By Chris Ralph
Just to show that prospecting for gold isn’t all I do in the field, I thought I’d put together a few pages on trips taken hunting for gemstones as well. Recently, we took a trip out to the Royston Hills near Tonopah in the central part of the state. My father, my son and a good friend from the church we attend joined me on this trip into the wild and remote parts of Nevada. Early spring in Northern Nevada is a time of unpredictable weather, and we got some mixed weather on this trip, one day warm and pleasant, another day windy, and the last day was both windy and cold.
|It is a very remote spot,
and there are some very spectacular views out here. Note the still snow capped mountains
off in the distance in the photo above. The area receives little rain and
few things grow other than the sagebrush on these barren desert hills. In
spite of the apparent isolation,
one unusual thing about this spot is that I can get normal cell service on my cell phone,
so I can call home. It is amazing how far our modern technology reaches. One can
also see from the photo at the left that the soil is
also very mineralized.
|This is me (on the left) and my friend Roger walking along some of the old workings looking for turquoise. The area is covered with mining claims, and there really is no open area to look for turquoise, but I have a mining claim that is located here. The camp spot shown below is just on the southern end of my claim.|
The location is so far out on the desert that all the time we were there, we never saw any sign of another soul. The only sign of civilization visible was a faint glow at night, near one part of the horizon that indicated the direction of a small ranch about 15 miles away. This area once boomed to the work of men searching for silver – many tunnels and shafts were dug to find rich ore. Turquoise was also found in a number of places throughout the area. That is what we were in search of on our trip to the desert. Although the silver boom only lasted a few years, miners lived out here scratching for turquoise for decades, the turquoise miners lived here pretty much continuously until the early 1980s.
In fact, Royston is one of the best known turquoise districts in the western US, producing some very fine gems for the turquoise and silver jewelry market. A huge amount of bulldozer pushing was done here in the 1960s and 1970s and literally tons of gem quality turquoise was recovered during that time frame.
|This is a bird's eye view of our camp spot in the Nevada desert when we are working for turquoise at Royston. It is a nice level spot to park the trailers. Although there is a power line that goes through here, there is no useable power, no water and no other facilities for many miles - just seemingly endless sagebrush and hills. The western part of my mine workings are the light colored materials on the edge of the photo at the upper right. The turquoise I collect comes from the old dumps of my mine.|
|The lonely road out of the Royston Hills is guarded by a single miners shack (on right). This photo was taken as we were in the process of leaving the area. It does give one a feel for the solitude this region offers to the few travelers who make it out here.|
|Is this one of the dangerous and unfriendly local residents of the desert? No, actually my son had never shot a gun before, and so we took the opportunity to give him a few lessons and allow him to do some target shooting. We did not hunt as there is virtually no wildlife here (we saw only a couple lizards and a few crows), but we brought targets and in the lonely remoteness of the area, we knew no one would be disturbed by our target practice. He took to the shooting fairly well and proved to be a good shot – it guess its all those years with video games! Ben wanted to show his friends about his shooting experience, so we brought some interesting items and dressed him all up for this humorous photo. Ben is a young man that has grown up in the city and certainly not the eccentric and rugged survivalist this photo might imply, so he and his friends got more than a few laughs out of this picture.|
Beyond the target shooting, we had some good meals, watched a couple movies in the evening, and just generally enjoyed the good company of friends and family. Even though the location is isolated, our trailers provided some more comfy conditions for us in the evenings. However, the bottom line is that I was there to hunt for rough Turquoise on my claim. We had some fair success and recovered some nice gems from the old dumps of the prior operations. This photo shows an example of they kind of material we collected there at Royston.
|Of course rough needs to be processed - cut and polished
before it can be used in jewelry. This is an example of some of the beautiful gem turquoise
that this area produces -
this is what the rough looks like after it has been cut into cabochons. There are blues and greens of many shades, most with some form of brown matrix. This
cross section of cabs is included so you can see the final product of our efforts.
No doubt we'll be back again to enjoy the desert solitude and hunt for some
turquoise, Nevada's beautiful sky stone. If you'd like to purchase some
Royston turquoise, please contact me by email at:
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