August 10, 2018
Last month four members of our staff, including George himself, took an exciting weekend trip up to Maine to “get their hands dirty” and mine for garnet and quartz. It was fun-filled and memorable trip for all complete with French-pressed morning coffee over the fire, a hiking mishap, evening violin playing and a lot of bug spray.
Following a successful trip in 2016, George Press, owner of George Press Jewelers and Master Jeweler, Brian Swingle, Jeweler and Watch Specialist, Richard Bolen, Graduate Gemologist, GIA and Christian Richart, Graduate Gemologist, GIA, decided to revisit Mount Apatite. The 325-acre wooded park located in Auburn, Maine, has been a hot spot for “rock hounds” for over 150 years. In the early 1900’s it was a big mining operation, mined for its feldspar. Other minerals to be discovered there have been apatite, garnet, quartz crystals and beautiful tourmaline gems. Our favorite “rock hounds” could not wait to get out into nature and unearth some of the precious stones they handle every day when creating your favorite pieces of jewelry.
The trip got off to an exciting start when Richard and Christian decided to take a pre-mining hike to look for amethyst in a neighboring area. What was supposed to be a quick 15-minute stroll, turned into a five-hour exhausting adventure. Fortunately, a search party was never called (although George and Brian did hear some sirens…), and like the good sports they are, Richard and Christian still managed to swing by Walmart on the way home for some requested camping necessities. The silver lining is that they have already familiarized themselves with next year’s mining location!
Per the rules of the park only hand tools are permitted, which kept their efforts more primitive. However, they had a great new tool during this year’s mining trip that was not utilized in 2016: Christian’s background in geology. Christian was able to provide them with great guidance on where to dig vs taking “educated guesses” and hoping to find something. It made for more efficient mining and gave everyone an entirely new perspective on the process.
Once the trip officially began, each morning would kick off with a beautiful sunrise and fresh made coffee. The fresh air and peaceful atmosphere of their campsite would energize George, Christian, Richard and Brian for the 5+ hours of hiking and digging each day.
Armed with their buckets, chisels, hiking boots and bug spray, they would set off in search of the perfect spot to begin. Throughout the trip George, Christian, Richard and Brian worked together seamlessly as a single unit. Having already built a fantastic working relationship, it was a great change of pace for them to still do something associated with their careers, but in an entirely different fashion. The teamwork and comradery gave them a new appreciation for their skillsets as individuals, and as a group.
We wanted to share a really great experience,” said George. “It was more about the bonding rather than actually finding gems. We knew they were going to be garden quality anyway!”
Using some geological strategy and the addictive drive of wondering what was just one more inch deeper, George, Brian, Christian and Richard would visit the same spots each day during their trip. “It was amazing what you could see in the same location the next day,” said Christian. “Some fresh-eyes and different natural light could make a huge difference.”
Richard agreed. “Every single spot looked tempting.”
Smiling, Brian said, “the carrot was not knowing what was just a few more inches down. It is like in Vegas. You keep playing one slot machine over and over again and finally walk away, only to have the next person play it and hit the jackpot. I didn’t want that to happen after I had done so much work!”
At the end of each day, the guys would retire to the campsite to look over their bounty and relax by campfire and enjoy Christian’s fiddle playing with glasses of bourbon in hand, a shared favorite memory for all.
“It really was an incredible experience. Even though it was just a few weeks ago, I cannot help but smile when I think of my trip up to Mount Apatite with these guys,” laughed George. “By the end, we were definitely ‘rock hound mountain men.’ None of us had shaved in days!”
And while none of them came home with a bucket full of sparkling gems, they did arrive back in Livingston with a deeper friendship, a lot of very fond memories, and of course a cooler full of delicious Maine seafood to feast upon at home….after they had enjoyed a much-awaited and needed long, hot shower and shave of course!