Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jewels of Our Own



We May Have a South African Diamond Field at Our Doors — Rare Gems Have Been Mined For Years In This Country, but the Work Is to Be Enlarged.

The next great mining industry in this country will be for precious stones instead of gold, silver or iron ore if the prognostications of several large diamond merchants and mineralogical professors are fulfilled. The census bulletin giving the statistics of the precious stones found in this country opened the eyes of a number of millionaire dealers in valuable gems, and after consulting with learned professors in our leading colleges they satisfied themselves that there were unknown possibilities in the mines of the western, southern and even eastern states. Exports were immediately engaged to examine the rich metallic fields of the Appalachian mountains, the most favorable portions of The Rocky mountains and the diamond districts of California.

So many wildcat stories have been reported and published about finding precious stones in different parts of the country that it has been a difficult matter to sift the genuine accounts from the fictitious. It was for the purpose of finding out the real status of the industry and its possibilities that trustworthy agents were sent exploring every part of the country, and their reports can be relied upon as not containing any exaggeration of the truth. Diamond merchants of the great American cities are not "castle builders," and they generally strike rock bottom before they invest their millions in any business, but ever since the report was published that the diamond fields of South Africa were giving out the leading dealers in precious stones have been on the lookout for new mines that would supply the world with valuable gems. Some looked to South America as the future source of these stones, and even today the rocky ranges of the Andes are being examined and sounded by experts. But a consensus of opinion indicates that great faith is placed in the unexplored regions of this country. Parts of the south, in particular, have revealed unexpected treasures of valuable gems.

One of the leading dealers in precious stones who is interested in the present movement to develop the industry of mining for American gems consented to give the following facts out in an interview:

"Americans, as a rule, are very fond of precious stones, and I should say that there are more in this country according to the population than anywhere in the world. The importation of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and other gems has consequently been a very lucrative business for many years. The value of these stones in the country today, mostly imported, I should roughly estimate to be not less than $500,000,000. We have so long depended upon other countries to supply us with precious minerals that little attention has been given to the home mines. Then miners here have been wrapped up in their explorations for gold, silver, iron, coal, oil and such products that they have not had time to think of other things. But the promise of a future shortening of the supply of all the leading gems has made dealers look around for other sources.

"Another thing that attracted our attention was the wonderful supply of rare minerals found in the Appalachian system of mountains. Not only gold, but genuine sapphires and scores of other stones have been found in those mountains. At the Corundum hill over 100 beautiful sapphires have been discovered accidentally while mining for other products. Those stones have sold from $50 to $100 and upward. In the same state, in Alexandria county, beautiful specimens of the emerald have been found, both the aquamarine and yellow beryl. There are now several emerald and hiddenite mines worked in that place, but only on a small scale and chiefly to supply institutions with rough specimens. Nevertheless from $10,000 to $20,000 worth of these stones have been sold from these mines in the past few years. Splendid garnets and a few diamonds have also been excavated in these North Carolina mineral fields, and after an exhaustive examination of the ground the conclusion has been reached that before long startling disclosures of precious stones will be made in the Appalachian mountains. We may yet have a South African diamond field at our door.

"Other parts of the south have also been found to contain precious stones. True beryls and garnets of considerable value have been located in Virginia, and there are several well defined districts where small specimens of diamonds have been found in Georgia.

"In the west and southwest the mineral fields are even more extensive. California diamond mines are the largest and so far the richest in this country. Some fine specimens have been brought to us to cut, and others are constantly being brought in by prospectors and mine owners to test. Many stories have been circulated about diamond fields and mines in California, and adventurers have gone there expecting to pick them up as they did gold 40 years ago. Their disappointment spread counter reports, and most people concluded that diamonds in California were fictitious. The fact is that mining for diamonds must be conducted on scientific principles and with plenty of capital. We do not expect to find diamonds lying around loose waiting to be picked up. Even in the richest diamond fields of South Africa they have to work hard for the precious stones. More recently diamonds have been found in Wisconsin. Around Lake Superior also the finest specimens of chlorastrolite, thomsonite and agates have been picked up on the beaches. Evidently the action of the water has worn them from the rocks.

"Colorado is another well defined region for precious stone hunting. Many thousands of dollars' worth of cut beryl have been taken from the mines of that state. This valuable gem appears to be quite general in several parts of the country." — Philadelphia Times.

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