Rocking the Crystal Market
by Chris Dias
Chris Manahan placed the quartz crystal upon the table, and I admit initially being underwhelmed. It wasn’t glistening; it lacked sparkle. I assumed like in the movies, gems always had an otherworldly light shining upon them. Looking deeper into the structure, I noticed what appeared to be organic filaments within the crystal—it resembled moss.
It was only a few years ago, Chris and his friends were tree planting on Vancouver Island when they stumbled, quite literally, onto a patch of broken crystals nestled in the mud. Most people would move on, discounting them as cloudy and seemingly contaminated worthless crystals. But Chris was understandably curious. So, he and his friends did what any logical group of men would do…gather as many crystals as they could and offer them to girls.
Well, that and search Google. Having as much success as anyone would hunting down a medical diagnosis on the internet, Chris and his friends turned to the University of Saskatchewan. What they were told shocked them.
“The first thing they said was, ‘can you guys sell us any of this stuff?’ It was a rare stone, and they had not seen anything like it before.”
What Chris and his friends had discovered was actinolite embedded within quartz crystal. Though similar to tourmaline, this form of semi-precious stone was wholly unique.
“It was actinolite phantom quartz,” Chris explained.
Of course, that means I have to slam the breaks on this story and divert into a science lesson so everyone can appreciate what that all means.
Millions of years ago…
Okay, maybe the short version.
Starting with the basics, crystals are solids where the atoms or molecules are arranged in an ordered structure, with quartz being one of the most common. How a mineral forms is known as its “crystal habit”. Quartz can demonstrate different habits—prismatic, hexagonal, enantiomorphic—I didn’t make that up; it’s real. But what quartz generally doesn’t do is form fibrous, slender prisms. That’s something actinolite does, a different type of silicate. Following? Quartz can also form crystals around other crystals; this is known as phantom quartz. Thus, if quartz were to develop a crystal around actinolite, it would be an actinolite phantom quartz.
“We call it a Forest Crystal,” said Chris.
Or we could call it Forest Crystal.
But was it rare? Phantom quartz is not unknown, but actinolite phantom quartz is virtually unseen, not just for Canada—it’s rare for Earth. Chris and his friends were no longer tree planters. They were miners, and the first step was to attend a rock show.
No, not that kind of rock show—one where they sell rocks.
“Everybody wanted to know where it was from,” said Chris. “And when we told them it was from Canada, they were blown away. It’s been a long time since something like this has hit the scene. There’s nothing like it in the world. To have actinolite throughout the entire quartz, and in multiple colors. It looks fake to most people. It’s the newest biggest thing. At the Denver show, nobody had seen anything new…except for that. The one new stone on the market.”
Suffice to say, the specific site was kept secret. Chris and his friends went to work. Using simple acquired tools, digging through the soil, the group worked for two years until finally reaching the bedrock from where the crystals grew from.
“A glacier had popped the top off the pocket and spread the crystals down the mountain…over millions of years. We initially found the broken fragments and followed it like treasure trail until we found better and better ones, then we dug until reaching the bedrock and found the first pocket. That’s when we started pulling out the big pieces.”
Unfortunately, only three veins have been located on the claim, meaning potentially the supply of the world’s only forest crystal could run dry. This increased demand, resulting in an upswell of interest on precisely where the crystals were being recovered from. It created a crystal rush (which sounds like an alternative rock band from the 1970s).
“The prominent collectors wanted to know where they are buying from,” said Chris, “and they had that right. So, we started disclosing our location. Security was amped up. We set up trail cameras all through the site to thwart claim jumping. After the international scene took notice, we claimed everything around that one site, but we never found any other spots, just that one…in the whole world.”
Forest Crystal’s future is dependent on how deep that deposit runs. It could be miles deep, or it could run out tomorrow, potentially creating scarcity. Gem collectors that have acquired forest crystals are gambling that said deposit will eventually run dry, increasing the value of the stones they already possess. If that occurs, forest crystals would be classed as unobtainable, and the prices of these previously rare stones would skyrocket—a $10,000 crystal could rise to a $100,000 crystal. Already, competitors have secured the sites around Forest Crystal in hopes of stumbling on the same stroke of fortune.
“We keep the best pieces from every pocket. But there are collectors out there that want us to hit the bottom tomorrow, and we want to hit it…eventually. That’s the game.”
Chris and his friends are ever vigilant against rivals looking to push Forest Crystal off the land, either through legal means or by stirring controversy over environmental damage. As a result, Forest Crystal endorses ethical mining—all the work is done by hand. No heavy machinery, keeping the site clean and ecologically conscious.
“We’re ethical miners. We respect the land; we respect the water; we respect the people. We want to leave no mark in the end.”
Forest Crystal has only been in operation for four years, and since their foundation, have been openly sharing their process, inviting the public along for the ride.