Some people satisfy their craving for precious stones by visiting a jewelry store.
All Nancy Seaver needs is a pick and a chisel - and some free time.
"I've been very lucky," said Mrs. Seaver, who made the find of a lifetime recently at an abandoned Lincoln County mine.
The Augustan's prize: a stunning 9-pound, 6.8-ounce rutile crystal that is among the largest such specimen ever found at the Graves Mountain site.
The metallic-silver crystal, also known as titanium oxide, turned up while Mrs. Seaver and her husband were on an outing with the Augusta Gem & Mineral Society.
"I had dug in this one area previously, so I knew there were some good pieces in there," she said. "I was digging in a dirt slide and saw the face of the crystal. I cleared some dirt away and saw another face."
Once cleaned and weighed, the specimen created quite a stir.
Clarence "Junior" Norman, who has been caretaker of the Graves Mountain mine for more than a decade, said the find is both significant and valuable.
"It's got a few fractures, so it's not beautiful," he said. "But if it had been a perfect crystal with no cracks and slick faces, me and you both could retire - off that one rock."
Rutile is prized among collectors because of its rarity and beauty.
Mrs. Seaver's rutile is even larger than the one displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum, Mr. Norman said. "Usually, when they are found at all, they're about a pound and on down."
Graves Mountain is internationally known as a mecca for collectors of rutile and other minerals. In the 1880s, gemologist George F. Kunz, widely known for his affiliation with Tiffany's of New York, bought the site to export rutile specimens to collectors around the world.
The mountain dates back 500 million years, when volcanic activity stocked the outcrop with kyanite, a heat-resistant material now used in the manufacture of spark plugs and space shuttle tiles.
Kyanite was mined there from 1969 to 1984, when the site closed.
Today, the area is open to the public on selected weekends twice each year and by permission to mineral collecting groups such as the Augusta club, whose members often dig for rutiles.
What is Mrs. Seaver's giant rutile worth?
"Probably in the $5,000 range," she said. "But it could go a lot higher if more than one person is really after it."
For now, the rock will stay in her collection - along with some other favorite pieces.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or email@example.com.
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