate through ice layers to get to the quartz. Each year the Subway cave would fill up with water and ice over.
The other hazards include oxygen deprivation from the altitude
awkward boulders and landslides
rock falls in the cave.
To reach the Subway pocket, you have to drive for an hour up the mountain. Then switch to an all-terrain vehicle for 90 minutes, followed by a 2-hour hike over boulders and loose gravel. A misstep can send the unwary down hundreds of feet of mountainside. All the crystals were wrapped in newspaper, then hauled out in back packs. The largest pieces were strapped to poles, and hefted out by two men at a time.
Here are some of my photos showing the crystals in sunlight, or shortwave C black light, or a combination of the two. I specifically enjoy photographing the ones that are most city-like. These alien landscapes look like they came from another planet. There is nothing else on earth like them!
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