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A Natural History Hunt: Mount Antero Aquamarine dig with Brian Busse

Aquamarines 2017

This is a trip I’ve been excited about for months now, and I must say it’s one of my new favorite adventures. While most of our tours focus on finding man-made items, this excursion takes History Hunts 12,000 feet above sea-level to search for natural gemstones.

Rare in the United States, aquamarines are found in only a few places with the best gems isolated to Mount Antero area in Colorado. The beauties found here are in amazing condition and fetch high prices. Our group secured permission to search for them from Brian Busse (he appeared on the Weather Channel hit show Prospectors) and set out on a three-day expedition to hand collect them on his claim.

The first step of this adventure involves driving up an uneven mountain trail to Busse’s camp site at 10,000 feet. There, we set up our tent among the evergreens and prepared to hike the rest of the way to the claim, which is at 12,000 feet and essentially a rock pile with level benches carved into it. It is reclaimed by snow each winter then exposed again during summer and the Busse family returns to harvest the aquamarines that can be found amongst the rocks and minerals.

Searching for aquamarines takes a bit of getting used to. You have to train your eyes to look for glass-like glints as you scratch through sometimes wet gravel. Another technique involves surface collecting after a good rain. Both are thrilling experiences and finding the hexagonal light blue crystals can be somewhat euphoric at 12,000 feet (maybe it’s the lack of oxygen).

I managed to snag a 24-carat beauty on our third day. Between Sal and I, we brought home over 150 carats of gem-quality crystals and additional lesser quality (more opaque) aquamarines and other crystals and specimen (smoky quartz and such). The combined adventure of mountain Jeeping, tent camping, and collecting aquamarines on America’s highest gem-producing location is beyond extraordinary. After three full days, I’ve definitely caught a case of “blue fever” and look forward to returning.

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