Screenshot 20210409 105544How was the Morefield pegmatite discovered?

Prior to the 19th century, there is no incontrovertible evidence of the Morefield pegmatite being discovered. However, Fontaine (1883) indicates his belief that the Native Americans mined the nearby Rutherford pegmatite, providing the following personally-observed evidence (p. 331):

It is quite evident that some of these deposits near Amelia C[ourt] H[ouse] have in prehistoric times been worked to some extent. On opening the deposit near the village that has afforded the largest amount of mica, I am informed it was found that the outcrop had been removed for the depth of about ten feet. Refuse mica, stones and clay were then thrown back into the excavation. At a spot about two miles distant from this, I saw myself indications that the outcrop of a mica deposit had been disturbed. For the depth of ten or twelve feet, the earth had either been thrown in, or washed in upon the deposit which had been removed to that depth. On the top of the undisturbed deposit, and under about twelve feet of foreign earth, small bits of charcoal could be found. Plates of mica that have an accurate rhombic shape, may be found here. They appear to have been trimmed into that form. It is quite possible that these slight excavations were made by Indians, perhaps from curiosity. About two miles from this spot is a considerable outcrop of potstone that has been quite extensively worked by Indians, for the manufacture of pots and other utensils. This locality has been explored by the Smithsonian Institution, and has yielded many relics.

Silas Morefield source Rudy Bland PERMSilas Morefield submitted the story of how he discovered the pegmatite in 1933 in his own words, in the magazine Rocks and Minerals:

“On an afternoon the latter part of September, 1929, I was squirrel hunting on our farm and accidentally ran across some mica lying on the ground, on a southern slope of a hill. I also noticed quartz rock, bits of greenish stone and some kind of a stone with six smooth sides. Not knowing anything about minerals, all I noticed at the time was the color of the stones. Well, I began to wonder what I would find down in the ground, and a few days later I took my equipment that I used for blasting stumps and went over on the hillside. After looking on the ground, I selected a spot and managed to get a hole down about four feet. Then I put two sticks of dynamite in and set off a blast. After the smoke had cleared away, I walked up and began investigating, and the first thing that I noticed was mica, large blocks that were twelve inches across, a six sided greenish stone about twelve inches long, also some other green stone.” Photo above by Rudy Bland. Silas Morefield on tractor. Used with permission.

Newspaper articles in 1988 and 1990, during the time Warren “Bill” Baltzley owned the mine, describe its discovery with folksy phrases like “chasing a rabbit into its lair,” “jammed a stick of dynamite into the ground and blew out gemstones,” “that’s how the story goes,” “carries with it a little folklore,” “Morefield had a problem—his dog would often chase the rabbit into holes in the ground and the hunt would be over,” “frustrated, on one occasion, [Morefield] packed the hole with an explosive charge,” “gems went flying everywhere,” and “Baltzley wouldn’t bet on the authenticity of the story” (article, article). For whatever reason, Baltzley’s descriptions of Morefield mine are more of a myth than history. Could Baltzley have had access to the real printed story? It’s hard to say. Morefield died in 1959, and Baltzley purchased the mine in 1985, 26 years later.

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How was the Morefield pegmatite formed?

Fontaine (1883, p. 330) at University of Virginia offered an early hypothesis of how this pegmatite formed:

These granite veins have the same general features as those that in other regions afford marketable mica. They are not fissure veins, but are ruptured portions of the country rock, into which the components of the granite have been introduced, most probably, by solution in hot water. The vein-like deposits of granitic matter seem to occur in a pretty well defined band, but are not continuous over long distances. They occur more commonly en echelon. Sometimes overlapping each other. Some of them, over limited distances at least, seem at one time to have been open crevices. Some have remained undisturbed since their first filling, but others have evidently been reopened or disturbed more than once, and have received new materials.

Basically, 134 years ago, there was already an idea that the Amelia pegmatites were quite complex and that no single transformational event could explain all of minerals present. The order in which he hypothesizes the minerals were formed is as follows: Feldspar, then Mica, then Quartz. Beyond these, Beryl, Fluorite, Columbite, Spessartite [sic], Helvite, Orthite, Microlite, Monazite, Galena, Stibnite, Pyrochlore, Apatite, Black Tourmaline, plus “one or two additional minerals from this locality remain to be more fully examined” (p. 339). It is important to note that virtually every one of these found in the Rutherford pegmatites was ultimately found in the Morefield pegmatite a couple of miles away, with the exception of Stibnite (Fontaine, 1883, p. 330-339).

See Reconnaissance fluid inclusion study of the Morefield pegmatite, Amelia County, Virginia

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How big is the Morefield pegmatite?

