Georgia gems attract rock hounds

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STEPHENS, Ga. --- Clarence Norman learned long ago that Georgia's red clay can produce much more than peanuts and pine trees.

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This 111-carat amethyst was found at Six S's ranch last year by Clarence Norman, who had the stone professionally cut and polished.  Rob Pavey/Staff
Rob Pavey/Staff
This 111-carat amethyst was found at Six S's ranch last year by Clarence Norman, who had the stone professionally cut and polished.

"See this? It's amethyst," he said, showing off a pile of purple crystal clusters wrapped in paper towels in his truck bed. "Every one of them came from right here."

The landowner, Steve Peterman, moved his family to the isolated Six S's farm in south Oglethorpe County 12 years ago to raise chickens. He had no idea his property also held rich deposits of the prized purple quartz.

"We first discovered them after we moved out here and they were building the chicken houses," he said. "Later, we had loggers taking out some timber, and they unearthed more of them again."

The size and quality of the raw gemstone crystals soon attracted the interest of rock hounds, including Rick Jacquot of Asheville, N.C., the president of the 2,000-member Mountain Area Gem & Mineral Association.

Georgia's amethyst deposits, he said, are among the finest in the Southeast.

"There is a belt that runs all the way up the region, through North Carolina," he said. "It'll pop up somewhere, then go under again. But if you put all the mines and places on a map, it would make a line."

The club arranged with the Peterman family to hold organized digs at the site for rock hounds who drive long distances to spend a day in searing heat moving shovelfuls of heavy clay.

"It's definitely a lot of work," said gem collector John Lee, who made a 10-hour drive from his home in Morehead City, N.C., to try his luck. With him was his 10-year-old daughter, Katie.

"Nothing so far," he said as they used plastic tools to shave away slivers of clay from the edges of a deep hole. "But your luck can change fast."

Ed Cansler, a lapidary and gem cutter from Greenville, S.C., said the Peterman farm is one of the best sites he's visited. It took 19 hours to cut one stone from the site -- and it yielded a finished product that weighed 111 carats.

"Probably what makes this place really special is the size of what you find," he said. "You can get some really big pieces here."

Although it has barely been explored, the site holds great potential and is close to the older, more famous Jackson Crossroads amethyst mine near Tignall.

"That site is known for world-class amethysts," Cansler said. "You could find the same sort of thing here."

Digging for amethyst can yield valuable gemstones, but there is no guarantee of anything more than fun, fresh air and exercise.

"It's like anything else," Norman said. "Some days you go home with empty pockets. But some days, you might just strike it rich."

Want to dig?

- The Mountain Area Gem & Mineral Association will hold an amethyst dig at Six S's farm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

- Only club members may participate, but visitors can buy a membership at the site or online.

- For directions and details, visit

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bettyboop 07/20/10 - 05:44 am
This could be a fun weekend

This could be a fun weekend thing to do....might give it a try.

peonynut 07/20/10 - 08:57 am
Curious. If a person finds a

Curious. If a person finds a 111 carat stone does that person get it for free or do the property owners get a share?

Rob Pavey 07/20/10 - 10:55 am
peonynut, the rock & mineral

peonynut, the rock & mineral association compensates the landowner for the privilege of allowing its members to collect rocks there. having spent a few hours with them last weekend, though, I can tell you that while they may get a nice rock "for free," the labor and time associated with hours of tedious digging in July temps would make most folks decide to simply head for the jewelry store.

Chigoe 07/20/10 - 11:00 am
I have been a member of the

I have been a member of the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association, M.A.G.M.A. To answer your question poenynut, you do get to keep all the stones you dig from the mine. The 111 carat stone in the picture above was faceted from a very large amethyst crystal dug from the mine. The fee to dig the six (S) mine this weekend is $25.00 per day for standard members (standard membership is free) $20.00 per day for premium members. The owner is collecting canned or non-perishable food for the local food bank, bring a canned food item and receive $5.00 off the entrance fee. There are several local mines that produce gem quality amethyst as well as Smokey quartz, clear crystal quartz and skeletal quartz, and many other rare minerals. Graves Mountain, Lincolnton, Ga., Diamond Hill Mine, Antreville, S.C. and Jackson Crossroads Mine, Tignal, Ga. are the closest mines to Augusta. .

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