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by Lisa Da Costa •

gem mining herkimer diamonds herkimers

Herkimers - The New Age Diamonds

  Not so New Age in reality, Herkimers were discovered by natives and early settlers of America.  These clear capsules instantly found themselves coveted little specimens of the dirt piles, caves, and crevices from which they are plucked. Herkimers are notorious for their formation.  Often these little crystals seem flawless in shape and clarity, and their imperfections are equally embraced and adored.      Herkimers often form with double termination meaning their complete molecular design comes to a completion on each end of the crystal, giving Herkimers a point on each side.  (Some other gemstones terminate with a flat smooth surface). This lovely crystalline quality and their hyper-geometric hexagonal shape bring instant appeal.  True Herkimer Diamonds are found in and around Herkimer County, New York.  We asked our very own designer, Emily, about her attraction to Herkimers and to share her experience mining these crystal beauties in the dirty hills of a herkimer heaven.   Emily, why have you decided to use herkimers in your jewelry? "My love for Herkimer Diamonds began before I was even aware of my proximity to their birthplace in Upstate New York. I was attracted to their energy, their perfect double-terminated shapes.. something about them just grabbed my heart." Tell us about pulling them out of the ground on your own.. how cool! "This past season I decided to step it up a notch. We don’t always know why things are put in our path, but I do maintain some modicum of faith that it is generally for a reason. 2020 has been a really difficult year for me, as it has for so many of us. One month before Covid took over our lives, I lost someone very dear to me to suicide. The haze of deep grief surrounded me as the reality of this global pandemic set in. My mental health suffered. My marriage suffered. Some days I truly believed my two year old daughter was the only thing allowing me to get out of bed. Life was raw, instinctual. I followed cues… just trying to put one foot in front of the other. We decided on a whim to head two hours north to Herkimer County again. Something was just pulling me. I craved the feeling of plucking a sweet little gem from the muck - that gift, that thrill, that renewal of faith in beauty and timelessness. I should also mention a quality of mine: that I am seemingly incapable of doing anything “a little bit”. Moderation is not, shall we say, a strength. I got the Herkimer bug - and thus it began. We booked an AirBnB (on what turned out to be the grounds of a condemned Sanitarium from the early 19th century!) - and got to digging. Toddler and shepherd mix in tow, we rented some hand tools and started scraping in the dirt.  There are two ways to find Herks: by digging in the dirt, rubble, and “tailings” of upended rock from the mine (by far the easier, and very beginner-friendly route - which will yield plenty of small, lovely crystals) … or, for anyone who wants to invest a little money in tools and a LOT of energy in wielding them- there are mines which will allow you to actually chip away at the rock ledge in hopes of exposing pockets of perfect, large Herkimer Diamonds. The latter is the method employed by anyone hoping to hit a big payday (imagine pulling out baseball-sized, FOOTBALL-sized crystals from a cavity in the earth.. exposing them to the light for the first time in 450 million years!?) - however, it can also result in days of fruitless, grueling labor. Mama always said, go big or go home… So I started exploring the areas around Herkimer. Little Falls, Middleville, Fonda - these are tiny little towns that any Herk-collector is quite familiar with. I researched mines and started talking to miners (massive shout-out here to the beautiful folks, and one rad woman in particular, who took the time to teach me a ton about this sparkly obsession); I planned more trips, bought more tools, watched tons of videos.. and started eating, drinking, and dreaming Herkimer Diamonds.  The Herkimers, I have a feeling, will prove to be my gateway drug - as I’m already finding myself researching other minerals and fossils around me that can be found / mined. (I’m so lucky to live in a very crystal-fertile area of the country!) Calcite, Pyrite, Garnet, Labradorite, Fluorite, Amethyst, Smoky Quartz: all within a few hours’ drive. And of course, with all of this, the metaphor is not lost on me.   I lost a huge part of myself this year. A piece of me that will never grow back, though - one can hope, in time.. the wound will heal over.  The rock heals itself. Crystals take years, centuries, millennia to flesh out their full creation. Wars rage, loved ones die, sweet babies are born — and always, underneath the surface, the crystals grow. There is such comfort in this. Sickness, beauty, grief, genocide, first kisses, last breaths… and crystals grow, all the while. Under our feet." Wow! What a personal journey with these crystals. Do you feel your interest in pursuing a more intimate relationship with these gems impacted you spiritually? "My Herkimer Journey has so much been a journey towards joy, towards healing. Towards personal salvation. Hours spent rummaging, sifting, hammering, sweating, and crying. Grieving. Growing. I grow -now- because they grew, so many many lifetimes ago. The earth brings me back to spirit, and spirit brings me back to the earth."