20160302 111657In 1962, it was already thought to be over 1,000 feet long, and from diamond drill core samples, over 200 feet deep (Brown, 1962, p. 15). Note that the mine—already plunging 10 stories—only goes half of the way down into the known depth of the pegmatite. Now that’s something for a miner to sink his or her teeth into. This photo demonstrates 2@ diamond drill core bits and 3@ drill core samples, in which telltale country stone, diabase, and amazonite may be observed.


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What causes amazonite’s distinctive ocean blue-green color?

Speculation about the source of color for amazonite surfaced as early as 1911. The Enclypedia Britannica reports a hypothesis that, “The colour has been attributed to the presence of copper, but as it is discharged by heat it is likely to be due to some pigment of organic origin, and an organic salt of iron has been suggested” (Amazon-stone 1911).

Silas Morefield also pondered this question. Jones (1933) explained, “It's a hobby that has become firmly embedded during the last 11 years, so much so that [Silas] even worries over the source of the green tint in amazonite. ‘That's something a lot of scientists would like to know,’ he says to console him self (sic).” He was still pondering the question in 1957: “‘What makes it green?’ Moorefield (sic) asks everyone who comes to see it. So far no one has been able to tell him” (Amelia, 1957, p. 21).

Smithsonian (2017) answers this question in this way: “The source of amazonite’s color was uncertain for years, and many assumed the color was due to copper, which often produces blue and green colors in gems and minerals. However, it is now believed that the blue-green color results from small quantities of lead and water in the feldspar.”

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Are amazonite and turquoise related species of minerals?

No. Amazonite is a feldspar mineral, while turquoise is a phosphate mineral. The color from turquoise comes from the presence of copper (CU) insert source; the color of amazonite comes from the presence of water (H20) and lead (Pb) insert source. Amazonite is slightly harder on the Mohs scale—6-6.5, in comparison to turquoise, which is 5-6 on the Mohs scale.

About the only features that they may share are their blue-green color (which various widely in both minerals), the fact that both are recognized as gemstones and the possibility that Native Americans were thought to mine them both (and potentially to wear objects made from them).

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What will I find if I visit Morefield Gem Mine?

This is the most important mystery that draws me and my family back to Morefield year after year. No matter how many specimens we have—and it’s a lot, frankly, more that we have space to display suitably—we still keep returning. We’re just like Silas Morefield (1933), who said, “I have been more and more interest in minerals, and am constantly on the lookout for crystals.”

R. W. Geehan (Morefield, 1953) finished work on the manuscript of Morefield Pegmatite Mine, Amelia County, Virginia in April 1953. As a 21st-century reader of this report, you may find one of the most valuable sections of information in this booklet to be the results of the 1953 beneficiation test. This assessment of 1300 pounds of pegmatite from the mine indicated that the composition was the following:

75.2% feldspar

12.1% quartz

11.0% mica

1.6% other minerals

0.1% the rare metal(s) Tantalite-columbite (sic)

100.1% Total                                                        .

This beneficiation test’s results aligns with our visual observation at Morefield mine over multiple trips and our research observation.

What else might you find? Particularly, what are those “other minerals”? See the chapter titled “Minerals found at Morefield mine.”

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How did the gemcutters in Germany know Morefield mine amazonite had been stolen?

In a 1940 article, Jones tells of a situation where “[s]omebody stole 150 pounds of the mineral from the Morefield mine and shipped it through a New York jobber, to Germany.” The story goes that American Gem and Pearl Company (as you’ll note, the company that had been influential in selling Rutherford Mines gems) contacted Morefield, indicating that the firm in Ida [Idar-Oberstein], Germany had received the property and were ready to pay him for it. “He accepted the check and let the thief go unmolested.” So, how did they know the stone came from Morefield mine? Jones explains, “Geologists here and abroad can examine it and tell where it originated, no matter how its shipping tag reads.”

Even without our discussing this theory, the subject came up in one of my interview of Dunaway on March 2, 2016. The full script of interview video 111336 follows, and the video is available for viewing, as well.

Screenshot 20210330 2305422[Karen] OK, so Sam, so what I was asking if, if you could tell me the differences. So, if somebody handed you a piece of Amazonite, I’m suspecting that you could probably figure out whether it was yours or not.

Screenshot 20210330 230212[Sam] Yeah, sometimes you can, yeah. Like this Russian has the heavy white lines through it, a little different shade of green, I don’t know what you would call that difference. But the white in here is albite. That’s the albite layers, it’s a sodium feldspar. It’s called a “perthitic” texture.

