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 firstname.lastname@example.org.