Next time you stay at the Featherbed Railroad did you know you could give your sweetie a Lake County Diamond? These geological treasures are unique to Lake County and are a special part of this wonderful geological area. Best of all, if you wanted to buy one they’re available at the museums of Lake County for a few dollars. But that doesn’t mean they’re worthless.
While these beautiful natural phenomena are sometimes just available for the picking, several local jewelry stores have actually turned them into something very special. Kevin Ness jewelers in the city of Clearlake regularly has several pieces that feature Lake County diamonds as their centerpiece. J Gorman Fine Jewelry in Lakeport has also made a number of custom pieces for people who have brought in their own diamonds.
Aside from buying them at the museums or at one of our local jewelry stores, some people have reported just finding them on hikes. The best places to try to find some of the crystals for personal use or for possible sale are along county road rights-of-way or on other public lands. Certain portions of Lake County’s public lands, either county or federal, generally allow limited collecting of minerals. State lands do not allow the removal of any naturally occurring materials.
Before any attempt at collecting is begun, a prospector should check with the appropriate land agency or private property owner. Once permission is granted, the prospector can expect any payment to be based on size and color.
The family that owns Six Sigma Ranch reports that diamonds are regularly found on their property such that one of their vineyards is called the Diamond Mine. This is part of their fun Pinzgauer tour where you get to explore some of the more hidden parts of the 4,000 acre ranch that includes a winery along with pasture-raised beef and pigs. Yes, they sell the beef and pork and, yes, it’s fantastic as is the wine.
The most highly-prized Lake County specimens are those that are large, flawless and lavender. A prospector finding such a relative rarity can expect to receive approximately $2.00/gram. Large white stones usually have a lesser value, depending on size and clarity. The smaller stones are sometimes too common to command any value at all, unless the buyer has nearly diminished his/her supply. It might be wise for any potential Lake County prospector to check with a potential buyer before heading to the “diamond” fields. Find out what the buyer wants and how many stones might be purchased. Remember that most buyers are not making a contract with a prospector to buy, but are merely stating what they may be willing to purchase.
According to one Pomo Indian legend, these fiery gems are the "moon tears" shed by Moon over the forbidden love of her handsome young chieftain. Another legend has if that these stones are the crystallized tears of the Chieftain Kah-Bel who climbed the slopes of Mount Konocti to visit the gravesite of his beloved daughter, Princess Lupiyoma. Archaeologists tell us that Lake County Diamonds were placed on burial mounds by some local tribes as protection against dark spirits who, seeing the sparkle of the "moon tears", would think the moon was shining and flee.
Science has its own explanation for these wonders of nature. Lake County has been the scene of incredible volcanic activity throughout its ancient past. Mount Konocti, the area's defining landmark, is a inactive volcano where past lava flows of magma and basalt were contained under enormous pressure with temperatures of not less than 1,112° Fahrenheit. Heat and pressure resulted in the formation of beta silicon dioxide crystals - Lake County Diamonds - of unsurpassed clarity and the finest optical quality.
Lake County Diamonds are mostly clear and very hard, ranking from 7.5 to 8 (and possibly as high as 9) on the Mohs Scale, and like all diamonds, they can cut glass. They have been used commercially and industrially, but are in greatest demand as semi-precious gems. Lake County Diamonds may be set uncut for a rough natural look, or faced to set off their inner fire which compares in brilliance to African carbon diamonds.
Around 1929, a commercial mine was opened to bring the larger crystals up from the depths of the earth. The speculator, Mr. Garrett, formed The Clear Lake Gem Mining Company and financed the mine. He hoped to capitalize on their beauty, and their relatively low price when compared to genuine diamonds. Garrett hired a gold miner from Alaska to do the trenching and digging in an area known to be productive. After some preliminary work, it was decided a tunnel would be dug to access deeper stones since they seemed to be of a higher quality. With a tunnel drift of 175 feet, blue-white stones were said to have been found. After a couple of years of work the operation was shut down and the adit eventually closed. Mr. Garrett’s idea may have been a good one, but his timing was off. His mining operation coincided with the start of the Great Depression, when money was hard to get and jewelry was a rare luxury.
Valentine’s Day or the weekends around it are the perfect time for your reservation and you can include a diamond hunt or even a special piece of jewelry as a memento from your journey here. We hope you’ll find all “facets” of a Lake County getaway to be brilliant and finding a Lake County diamond is just part of the wonder of this magical place.
A blog about happenings in Lake County.