This has the little white lines, too, but they’re much finer. We get that also, at times. But then, these are just some rough-tumbled stones. But you see much, much less of it in, in these pieces from the Morefield mine. Some pieces we get a lot of it. Sometimes we get almost none at all. Here’s one little small piece and it’s almost pure Amazonite. Nothing in it. This is harder to cut when it’s like this. It wants to fracture along the cleavage planes. You get these beautifully, beautifully dark pieces.

[Karen] Can you show me some Amazonite where it’s crystal, where it’s really a little more transparent?

[Sam] Not transparent. They’re transluscent. I don’t have any in the showcase here. Now here is a large crystal that’s rather ugly looking. But if it were cut, there would probably be some nice transluscent areas in it. That’s actually a really fine crystal for here. For anywhere, for that matter.

[Karen] Right.


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How far does the vein of amazonite extend?

Silas Morefield didn’t know, and the current owner, Sam Dunaway, after 75 years and many thousands of dollars of exploration, find himself in the same quandary. Jones (1940) explained that “Mr. Morefield has no idea how far into the earth the vein of amazonite he has uncovered extends.”

There are theories about the size of the overall Morefield pegmatite. Brown (1962) provides some context: consider reducing this and changing it from a quote to a reference

Pegmatites are common throughout the Amelia area and are especially abundant in an oval-shaped sub-area about 4 miles long by 2 miles wide, elongated northward from just south of Amelia to the vicinity of the Pinchbeck No. 1 mine near Nibbs Creek. Pegmatites are also concentrated, though less thickly, in another sub-area 9 miles long, extending from near the Morefield mine 4 miles east-northeast of Amelia to Denaro 6 miles south of Amelia. Lemke, Jahns, and Griffitts (1952, p. 104-107) refer to the first as the Jefferson-Amelia area and the second as the Morefield-Denaro area and note that pegmatites in the two differ structurally.

Sam Dunaway (2017) took this question a little further. “The year before last, Martin Marietta did more diamond drilling on the adjacent land for the rock quarry. They started in 1989. They drilled a hole for us, over by the road. It should have been sloping at a pretty steep angle, and cut a vertical hole deep. But it missed it. It went in and out of gneiss and pegmatite. There was one run of nice green amazonite. 830 feet from the nearest mine workings, near the road. Where they found the amazonite would be almost ground level of the shaft – it didn’t show anything deep. 100’ would be the best place to get some depth. In the back yard, the pegmatite is going down the hill. One long, straight trim. The parking lot is on it. It goes down the hill in both directions, almost to the gate, and it’s thinning at the surface. We’ve been doing some mapping. 100’ could give the best access.”

The jury is still out on this mystery.

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Did Morefield mine amazonite line Hermann Göring’s swimming pool?

In a conversation on April 15, Dunaway (2017) mentioned, “There’s a story going around Amelia that some of the amazonite from Morefield mine was cut for Hermann Göring’s swimming pool, in charge of Hitler’s air force. It’s a wild story. They showed me some pictures of the site where his home was. There was nothing about finding the amazonite later when it had been razed and used for something else. Don’t know the story, other than what I’ve heard.”

Wikipedia (2017) notes that Göring founded the Gestapo and was appointed commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe. Walden (2000) shows a photo of “Göring's house from the adjacent hill, the highest point on the Obersalzberg” including a pool. Black and white, it appears to show a darker material around the lip of the pool (possibly the amazonite?) and stairs on the end closest to the house. A lighter, perhaps white, material on the sides and bottom in the bottom of the pool itself.

While Morefield mine’s connection to Göring swimming pool is unsubstantiated, a quick online search might lead one to think it is at least plausible. First, Jones (1940) indicated Silas Morefield had a relationship with a buyer in Ida, Germany. Second, per Walden (2000), in 1941 Göring “enlarged [the small rustic mountain lodge] to about double its original size, and even added a large outdoor swimming pool, lined with blue tile.”

While research on Ida turned up little, Sweet & Penick (1986) clarified that the German city where Morefield sold his wares was actually called Idar-Oberstein. This tiny town, about an hour and twenty minutes away, northeast of the French border, was “a town world famous for its gem cutting and high quality jewelry” (p. 17). Its artisans formed the necklace from Morefield mine amazonite that was purchased by the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in 1962 (p. 17). Note that this town is about 400 miles (622 kilometers) away from Göring’s house in Obersalzberg. Regarding its reputation as gemstone handlers, one need look no farther than its tourist information site: “Brilliant possibilities - far more than simply gemstones...Forts and castles, world-famous museums, incredible gemstone mines and gemstone cutting facilities along with a broad range of sporting and recreational activities await you in Idar-Oberstein” (Idar-Oberstein 2017). A search using the terms “Idar-Oberstein” and museum results in dozens of photos of its displays of minerals, gems and jewelry.

