Graves Mountain swap and sale, Lincolnton, Georgia, USA
The best rutile specimens in the world come from Graves Mountain in Lincolnton, Georgia, USA. A beautiful stone marker marks the entrance to the quarry.
Twice a year, in the spring and fall, a rock swap and rock dig are held at the mine. Thats right! You can actually go and try to dig your own specimens from this world famous locality.
In addition to being the only collecting locality that I know of with its own stone marker, the Graves Mountain dig is unique in having golf carts available to haul you and your tools to and from the collecting areas! There are two main pits at Graves Mountain. This is is a view from the top of the ridge above the main pit, where most of the rutiles have been found.
There is a highly acidic pond in the middle of the main pit. It looks pretty, but I am told it has a PH of as little as 1! Apparently the pyrite in the area naturally forms sulfuric acid. No one went swimming the day I was there.
Most of the collecting in the main pit was done along the high wall. Several people found rutiles loose in the dump piles at the base of this wall.
Look closely and you will see that this collector is actually using a hatchet to look for specimens. I prefer to use a crack hammer and chisel. You should, too.
There was plenty to look at. Veins of hematite and pyrophyllite and kyanite made for interesting collecting. The mountain was actually mined for kyanite, not rutile. I saw a lot of cool lazulite crystals. Some people collected samples of rock with lazulite and pyrite to use for lapidary (cabbing).
One of the more interesting things I found was this large boulder covered with a thin coating of iridescent hematite. The surface of this rock was about 3 by 5 feet and almost completely covered in hematite.
Here is a closeup of the hematite boulder. Great colors!
In the second pit, most people were trying to dig for quartz crystals. Most of the crystals are poor or worse...unless they are covered with the iridescent hematite. Some of the iridescent quartz crystals are unbelievably beautiful. The good iridescent quartz crystals are found in pockets where a quartz vein and hematite vein intersect.
I had fun digging, but made most of my finds with the silver pick (I bought stuff!). This is Charlie Pagets table full of rutile and iridescent hematite.
Charlie has been digging at Graves Mountain for over 20 years. He knows where to find the good stuff! This matrix piece has five crystals in it. One of them is twinned twice.
Charlies brother Greg also digs at the mountain. Here Greg is holding a nearly flawless double terminated crystal in matrix.
I bought this nice rutile from Greg.
While most people come to Graves Mountain for rutile, the quartz crystals are cool, too. This is John. The quartz crystal he is holding is coated with a gorgeous layer of green hematite. What a piece!
Junior is the caretaker for the mine. I am not going to say much about the rutile he is holding except that I own it. It is one of the finest pieces to come from the mine in the last 20 years. We all have Junior to thank for organizing the swap and dig.
This is Juniors wife, Melissa. She digs, too! Here she is holding a perfect hematite covered quartz. You have to see the colors in the sun! Thanks, Melissa!
Some of the rutiles come from the mine coated in irridescent hematite. This piece is actually much more colorful than its picture. While you can take the coating off, if you want, I would not! They make unbelievable specimens!
If you get a chance to go to the dig at Graves Mountain, do it! And say "Hi" to Junior, Melissa, Charlie and Greg. The dig is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. I highly recommend it!