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May 17, 2013

Kids have sparkle in their eyes

The Daily Star

---- — When I was in my teens, old Bill Naatz told me about a stream north of Lake George where a man had panned out enough gold to make his wife a wedding band. It was all rumors, but to his grandson and myself, it sounded like the makings of a great adventure.

On our way to the AuSable River to fish for trout, we stopped by that creek near Crane’s Mountain to try our luck. We uses pie tins for gold pans and worked the sand and gravel behind every large boulder in the brook. With every swirl in the watery mix, we were sure a bright gold nugget would soon show up.

After a couple of hours of playing in the creek, we lost interest and concluded there weren’t any yellow flakes of gold to be found. Years later, we found out that the ancient Adirondack rock doesn’t hold any gold.

It’s rumors like that one that have cost folks a lot of money. Back in the late 1800s, a fellow was supposed to have discovered some gold between Wells and Indian Lake. It was actually a complete hoax, but his investors were sure they were going to get rich.

Using an old gold ring, he pounded out some flakes and small nuggets. Several people bought into the mine, but only one man got rich. Gold Mine Pass still can be found between East and Dug Mountains, not far from Speculator.

As they say, “All that glitters is not gold.”

There is treasure to be found up north. Diamonds — shiny, clear crystals that glisten in the sun — can be found in Herkimer County. Well they aren’t true diamonds, but they are easily found in the dolostone in the Herkimer and Little Falls area. These double-terminated quartz crystals are named Herkimer Diamonds, although similar gems can be found in Arizona, Afghanistan, Norway, the Ukraine and China. But only those found in upstate New York are Herkimer Diamonds.

I had my first experience with these gemstones while still in my teens. We journeyed to Middleville along Route 28 to search for treasure. After all, to a 14-year-old, a diamond is a diamond.

We showed up at the diamond mine with hammers and chisels and all the enthusiasm we could muster. We would break out a chunk of the stone and hammer on it, breaking it into smaller pieces to get the shiny crystals out of the cavities. We broke the larger chunks with a sledgehammer and found several dozen of these gems. By the end of the day, we felt like we had been working on a chain gang sentenced to a life of hard labor.

Many of the hexagon-shaped crystals we found were rather small, but every once in a while a real beauty showed up. My largest one that day was about 2 inches long and better than an inch in diameter.

Back then, my 75-carat gem was worth about two bucks — the amount we each paid to dig for the day. Today, that same stone is valued at well over $200.

There are two places to dig for the diamonds — the Ace of Diamonds and the Herkimer Diamond Mine. Both are located a few miles north of Herkimer on Route 28.

It’s fun, but it’s also work. Bring hammers and safety glasses and break rocks till your heart’s content.

Just think, you’ll end up with a handful of pretty gems — and some are even worth something.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at