Walden (2000) also notes that a 1945 bombing attack severely damaged Hermann Göring’s house, “a gift from the Nazi Party in 1933.” They also note that “[t]he ruins were completely razed in 1951-52, with only scattered rubble to be found today in the woods that have overgrown the site. The website further shows a “photo [that] shows a large piece of the blue glazed tile that once lined the swimming pool (this tile piece and others have disappeared due to the hotel construction).” This broken tile, in the glass, shows ocean blue glaze on an orange clay background. It’s hard to imagine that shade of tile being used along with amazonite. On the other hand, if that particular photo is not genuine (there is nothing to connect the photo visually to the Hermann Göring's house site), it’s hard to say.

While it is not impossible for the Görings to purchase materials from a town as far away as Idar-Oberstein—after all, they were “world famous”—there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to back this story up. However, rumors often start with a shred of truth. If it were not used for this house, could Morefield mine amazonite tile have been shipped to Germany for some other pool? Perhaps we’ll never know. Or maybe a better mystery is, “How did this particular rumor get started”?

More pictures, info:

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Why have many people never heard of Morefield mine?

Wherever I go in my travels in Virginia, if I mention Morefield, I often encounter blank stares. Recently, three hours away from the mine, I met a middle-aged woman who has traveled back and forth to Amelia County, Virginia, her whole life to see her aunt. “I’ve never heard of Morefield mine…’Moorefield’? she spelled it out quizzically. To be fair, when I mention the gold mines near Lake Anna, Virginia, people often react with the same sense of surprise. The difference, however, is that Morefield mine is a currently-worked mine, whereas the mine at Lake Anna has been closed for many years.

An even greater challenge is combating misinformation, as I discovered during research for the book (incidentally, never brought to my attention by the Dunaway’s). In an April 2016 article in the magazine Rock & Gem, titled “Amazing Amazonite,” its senior consulting editor, Bob Jones, wrote, “These mines were worked in the 1950s, but yield little or nothing today” (Dunaway, 2016, p. 6). While it is doubtful that Jones had negative intent by those words, the result of faulty journalism missed an opportunity improve the mine’s visibility in the gem community. Curiously, Dunaway’s gracious letter to the editor was not accompanied by a formal apology from either the magazine nor Jones. And the damage had already been done—the readers of the April 2016 magazine are much less likely to see Dunaway’s letter to the editor 6 months later in October 2016. To be fair, Rock & Gem notes that “Most of our editorial contributors are amateur writers,” so presumably its readers use the magazine’s content with a sense of caveat emptor.

In the mid-twentieth century, Amelia County mines have had a higher status. In 1968, Sinkankas wrote, “[T]he gem-quality amazonite from the Amelia localities (Rutherford and Morefield pegmatites) enjoys a world-wide reputation because of the intensity and beauty of its color and the size of fracture-free pieces” (p. 389).

To be fair, many individuals who have never heard of Morefield mine may have no interest in geology. In contrast, there is another science-related tourist spot far out west on Route 360, the Metro Richmond Zoo; despite being 36 miles away, many Richmond natives are aware of it. Morefield Gem Mine is just another 11.9 miles past the Zoo, just off Route 360. Perhaps zoology is just more compelling than geology?

And it’s also worthwhile to note that neither of the owners in the past few decades have invested heavily into full, year-round marketing campaign—which would be critical for any destination so far from a major city. (This may be even hold true back to the mine’s original owner.) The Dunaway’s focus for the tourist side of the mine is in education. They target their services to the school and homeschool markets. Because the mine is a retirement project for the Dunaway’s, they have an intentional goal to balance the retail operations in alignment with their personal travel and downtime needs.

Virginia newspapers have done their part of bring the mine to the forefront; lengthy articles have been published in 1988, 1990. National news organizations such as USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post have, as well. As Saffir with the Washington Post suggested (2002), “To locate stones that aren’t weathered and to virtually guarantee a find, many experts suggest stopping by the Morefield Gem Mine near Richmond.” At that point in time, there were apparently three other certified miners blasting and hauling minerals out to “feed” the rockhounds above ground.

However, as is pointed out elsewhere in this book, a few of these articles suffer from poor fact-checking. Scientific journals have done their part in representing the research element of the mine, with lengthy articles having been published in ____.

