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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gemstone Occurrences in New York:

Herkimer Diamonds from the Ace of Diamonds Mine.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky

You could almost write a book just about gemstone occurrences in Manhattan that has produced beryl, chrysoberyl and some huge garnets.  These are all gems that have been produced from excavations and the rock removed from them.  Most of this rock now resides along the bank of the Hudson River in uptown Manhattan where you can readily get at the excavation spoils from Inwood Park.  The entire southeast part of the mainland has the same kind of gemstones as Connecticut with whom it shares a common border.

Saratoga County has produced beryl and rose quartz from the pegmatites found in the Adirondacks.  Almandine garnets have been produced from a deposit on Gore Mountain in the town of North Creek..  These garnets are embedded in a matrix of gabbro with some of the crystals reaching more then a meter in diameter.  The Barton Mining Company produces the garnets for making abrasives, but sufficient amounts of cuttable material is produced to satisfy the needs of the Rock Hound trade.

In the middle of a city park in Syracuse is a kimberlite pipe that may be diamondiferous or not depending upon who is telling you about it.  This is a swarm of pipes that extend from a coal mine in Pennsylvania to the Monteregian Hills of Quebec. Many of these kimberlite dikes are clustered around Ithaca, but the narrow swarm of kimberlites can be found crossing the state from the Pennsylvania border to Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence River. None of the NY kimberlites are known to contain diamonds.  Diamonds have been found in the glacial deposits that were brought down from the diamond deposits of Ontario.

Photo by Sub Arctic Mike

The original discovery of a kimberlite dike in New York occurred in Syracuse in 1837, but was mistaken for serpentine; it wasn’t until 1887 that rocks of this nature were properly identified at Kimberly South Africa that their true nature was discovered.  The kimberlite dikes in New York although they don’t contain diamonds because the magma came from too close to the surface of the earth do contain some other minerals that are considered gemstones providing they are large enough including olivine and spinel.

An interesting deposit of rubies and sapphires are found in the marble deposits of Orange County.  The quantity of stones that have been found in sparse, but the deposit extends into Sussex County New Jersey. These gems were found somewhere between Monroe and Southfield in Orange County. According to the report these gems were less then two carets in weight, and the deposit was sparse. This was a deposit that was worked secretly by two people for some years who took its locality to the grave with them.

When the zinc mine at Edwards was being actively mined they discovered a mass of lazulite weighing more then twenty pounds in the process of mining zinc ore.  This mass was cut up into cabochons and made into jewelry.  Lazulite is one of the components of the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. 

A stone that is readily identified with New York State is quartz whether it is in the form of amethyst in the trap ridges along the Hudson River in the Haverstraw vicinity, at the old lead mine in Ellenville or in the Little Falls formation crossing the state from west to east where it ends at diamond cliff in Hague on Lake George.  This is the home of the world famous Herkimer Diamond that in reality is a doubly terminated quartz crystal found in cavities in the silicified dolomite of the Little Falls formation.  Various varieties of quartz (silica) gemstones are found throughout New York.  Albany County is noted for its flint and jasper that is found in sand and gravel deposits.  There was even a flint deposit overlooking the Hudson Valley that was worked by the Indians in prehistoric times for flint to make their weapons.


  1. Here's an alternate theory for the formation of kimberlite pipes.

    Kimberlite may have formed under the terrific pressures of comet-comet mergers in the Outer Oort Cloud. When comet clusters undergo core collapse, the larger comets sink to the center of the cluster core where they are likely to merge with other comets. If a differentiated comet with a still-molten granite core should merge with a larger primary comet, the solid outer shell of granite/greenstone may focus the comet-merger impact energy on the liquid core and drive the lava at the speed of the propagating shock wave to the surface. Kimberlite may have formed in the OOC before the compound comet impacted earth, perhaps during the late heavy bombardment.

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