The Fall Denver Show and Topaz Mountain
Colorado Collecting Trip, September, 2006

Before we could go collecting, we
first had a major show to do!
Here I am with my sales display
at the Fall Denver Show,
Holiday Inn, Room #124-

Here's a nice shot of
Stephen and Tara's display-
Steve Brancato and his girlfriend, Connie, came by to visit with us. Steve discovered the famous "Diannes" Aquamarine Pocket on Mount Antero, and generously offered us a tour of his mine!!!

20 Sept, after the Denver show, we traveled to near Florissant, Colorado, back to Stephen and Tara's home.  After a day of rest, we walked up the mountain to Stephen's Topaz Mountain claims.  At over 9,000 feet in elevation, the steep hike only seemed difficult...
until you actually get to where you're going and then start
DIGGING in the hard Granite!

After pounding on a pegmatite vein for several hours, we moved about 3 feet of Granite and started finding small bi-colored Topaz crystals!  

Here comes my good friend Kevin Dixon!  Kevin needed some rock-diggin' therapy in the "Alpine" mountains of the Tarryall's
Stephen works on the
pocket some more, a few hours before dark-
Around 5pm, as Stephen and I really started getting into a pocket, guess who pulls up from down below us but Steve Brancato and Kevin Dixon!  Steve came to see if we wanted to go to Mount Antero with him.  But, dawg gone it, we were in a Topaz pocket now and here is where we would stay.  Kevin made it up in about an hour and started helping us with the pocket.  It soon got dark and then started raining...  But, there we stayed, taking turns digging our rich pocket with flashlights on the side of the cold, wet mountain.  At about 10pm, it started hailing,
which "hailed" to us to get the hell out of there!  

21 Sept; The next day, we all headed back up to work the pocket more.  Here, Kevin proves to be an eclectic guy-  He can do Yoga and collect Topaz, all at the same time, while singing Yankee-Doodle Dandy!  Leave it to Kevin (a Feldspar junkie) to find a superb Bavino-Twinned Orthoclase 8cm long, studded with Phenakites!
Congratulations Kevin!!!

Blood, Sweat and Topaz!  
A closeup of the "Steve & Scott" pocket as
I donate another pint to the effort!

Kevin was kind enough to shoot
these pictures of
me in the pocket-
A fresh beauty comes out-
A close-up of this 56 carat
gem Topaz crystal!

Another chunk bites the dust!
Stephen checking out a freshly mined Topaz crystal-

The results for the first 2 days of mining in
the S&S pocket-

22 Sept, It figures... It snowed on us in April and it happened again this day.  Today, we decided to stay inside and rest.  Stephen's dog
"Topo" is wondering what the heck is going on!  This killed our trip to Mount Antero for the year, as it is now buried in snow for the winter...

23 Sept; Cold, wet and muddy, we trudged our way back up the mountain to continue work in the S&S pocket-

Stephen gets back to nature!
While laying in a mud puddle,
we open the pocket up-

One of my biggest so far!
A 90 carat gem-

Just above the tip of the screw drive is a Topaz in the wall that ends up being on a matrix of 2 smoky Quartz crystals!  The circled area on the thick floor mud is where I recovered "The Beast of Burden" specimen that is to be mentioned further.  

After Stephen spend several hours scrubbing all of the dense red clay off of the Quartz crystals, 4 Topaz crystals could be seen.  Three other significant scars of very large Topaz crystals could be seen.  My biggest gem Topaz crystal from the pocket (125 carats) obviously fit back on the center of the plate!!!  
To be continued-

A pair of fine Topaz crystals that I found on the cold, wet day of the 23rd
A grouping of my best self-collected Topaz crystals so far-

24 Sept, Warm and sunny, today we were attacked by the Monstrous "Man-Eating" Granites of the Tarryall Mountains!
Slurp, munch, chomp...

