Garnet, the January birthstone and official gem of New York State. During a recent trip to Herkimer, NY, I traveled about 2 hours north to one of the world’s largest garnet mines. Barton Garnet Mine on Gore Mountain in the heart of the Adirondack mountains. On this venture I was in awe once again of the sheer beauty of the area and the gems that are found here. Knowing what my birthstone looks in a piece of jewelry, I was a little shocked to see how it’s found in nature.
Garnet formation dates back to about the Precambrian Period. Formation of this versatile mineral began about 500 million years before that in the Archeozoic Era when the Grenville Sea, one of the great prehistoric seas, covered this area and extended northward into Canada.
Garnets are found throughout the world in metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks. Most garnet found near Earth’s surface forms when a sedimentary rock is subjected to intense heat and pressure(contact metamorphosis).
Barton Garnet Mine
In the late 1800s, Henry Hudson Barton began mining garnet on his land(on Gore Mountain) using just picks and chisels to etch out the deposits of the red-brown gems. In 1878, Mr Barton opened Barton Garnet Mine, which went on to become one of the world’s largest garnet deposits.
Barton Garnet Mine is located near North Creek, New York, which is 2,600 feet above sea level. It is on the north side of Gore Mountain in the heart of the Adirondacks, the oldest known range of mountains in North America. Here, garnet crystals over two feet in diameter are often seen and crystals over three feet have been reported. The garnets on Gore Mountain are found in diorite rock which is encased in a rim of hornblende with a thin layer of feldspar between the garnet and the hornblende.
Garnets are mined for more than just jewelry. Most people are often surprised to learn that garnet occurs in many other colors and has many other uses. In the United States, the major industrial uses of garnet in 2012 were waterjet cutting (35%), abrasive blasting media (30%), water filtration granules (20%), and abrasive powders (10%).
Other miscellaneous facts about the mines:
- Largest garnet crystals in the world
- Oldest family owned and operated mine in the United States
- ANYONE can find a gem quality garnet without using tools
- Fantastic panoramic views over the Adirondack Park
- Easy access… with a tour guide just drive right into the old mine site.
- Handicap Accessible – Mine site is flat, making it good for walking and for wheelchair accessibility
- Garnet mine tour business started in 1933
- Gore Mountain garnet deposit is recognized as a world famous geology site
- The hardest garnet in the world is only found on Gore Mountain, making the garnet extremely rare.
- The Barton garnet has an unusual and beautiful ruby red color that flashes in the sun.
- In 1969, the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, made the Barton garnet the New York State Gem Stone.
As we traveled up Gore Mountain, I was in awe of the absolutely picturesque scenery. Along the way we drove past several of the roughly 28 lakes that are in the region but we stopped at perhaps the most beautiful of the lakes, Indian Lake.
To go to the mine, we had to stop first at the gift shop to join the tour that had just left for the mine. After getting information about the tour, we made our way to the mine, well, where visitors are allowed to be. If I thought the drive up the mountain was beautiful, I ain’t see nothin’ yet.
After we left the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop, while on our way to catch up with the rest of the tour, I saw more of my Higher Power creations. We drove down the gravel road to what I can best describe as a lagoon of sorts. In front of me was a little pond with the stream gently flowing into then out of a pond that sat a the base of the mountain stood a few stories high behind it.
As I walked down to the water’s edge, there were a couple of medium sized, dark grey boulders with big ruby red splotches on them. Those were where the garnets were formed. On the ground in front of me, to my left, my right and behind me garnet pieces littered the ground. Sparkly little brownish, crimson pieces of different sized gems.
As I sat along the water’s edge, the tour guide’s voice faded. I soaked in the sounds of the water and the beauty that surrounded me while gathering up a few pieces of my birthstone. This was quite a contrast and a nice break from activities the day before at the diamond mine. I wasn’t climbing mounds of rock piles while risking a broken ankles find just one Herkimer diamond. The tools I needed were my bare hands and a container to pick up the garnet pieces. My hands had a break from chisels and hammers which was good as my blood blister healed for a day.
Thought for the day: Being in my Higher Power’s country I was able to feel more closer to Him which gave me clarity of thought and I was able to put things in my life into perspective. Doing this, being in nature, is something I encourage all people to do not matter where you live.
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