Energetic and exploratory by nature, Chelsea Thompson, owner of Schurz, Nevada-based RockChuck, and fellow prospector John Keady have been digging around the western United States for several years. Prospector, mine owner and jewelry maker, she does it all from the ground up. You can’t argue that prospecting is glamorous, but it does score high in the thrill-of-discovery department. “We have been so amazed at the size of crystals we’ve been pulling out of the earth. They are incredible,” Thompson reports.
Knowing where you dig also means you have an idea of what to expect. But Thompson still gets a rush from catching that first glimpse of uncovering a crystal. “Our mine is a pegmatite and we have mostly been digging out beautiful smoky quartz crystals, mica and microcline feldspar specimens. But since it is a pegmatite, the sky’s the limit. The deeper we go, the more we are going to discover,” she claims.
Thompson delights in the unknown aspect of mining. “We’ve been so amazed at the size of crystals we’ve been pulling out of the earth,” she confesses. “They are incredible and one could never imagine the joy of extracting one of these gems.”
While many of the gems extracted by Thompson are well known to jewelry fans, the more exotic specimens make for intriguing jewelry items. “We have found topaz, tourmaline, amethyst, citrine, vesuvianite, amazonite and garnet. Every time we go out prospecting is an adventure. We never know what we will find. When we find the crystals, it makes it that much more exciting.”
Recovering the rough crystals from their digs isn’t the end of the story for Thompson. “Once we get home from prospecting, we are so ready to clean off our finds to see what we have collected during the day,” she tells us. Crystals can be deceiving in the field, she points out. Sometimes, she says, rough can look better or worse at the site. It’s only after cleaning and polishing in the lapidary room that the stone’s merit emerges.
A gem lover like Thompson is eager to share the thrill of each individual stones’ story. “We love seeing what customers do with our crystals and gems. Some people facet the crystals, while others make mosaics. It’s fascinating for us to unearth them and then see them transformed into one-of-a-kind pieces of art.”
So are there any remaining goals to attain for this start-to-finish jeweler? Thompson still dreams of mines yet to be conquered. “We would love to dig all over the world and to be able to collect a stone from every state.” She just wants to be able to continue doing what’s she’s doing, just on an ever larger scale over time. “Finding a stone and pulling it out of the ground is an amazing indescribable feeling. Some time, I’m really hoping to hit a big pocket of aqua, topaz and tourmaline.” With that kind of dedicated focus and enthusiasm, that scenario seems quite certain to come about.
Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).