On this day, my friend Phil from the Colorado School of Mines came up to visit and collect with us-
Phil and Kyle being
simultaneously sucked in by the
carnivorous Granite-

Digging with
a view!

Stephen taught that Granite a thing or two
about who's really the tough one!

"The Beast of Burden"
Stephen was up until 5am working on the reconstruction of this piece. In the end, it has *7* gem Topaz crystals, along with numerous Phenakites studding the Smoky Quartz crystals!!!   I had the honor to collect the matrix plate and all of the re-attached Topaz crystals from the pocket, along with naming this piece!  Being it is a gangly beast and Steve spent all night working on it, the name seems appropriate.

A closeup of the center,
125 carat gem Topaz crystal-
This is surely one of the finest mineral specimens I have so far
had the privilege to collect!

Another great piece that I had the honor to collect, was this miniature specimen, consisting of 2 gem Topaz crystals, with 3 very nice Phenakites, on Smoky Quartz!  The specimens was named "Two Birds With One Stone", being the upper Topaz crystal was re-attached.  

25 Sept; Stephen and Topo on a warm and sunny day,
with Pilots Peak in the background-

26 Sept; Today, Stephen and I needed some rest.  Stephen hit his hand real bad yesterday and I had a purple toe after dropping a big bar on my foot.  Our good friend Joe Dorris invited us up to see the work Collector's Edge is doing on the "Two Points" claim.  This property has produced the finest Amazonite-Smoky Quartz pockets from Colorado and the world!  Not only were we getting to see the work, but Bryan Lees himself would be present on this fine day!  I LOVE their 100,000 pound, 992D Excavator!  This is the very excavator that Collector's Edge used to do all of their work at the Red Cloud Wulfenite mine in Arizona, and at the Benitoite Gem mine in California!  WOW!!!

Here are some great shots of Bryan Lees
and Joe Dorris working together.  Stephen and I greatly surprised Bryan and Joe when we showed them the Topaz specimens we had just recovered!  In a spontaneous moment, Bryan actually named
the pocket for us and said that the matrix
plates were amongthe best he had ever
seen from Colorado!  The "Steve and Scott
Topaz Pocket", or S&S, name is born!
Here's Stephen basking in the fame
of our discovery, as Bryan and Joe take pictures and video the "Beast of Burden".  Afterwards, Bryan took us to the place were the famous "Tree Root" Amazonite-Smoky pocket was found.  Standing on the exact point of discovery, I felt a very special honor to see it!

27 Sept, today we returned to the S&S pocket.  By now, it was only producing small, occasional Topaz, and most of our work was trying to improve access.  Today, which was my 6th day on the mountain, would be my last for this trip, as I was thoroughly exhausted.

28 Sept; I decided to spend one last day touring around with friends and looking at properties and deposits.  Here, my friend Brian shows me his claim, containing Fluorite, Smoky Quartz and Chatoyant Labradorite.
Colorado sure is a beautiful place!

Aspens are my favorite trees!
Pikes Peak, just outside
Florissant, Colorado-

My best Topaz crystal from the "Steve and Scott" Pocket, a bi-colored gem weighing 75 carats-
Stephen's best Topaz from the S&S pocket, a bi-colored gem
weighing 77 carats-

Stephen's second-best Topaz, weighing about 100 carats-
My second-best Topaz
weighing 90 carats-

A nice 5cm miniature showing Orthoclase Feldspars growing on a gem Smoky Quartz!
Here's a pic of my best Smoky Quartz crystal from the pocket, measuring 8cm long, with a few Phenakites and micro red Fluorites!

Another nice matrix Topaz specimen that I collected
Another view of the
"Beast of Burden"

Here is the grand total of digging for six days
in the S&S pocket-
We recovered over 100 single Topaz crystals and SIX matrix plates!!  
In all, this was certainly one of the best "surface" finds I have been a part of discovering and one of the most enjoyable gem pegmatite pockets I have so far helped to collect!  

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