Got Crystals? Gem Mining Could Be Your Full-Time Job – by Alexandra Marvar (New York Times – October 19, 2020)

Moonstones in Montana, amethyst and emeralds in North Carolina, garnet and quartz in upstate New York. At pay-to-dig mines around the United States, visitors can paw through piles of mine tailings to uncover crystals and gemstones on “finders, keepers” terms for as little as $10 a day.

At Herkimer Diamond Mines in central New York, home to an especially clear and unusually hard type of quartz crystal known as the Herkimer diamond, a $14 admission price includes a day of prospecting and the rental of a rock hammer. (Children under 4 mine for free.)

In a typical year, one-fifth of the mine’s customers are international tourists, so when the coronavirus halted travel and delayed the start of this year’s April-to-November digging season, the mine’s proprietor Renée Scialdo Shevat worried about what the loss in revenue may do to the 40-year-old family business.

By late summer, she was more concerned with how to limit the crowds. Diggers of all ages and degrees of seriousness had begun arriving in droves. “These days, every day is like a Saturday,” Ms. Shevat said in early September.

Even before the pandemic sent people searching for road trip destinations and outdoor adventure, interest in prospecting and rockhounding (or “fossicking,” as it is called in Britain and Australia) was already ticking upward. That has prompted some mines that had long been closed, like the Ruggles Mine in Grafton, N.H., toward new life.

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