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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Topaz, Amber, Pearls, Gold, Emeralds And Jade

( Orginally published 1962 )



A Texas rancher found a blue topaz weighing approximately seven hundred caratsl This was many years ago at a spot near Mason, Texas.

Not too long ago, in Mason County, also in Texas, three men searched and worked for three days to make a topaz "find." Finally, tired and discouraged, they gave up. They put their equipment back in the car convinced that luck was against them. Yet, one woman along on the hunt decided to take a walk-and found a blue topaz weighing over two hundred carats!

A topaz can be valuable if it is a perfect stone. Finding a perfect topaz can be a lucky thing for the treasure hunter even in modern times, although in ancient times the hunter had an even more important reason to hunt topaz than we do. For the topaz not only had monetary value. It had the supposed power to avert sudden death!

In the United States we have found colorless, blue, yellow, and sherry-brown topaz. And there are more to be found-if you know where to look.

Watch for topaz at Mason County, Texas; at Topsham, Maine; at Nathrop and the Tarryall Mountains north of Lake George in Colorado; in the Thomas Mountain district of Utah, and in San Diego County, California.

Almost everywhere there is some sort of bauble to watch for even the organically fossilized gum on extinct trees, such as amber, a good sized lump of which can be worth as high as $1,000.

Watch for amber in Richmond County, New York; Cape Sable, Maryland; Mercer, Salem and Camden Counties, New Jersey; and in Dukes County, Massachusetts.

Also, while you are watching for topaz and amber, do not forget the pearl. You do not need to go to exotic isles or foreign shores to find pearls. You can look for them right here in your own backyard.

Precious pearls can and have been found in America. They are produced by Quadrula, a fresh-water mussel. Chances are, of course, that the fresh-water pearls you find will not have the same value as marine pearls, but fresh-water types can be precious pearls.

Watch for them in the rivers of Michigan and Wisconsin. Try the Mississippi Valley, Tennessee, Iowa and Arkansas. Watch for them in Kentucky, New Jersey and Illinois.

Way back in the 1850's a farmer was chasing a cow. His foot struck a rock which, with the impact of his foot, broke off; when he stopped to look at it he saw that it was spotted with gold. Another discovery had been made, and, before it was over, over $1,000,000 in gold had been taken out of the spot where the farmer had stumbled over the rock. And only a hundred and fifty feet away they took $4,000,000 worth of gold out of the ground!

Anyone who vacations has a chance to find gold by panning in the stream beds of the gold country. Even the boy scout on a camping trip can come home with gold. All he needs is his gold pan, a little luck-and a little knowledge.

The yellow of gold is known to everyone. To find gold in a stream is an easy thing. When you see it, you know it, instinctively. It may be shaped as a grain, a nugget or sometimes fine as sand. But it is gold.

When you are not sure of what you have, or you just want to know for sure, write to the United States Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. They have information on gems and minerals-and if they do not have the information you want, they can tell you who to ask. However, do not ship them your samples of gems or gold, just ask for information.

There are also local gem and rock clubs for you to contact. Almost any town of any size has one of these clubs, and the members are almost always kind and courteous and willing to help.

Also write to the United States Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D.C., asking for a list of the booklets they print pertaining to gems, etc. These pamphlets are sold to the general public for a minimum fee and they contain some of the finest and most complete information.

Remember, anything that glitters is worth at least an investigation. With a rockhound's pick, a gold mining pan (even an old pie pan will work in an emergency) and the help of the United States Government, you might come home from your vacation with a fortune!

If you can find an emerald which is of good quality and large in size (over six carats), its value would be greater than that of a diamond.

The dark green of the emerald is among the most beautiful sights on earth, especially to the finder. To find a stone of gem quality is a very rare thing, though emeralds have been found in the United States. In North Carolina there are so-called emerald mines in several areas, but they are not active. There have also been reports of emerald finds along the Bowen River in South Carolina.

It is possible that you might be the one who finds an emerald within the United States-possibly along the banks of the Bowen River. And certainly if you could spot the superb grass green of a large gem emerald, its value would be great. The grass green of the emerald is a magnificent green-but there is only one true imperial green. This is the imperial green of jade, the green which is the most highly prized although jade comes in all shades of green.

