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2003, March, Milky Quartz, Calcite



In March 2003 I started my first collecting trip in the Diepalgraben in Zederhaus. I wanted to examine a place in the back part of a ravine. But, the last remnants of winter held firm precisely in this area. Snow and ice put an end to thoughts of inspecting the steep terrain and forced me to proceed to the opposite side where the ground was not only bare, but longer frozen. In the very steep wooded terrain, I surveyed the small rock walls. Despite intense scrutiny I could not find any suspicious signs of minerals lurking beneath the surface.  So I started to look further afield until I reached a small side gorge. The sun was shining directly on a small flat section. And with a small stream running alongside, this place was calling out to me to have a rest and a snack in the spring sun.

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The findspot, in the upper third of the gulley  

I knew that rock crystals had been found in this area, but I had information to pinpoint the location.  While enjoying my snack I recognized small signs of rock crystal on the rocks. Once finished, I started to dig around at the bottom of the rock. That’s when I found small slim whitish quartz crystals up to 2 cm. Because I quite liked these quartz crystals, I started to chisel. Soon I could open a little pocket, where even more of the small rock crystals were in place. The pocket of quartz was horizontal, and the direction of the cleft was not encouraging. But I was already happy with the small specimens I had found. By further chiseling, I followed the quartz vein, which again and again opened and closed.  The character of the quartz vein and the small pockets began to change: They were now arranged vertically, only the direction of the cleft was still wrong. After further chiseling the quartz vein turned around 90 degrees and now the direction of the cleft was favorable.

By late afternoon, I managed to open one more pocket that was hiding two inter-grown rock crystals of about 7 cm. As the day was slowly coming to an end, as was my energy, I decided it would be best not to continue working exhausted and over-loaded. So I headed home, but resolved “I’ll be back”.

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The find at the end of the first day: 2 inter-grown rock crystals in green schist

On the second day, I brought my camera to take some pictures of the find-spot. Full of hope, I picked up where I had left off. The quartz crystals could not be salvaged as they were too enmeshed with the green schist. It was not possible to open another pocket, as the quartz vein completely vanished. So much for that day, which started so full of hope.

This left me uncertain where I should proceed with my search. Out from a gut feeling I began removing turf just above where I had just worked. Peeking out from the ground was a rough lens of calcite as big as the head of a child. Out came the chisel. After a few strikes, I could salvage a 5 cm sized quartz crystal that was inter-grown with the calcite. Encouraged, I continued. After a short time my chisel fell through! A small black hole was in the lens of calcite now. I took my approx. 60 cm long hook, thrust it into the opening and, lo and behold:  no resistance!  All but shivering with excitement,  I enlarged the hole enough so that I could flash into it with my headlamp. It was a sight that every collector is dreams of: The cavity was drawn more than one meter into the mountain. In the back part crystals grew down from the ceiling and on the floor of the cleft, tops were standing out from the rubble.

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Unexpected discovery: lens of calcite hidden under grass and earth - no sign of a cleft!

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After a few strikes, the chisel breaks through into a cleft (black spot)

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The hole slightly enlarged

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Detailed view: View into the cleft through the enlarged hole

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A spectacle: a big specimen of quartz crystal is sticking out from rubble in the cleft

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The specimen, that was peeking out from the rubble, 26 cm

With joy and excitement, I started chiseling again and broadened the hole. When I finally finished, a major wedged chock inside the cleft blocked further progress. I tried to remove it with my hands. When my fingers glided over the backside, I could feel crystals. Caution was required now to not damage them. The specimen stuck in the cleft persistently. Every effort to detach the blocking specimen failed. Whenever I my impatience became unbearable, I moved my fingers over the crystals to calm down. Finally I succeeded to detach the specimen and took it out. The first amazing matrix specimen was salvaged. I had to sit down and marveled at the specimen that I was holding in my soiled hands.

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The first specimen from the front area of the cleft: 29 x 13 x 14 cm

I put the specimen carefully aside and scrutinized the cleft. Between the clay filling and loose-jointed rocks there were rock crystals and tops of rock crystals visible everywhere. Carefully I reached into the cleft and grasped the quartz crystals lying on top. The next specimen I extracted was a floater of about 10 cm consisting of innumerable doubly terminated crystals.

Again, I admired yet another stunning masterpiece in my hands as an incredible joy swept through me. After a while, I also put this specimen aside ever so carefully. I grasped in the cleft again and extracted an undamaged doubly terminated crystal of about 20 cm length. Now, an even more time passed while I stood there bedazzled by the new find. After putting aside this gorgeous specimen, I again and again reached into the cleft and pulled out one after another marvel of the nature. It became a ritual lasting the whole day: salvaging specimens, admiring them, and carefully putting them aside. Eventually, I fell out of my trance-like state when I ran out of space for the specimens.  Only then did I notice that it was already late afternoon. I wrapped the salvaged specimen carefully. Fortunately, I had brought along enough wrapping material. My backpack could scarcely take another specimen once I packed the day’s finds!

