I'm sorry, How Much? Part 1 Area 51
The absolute worst part of being in charge of sales is the following scenario. Shane posts a gorgeous elestial or 8 pound goonie on Instagram or Facebook. Someone contacts me saying how they would love the piece and how amazing it is. Then they ask the price. Many times, they go silent after that. Sometimes people ask me to put a 20 piece lot together of all black druzy with perchers, that they want to spend between $20 to $50 total.
There are several reasons that Herkimers cost what they do. For starters, let's discuss the actual process of mining them. We have two places we dig so I will describe each. You should know that each location has it's own characteristics making each present different obstacles.
Area 51 does not have ground scores, or very few. This means that the pretty little gemmies are not usually just lying around. It is a massive pit that is 6 feet deep and 40 feet wide. I know you are thinking well, they are at the pocket layer there and we are but that is just the start of it.
To get to the pocket layer at 51 you must first dig the dirt, which is 6 inches thick and laden with roots. Then we break through to what is know to many as the the stromatolite layer. This is, 12 to 18 inches thick in our case. From there, we clear a thin dirt seam with some crystals. The shatter rock, which does crumble kind of easily but it still requires brute strength. This is about 18 inches thick. Here you can find some crystals too.
The dead zone is nothing but solid dolestone. Most times Shane and Ryan drill holes and insert feathers and wedges. They then use a 10 pound hammer moving up to a 20 pound sledge hammer. This can take quite a bit of time.
They jack hammer and feather and wedge this layer until we get to the floor or the pocket layer, six feet down. On average we move about 2-3 ton of rock a day to reach the pocket layer.
The other matter is what happens to the material once it is broken off the wall?Well, it is put in buckets where I or who ever else hauls them up a the stairs, up a small hill and dumps them. We actually made a patio doing this. I have spent days, 8 hours doing nothing but bringing heavy buckets up a hill and back.
Now the work begins. We drill holes over and over until we feel the drill get sucked downward. One must be careful during this to have a good hold on the jack hammer or you can break the crystals inside. Drilling can take hours before a pocket is found. Sometimes we never find one.
Pockets are then drilled around carefully until Shane can take the saw and cut the top. We then spend about an hour taking what ever prize is inside. Sometimes it's druzy, sometimes calcite, sometimes large crystals and yes, sometimes, there is nothing but broken crystals or mud. It is a true labor of love and a gamble.
Along with the intensity of digging, there is the expense. Shane and I live 3 hours away from the sites. We also use gas to run the hammers. We require bags, gloves, masks, rain gear and so many other things just to get the job done.
Now it is not just the cost to us and the crazy amount of physical labor that makes the minerals a bit pricey. Herkimers are rare. They only come from one place. Herkimer NY. As I noted in other articles, they are different than standard quartz in many ways. Yes, druse comes in grays and white but the black druse does not pop up often. We have been told the last major black druse find was in between 1978 and 1980. Black druse pockets are known to be one in every 200. Area 51 does in fact have quite a bit of this but even there it is only so often that a pocket pops up.
Mining takes a toll on your body and wallet for sure but I am very sure that the other miners would agree it is worth it.