Jackson's Crossroads Amethyst Dig
Wilkes County, Georgia
January 16-17, 2004
By Mike Streeter

It was a cold day in January 2004 when an eager group of rockhounds gathered in a northeast Georgia pine forest to do battle with mother earth. We had come together from near and far to hunt for ever-elusive amethyst that seldom surrenders without a good fight.

We arrived at the early in the morning on January 16, 2004. This "machine" dig was by invitation only and was attended by a select group of friends including Mike Galvin, Dave Smith, Don Brockway, David Reville, Chrissy Streeter (my wife) and myself.

The bigger trackhoe in action
Click on the above picture to enlarge

Two large trackhoes were used to remove an overburden of soil, saprolite and competent bedrock. The larger Kobelco trackhoe weighs 50,000 pounds and is able to pick up about 1.2 cubic yards of material in a single scoop and dig to a depth of 25 feet below grade. The smaller IHI 555J trackhoe weighs a mere 13,000 pounds and is able to dig approximately 13 feet below grade.

View of hole from the rear (above left)
Inspecting underside of boulder for pockets before extraction (above right)

We all hoped to find pockets within the saprolite and bedrock that contained amethyst crystals. When a decent clay-filled pocket with amethyst was spotted in the pit, the machine was halted and all the digging had to be painstakingly performed by hand so the crystals would not be damaged.

The crew working a pocket by hand
Click on the above picture to enlarge

There were loose crystals and matrix pieces in smaller pockets to be found by sorting through soils and breaking up boulders that had been excavated.

Chrissy sorting through the loose material (above left)
Dave putting the hurt to a poor defenseless boulder (above right)

As a geologist, I am always interested in the geology of an area that we rockhound. The bedrock is metadacite (metamorphosed dacite). The soft decomposed rock (formerly metadacite) that is generally above the bedrock, rich in clay and remaining its original place is called saprolite. The metadacite and saprolite both contain quartz pockets. Dacite is an extrusive igneous rock made up mostly of quartz but also contains plagioclase feldspar, pyroxene, and amphibole. Dacite generally forms as a thick rounded lava flow in the shape of a dome when it erupts from a volcano's surface. Dacite lava was most likely extruded during the late Precambrian to the early Paleozoic Eras in response to plate tectonic forces. As is common, the volcanic rock must have contained voids that would later become the sites for quartz crystallization. The dacite was metamorphosed during several Paleozoic tectonic events to become metadacite. Granite plutons that outcrop as near as 5 miles to the northwest were likely intruded during a Late Paleozoic tectonic event. These granites likely produced silica-rich hydrothermal fluids that made their way through fractures to deposit quartz crystals in the pre-existing voids within the metadacite. Several different varieties of quartz (clear, cloudy and amethyst) occur at the site indicating that there must have been at least three separate hydrothermal phases. Subsequent near-surface weathering of feldspar and the oxidation of iron rich minerals produced clay. This clay was transported by meteoric water through fractures and deposited in most of the quartz-lined pockets.

The highlight of the two days was the discovery of a large pocket in a monster boulder that had been plucked from the hole. The pocket is lined with a druze of needle-like quartz crystals. Amidst the sparkling druze are several incredible clusters of dark purple amethyst crystals. We all agreed that this was the finest specimen of matrix amethyst from Georgia that any of us had ever seen. We hope that this complete amethyst pocket still in the rock will hopefully find its final resting spot in a museum where it can be appreciated by rockhounds for years to come. The following pictures were taken of the yet-to-be-cleaned specimen so you can only imagine how magnificent it will look when all the dirt is washed away from the crystals.

Whole Rock (above left) & Pocket Close-up (above right)

Click on each specimen picture to enlarge

Close-ups of pocket (above)

Late Saturday afternoon, we came to realize that it was time to stop. Dark clouds were starting to form on the horizon and the weather forecast called for heavy rains that would start that evening and continue throughout the next day. The massive hole would have to be filled and the area graded before nightfall. While David started filling the hole with the Kobelco, we divided all the loot, making sure that our good-natured trackhoe operator was well compensated with crystals for his skill and enthusiasm.

Dumping the dirt and rocks back into the hole (above left)
Dueling trackhoes (above right)

The results of the dig surpassed even our most optimistic expectations. We found numerous large pockets containing abundant dark and light purple, gem-quality amethyst, including loose crystals, clusters and matrix specimens.


Click on each specimen picture to enlarge


Click on each specimen picture to enlarge


Click on each specimen picture to enlarge

Click on each specimen picture to enlarge


Click on each specimen picture to enlarge


Click on each specimen picture to enlarge

We were exhilarated by the knowledge that we had recovered some of the finest Georgia amethyst crystals ever found. We all drove away from the site with bulging buckets and big smiles on our faces.