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A large double- terminated quartz crystal of over 21 cm in length with an additional some smaller, double- terminated quartz crystals

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A favorite of mine: two dominant main crystals grown on thin green schist matrix in combination with a second generation of quartz crystals some calcite and chlorite, 20.5 x 11 x 9 cm

Back home, I rushed to tell my wife Maria about this extraordinary treasure. Together we unwrapped the finds and washed them. All too often finds that look great on the mountain and disappoint once washed, but in this case it was the other way round: after washing the rock crystals proved to be even more beautiful as the many small crystals now sparkled. Maria shared my delight. Throughout the evening we both just looked at one piece after the other.

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The double terminated main crystal measures almost 13 cm

All specimens have the same characteristics: The rock crystals show razor-sharp edges, the side surfaces show a snowy layer, inter-grown with the top layer. This layer reaches to the edges of the prisms where they abruptly end, as if cut off. The tops are highly lustrous; many of them are clear as water. In those specimens, it is possible to gaze through the tops and into the inside the crystals. The quartz crystals are partly grown on a green matrix and often associated with calcite. The latter mineral matter shows mainly a brownish color and thereby creates three-colored specimens of outstanding structure and contrast.

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Another of my favorite pieces from this find: very special specimen due to the combination of the crystals and their aesthetic composition, 22 x 14 x 9 cm

The next day’s weather was bad which kept me home. When the weather got better, I found that it had snowed lightly in Zederhaus. I chose a complicated detour so as not to make tracks leading directly to the find-spot, which was still undiscovered and untouched. I had brought a roll mat. Now, I kneeled down in front of the cleft and again began salvaging incredible specimens. Only this time, the cleft was not as dry as during the first visit; water had collected in the cleft. On a chilly March day, my hands quickly became cold, and soon also my entire body. Again and again I had to stand up and move around to warm up. Nevertheless, I stayed the whole day. I had once more filled a backpack with beautiful specimens and doubly terminated crystals.

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Freshly salvaged double terminated quartz crystal from the cleft

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The cleansed large doubly terminated quartz crystal of over 18 cm in length with an additional smaller, doubly terminated quartz crystal

Back home, I immediately jumped into a hot bath, as I was thoroughly chilled. But to no avail: the price for my intense collecting with little regard to discomfort was a bad cold, which forced me to take a break. Impatience speeded my recovery. A few days later I was on my way for the third visit to the cleft. This time weather was fine and my wife Maria came along to see my fabled cleft.  When we arrived, I arranged things to be as comfortable as possible for Maria. Then, at last, the great moment came: She lay down in front of the cleft and looked inside. It did not take long before she unerringly reached in and pulled out her first double-terminated crystal. It was the same for her as it had been for me on my first day. She sat down and stared transfixed at this sample of Nature’s art. Similarly, she also took a while before she again remembered the cleft.  She then laid down to see what else could retrieve from the cleft. One after another, she pulled out new specimens, each of which we examined as carefully as if a new born baby.  This amazing day passed quickly. Richly rewarded we went home. After a quick snack, we spent the evening together cleansing the salvaged specimens.

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This is also one of my favorite pieces from this find. The growth of the main crystal and the aesthetic composition make this specimen very special for me, 11.5 x 9.5 x 7 cm

During the fourth cleft visit all loosely lying specimens were recovered. Now, the chisel was used more intense to detach inter-grown specimen from the rock. While working, I was frightened by a loud noise: A big block of ice has detached in the ravine and plunged two meters next to me. In a slightly shocked state, I nevertheless resumed working. By evening, I filled my backpack, but now the cleft seemed to have come to an end.

The next on-site visit provided few specimens and during the sixth tour I sadly accepted, that this adventure was now finished. Yet, I picked on the cleft bottom. There, a larger plate of green schist attracted my attention. I tried to detach it by hooking into a small protrusion with my cleft hook. Incredibly, after a few attempts it gave way. When I stretched myself into the cleft to pick up the plate, I could already feel crystals on the underside. Carefully I crawled back out. Once outside, I turned the plate upside down: yet another top-specimen glistened in the sunlight. Finding this specimen was completely unexpected. But best of all was, it by removing this plate I could see that a second part of the cleft continued. In this extension of the cleft, I managed to extract a few more beautiful doubly terminated crystals. The largest of the crystals comes from this area and measures 33 cm in length.

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This is the piece that had hid the second part of the cleft, 35 x 20 x 9.5 cm

Altogether I visited the cleft eleven times, until it was finally depleted. Just as I had finished working on the find, other collectors noticed my cleft. However, they were unable to recover any more pieces. The joy about this find was and is indescribable. Even then I had the feeling that this would be my best ever quartz find. When this discovery became known six months later it created some excitement; it seemed to establish my identity as a serious collector. Details of the find was published some years later in a large report in the Lapis issue "Jg 36. No.5. May 2011" accompanied by beautiful photographs by Martin Grüll. Some of the most beautiful pieces are no longer in my collection and are not reproduced in this report. Most of the specimens remain in my possession and are beautifully displayed in my showcase. My heart delights every time I look at these beauties.

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