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Gemstones Attract Rockhounds from Far Away


Rockhounds abound in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and there’s a story behind each rock, fossil or mineral they collect.

One ardent collector warned, “Rockhounds are like ants. If you give them enough time they will move a mountain.”

When the 1964 flood receded, it left behind an exposed, cabin-sized boulder of jade near Happy Camp, Calif. Within six weeks it was gone! People from around the country had chipped off pieces until there was nothing left.

Another time, an agate strike on the Greensprings filled a little meadow with camper vans and tents of people arriving from all over the West to dig up treasures from the earth.

Tiffany & Co. jewelers of New York established sunstone mines near Plush, Ore., in the early 1900's. This Oregon State official gemstone is especially beautiful because of its many colors and iridescence.  Sunstones still remain there with a large public collecting area.

Today if a collector moves a mountain to find a treasured stone, the disturbed earth must be returned to restore the site.

Sources: "Rockhounding Oregon." Gator Girl Rocks. N.p., 2007. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. . "Annual Show Sponsored by Gem, Mineral Club Scheduled Next Week." Medford Mail Tribune 4 May 1969: B1. Print.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.