We always think of jade as being associated only with the Orient; yet not too many years ago a huge jade boulder weighing over one thousand pounds was found in California near the area of the Trinity River. The boulder was one solid mass of every shade of green imaginable-and some of it was thought to be imperial green. And in Mendocino County, California, a large deposit of jade was found.

Jade, in both varieties, jadeite and nephrite, ranges in colors from white to dark green, but the imperial green jade is the most highly desired. A necklace of matched imperial beads has been valued at $100,000.

The finding of just one piece of jade can turn family picnics into wild scrambles in search for more. Watch for both nephrite and jadeite-although jadeite is rarer and therefore has more value. But watch for both of them along the beaches and in stream beds, and also watch for deposits of jade.

Watch for the rare jadeite at the North Fork of the Eel River, Trinity County, California; Clear Creek, San Benito County and in Cloverdale and Valley Ford, Sonoma County, California.

Watch for nephrite at the North Fork of the Eel River, Trinity County, California; southeast of Lander, Wyoming; and Marin, Monterey and Tulare Counties, California.

The West seems to have all the best of it when it comes to jade hunting, but in North Carolina they have found rubies. Everyone knows the value of the ruby, especially the prized pigeon's blood color. The deep, deep red of the most highly prized rubies defies description, and the value of a fine ruby is higher than that of a diamond-if you can find it.

Watch for gem-quality rubies in stream beds and stream gravels especially. Watch for them at Cowee Valley, Macon County, North Carolina; and at Yogo Creek, Judith Basin County, Montana. Also watch for them in both Wyoming and Colorado. In Wyoming, gem rubies have been found at Marion Claim, Fremont County; in Colorado, they have been found at the Calumet mine, Salida.

If you should discover a gem similar to a ruby but which is some other color, and especially if it is a cornflower blue, do not throw it away. It may not be a ruby-but it could be a sapphire. Both rubies and sapphires are corundum-and both are worth your search. The red is ruby-but sapphire can be pink, green or yellow, salmon, cornflower blue, or colorless.

Watch for sapphires in Montana at Dry Cottonwood Creek deposit, northeast of Butte, Deer Lodge County; the Rock Creek deposit southwest of Philipsburg, Granite County; Missouri River deposits, northeast of Helena; Quartz Gulch, in Granite County; also in Chouteau County; Pole Creek, Madison County, and Browns Gulch, Silver Bow County.

Watch for sapphires in Indiana in Morgan County. In Idaho, watch for them in Washington and Adams Counties. Look far them in Colorado in Fremont County, and in California at Barstow, San Bernardino County.

Sapphires have also been found at the Calumet iron mine in Chaffee County, Colorado, and at the Corundum Hill mine, Macon County, North Carolina, and the Sapphire and White Water mine, Jackson County, North Carolina.

You might find a cornflower blue, that most prized sapphire! Buried in the anonymous rocks of a river deposit, or coated so with dirt that unless luck is with you, you might pass it by.

This almost happened to one of the world's most famous gemstones, the Australian Andamooks Opal, now belonging to Elizabeth of England. The gem is now magnificently set as the main stone of a necklace with matching earrings. But, originally, the opal, over four inches long and two inches wide in the rough, was so dirty that not even the miners recognized it for what it was until one of them accidentally chipped it with his pick.

So if, here in America, you chance across a dirty stone but which, if you look closely, shimmers and dances with inner fires, hang on to it. It could be opal-for opal too has been found here in America.

In the state of Nevada there is a place called Virgin Valley, where at some time in the eons of the past barks of trees, pine cones, and driftwood were covered by volcanic ash. Today, if you look carefully enough, some of them have become opals.

This Virgin Valley is noted for its precious opal, the most valuable of the opal gems. Also look for precious opal in lava flows of the Columbia plateaus in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The so-called common opal, less rare and less valuable, can be found in Oregon, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia and North Carolina.

The rarest of all the opals, of course, is the black opal, but more familiar to most of us are the white opals and the fire opals, aptly named because their inner flame resembles a rainbow fire unequalled in any other gem in the world.

The opal is known throughout the world as a "bad luck" stone, but certainly no treasure hunter would consider it bad luck to find a prize gem, an opal of fine quality. If he is extremely fortunate, however, he will find an emerald, a ruby, or a piece of imperial jade.