How many of us use that $50 dollar metal detector we bought on Ebay to comb the beaches hoping to unearth that sacred aquamarine dropped by a careless Byzantine King, only to wind up with a bottle cap?
How many of us dream of making millions prospecting in them thar hills. The proof is in the reality program. “Prospectors” a Weather Channel original, has ignited the adventurer in people across the globe!
Going into its second season starting October 27th, the hearty prospectors will again brave danger and the thrill of discovery as they dig and blast their way through the 1400 feet high Colorado Mountains, home to low oxygen, lightning, Herculean winds and flash storms. All this suffering for the prize: a cache of unearthed green, red and yellow topaz, along with aquamarine and rhodochrosite crystals–gems that are worth a fortune!
1. What is a “Gem”?
Simply, it’s a mineral. Bauxite, clay and salt are just three of the many thousands. Yet, most of us would rather buy Morton’s than climb a mountain! Prospectors are after those few minerals that Mama Nature created via an extremely rare chain of conditions to make their very creation a true geological marvel. Steve Brancato, the reality star on “Prospectors” hit the Mama Lode when in 2004 when he uncovered Diane’s pocket–the best aquamarine source ever found in North America, now on permanent display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The fact that the stone is also the symbol of happiness and everlasting youth, no doubt keeps Steve looking good!
Others rare stones prospectors are after include the coveted golden topaz, citrine (which is a yellow/orange variety of quartz), garnet (especially the blue garnet), fluorite and the bright green Amazonite. The state mineral of Colorado is the all-hailed amethyst (this variety of quartz is said to quicken the intelligence and is an antidote to drunkenness). Gems in the rough bear little resemblance to the sparkler on your finger, so make sure to tote an excellent mineral guide in your backpack to ID that “lump” as worthless or valuable.
2. What Equipment Will I Need?
When starting out looking for your fortune, prospecting needn’t cost you one. First off, you’ll require clothes that are rugged and will stand up to dragging rocks, climbing and shoveling. Don’t scrimp on work gloves and serious boots or you’ll be nursing nasty blisters and worse. You’ll also need a geologist’s hammer (that combines a chisel and flat head) for rock-splitting; it is advised to buy a variety of sizes. Of course a shovel is essential and make sure it folds to make your life as a prospector easier. A magnifying lens (10x) will help you examine your findings.
Should you get lucky and find something of value, you’ll have to put it somewhere; buy a collection bag and separate each precious nugget to keep your cache safe from collisions with pocket knives and house keys. Remember to label your finds, as labeling is heavily dependent on location. Use a laundry marker and sticky labels to number each item, adding the date and exact location.
Safety, even for adventurers, is a given and is common sense:
- Wear superb safety goggles to avoid flying debris
- Let others know where you plan to be, and when you plan to be back
- Bring a buddy with you, as you may need back up
- Be wary of old mines and possible falling rocks
- Do bring lots of H2O and take precautions against sunstroke
- Finally, know where you are! “HELP I’m on a mountain in Colorado…and I just saw a lightning bolt!” won’t do it for you. A map and a GPS device will.
3. Can I Keep What I Find?
Hmmm. The Propectors recently faced sanctions from the State of Colorado’s Division of Mining, Reclamation and Safety regarding permitting requirements for two gem claims near Mount Antero. While these permits are generally in place for large industrial operations, some felt the success of “Prospectors” initiated what star Amanda Adkins feels is “unfairly targeting” her and her co-stars by requiring them to get reclamation permits costing thousands of dollars.
The legal issues can get a little tricky. In most cases you can keep your bounty, but be aware of legislation and ordinances. For example, obviously private property belong to others is out unless you have permission. Not only do you risk losing your find, but an arrest for trespassing! There’s also a difference between mineral and surface rights. If you paid a fee to prospect on private property, make sure you’ve been granted mineral rights, at least during your visit, so you can keep your finds. If you’re on publicly funded land, the government can claim mineral rights unless those rights were legally vacated. Don’t assume that finding a gem under the guidelines of Land Management gives you the right to hunt or keep the largesse.
Ah, but the prize! The income a prospector can make in one season, or 40 days of work is…$75,000! Have you been convinced yet?