In 2010, Peyton Kelley blogged about a QVC show on the Smithsonian Institution National Gem Gallery; one of the vendors that participated was Morefield Gem Mine. Kelley (2010) commented, “I have lived in Virginia for over 30 years and had never heard of this mine. When I started working on the Smithsonian project, I decided to find out what the story of this mine was.  My friends in the gem business told me it had been closed for years and a court house had been built on it. I did a search on line and found the contact for the mine owners, Sam and Sharon Dunaway. I called them up and made a trip (35 minutes from my house) to see what this was really all about. I was not only delighted by Sam and Sharon (who are wonderful) but also to find that the mine was still in existence.” As a thoughtful journalist, Kelley took his research one step further by checking himself rather than trusting a rumor.

In February 2016, Morefield Gem Mine was included in “17 Underrated Places in Virginia to Take an Out-of-Towner,” on the Only in Your State site (Underrated 2016). On September 1, 2016, WTVR Channel 6 suggested for tourists to visit Morefield Gem Mine, since the Old Rutherford Mine featured in the actual newscast (about the 2,800 carat Big Daddy Garnet) is no longer open (Bryan 2016).

Blessedly, the Virginia pegmatite merits a mention (however brief) in a lengthy 2016 treatise on the mineral, Amazonite: Mineralogy, Crystal Chemistry, and Typomorphism: “In the USA, several pegmatite deposits in the states of Virginia (Amelia Courthouse) and Colorado (Pikes Peak) have been explored particularly for amazonite”. Unlike the other entries, his North America references are neither footnoted nor sourced. Morefield is inventoried under the category of “Other [Non-Russia or CIS] Countries, Deposits and Occurrences in Pegmatites.” It is listed under item #4 as “Amelia, Rutherford, Morefield (Virginia),” alongside occurrences in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and California (Ostrooumov, 2015, p. 17).

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy did its part by making Morefield Gem Mine it’s #mineralofthemonth for February 2017. This coincided with Sam Dunaway’s 48-year safety award (Virginia 2017).

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Why is Russia (or the USSR) rarely mentioned as a source of amazonite in domestic articles about Morefield mine?

Russia is conspicuous by its absence in Virginia articles about sources of amazonite. For example, the Farmville Herald lists four sources of amazonite in the world: Moorefield Mine (sic); the old Rutherford Mine; Pikes Peak, Colorado; and Madagascar (1957, p. 20).

Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) notes “amazon-stone…was obtained almost exclusively from the neighbourhood of Miyask [sic], in the Ilmen [sic] mountains, 50 m. S.W. of Cheliabinsk, Russia, where it occurs in granitic rocks.” This location is in the southwestern part of Russia, about 200 kilometers from the Kazakhstan border. In 1911, the Rutherford Mine pegmatite had already been discovered, so it is interesting that the British authors were unaware of it (or chose not to include it); the Morefield pegmatite would not be discovered for another eighteen years.

Warren Baltzley was prone to underestimating the existence of, the volume of, and the quality of amazonite in other areas. “According to Baltzley and other experts, there are only few places in the world where significant quantities of the gem are found. The Morefield mine probably has the greatest supply” (Chapman, 1990, p. B2). While a limited number of the sources may not have been identified by 1990, major sources like those in Russia and Pikes Peak, Colorado, had been mined for amazonite since the 19th century (Wobus 1976).

Ostrooumov (2016) does not validate Baltzley’s perception, instead siding with Encyclopedia Britannica regarding the importance of this Russian source, listing the Il’menskii Mountains (southern Urals) as #2 in his “brief inventory of the principal pegmatite and granite deposits associated with the largest deposits of amazonite in Russia and the CIS Countries” (p. 17). Note that it is listed under “Pegmatite Fields and Deposits,” versus being in the “Deposits and Occurrences in Granites” section. No less than nineteen (19) other Russian deposits or pegmatitic occurrences are mentioned; thirty-six locations of granitic amazonite are detailed, as well.

Under “Other Countries,” with the largest deposits of amazonite in pegmatites, Ostrooumov (2016) ranks United States deposits third, after African sources (Madagascar and Zimbabwe) and Canadian sources (Ontario and Québec). Within the United States deposits, he lists the Amelia sources (Rutherford, Morefield) before those in Colorado, Massachusetts, “New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and California” (p. 18).

Granitic amazonite has interior design purpose as a stunning countertop material. However, these deposits are much less likely to demonstrate the larger, terminated crystals much desired by gemologists and rock hounds. While the deposits at Morefield mine are pegmatitic and represent quite large crystals, the Amazonite from Teller County sometimes exhibits even more of the terminated crystal forms prized by collectors.

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Can one make money on a pegmatite mine like Morefield Gem Mine?

As of 1962, Brown was already questioning the ability to commercialize Morefield mine. While moderate amounts of feldspar could be mined, the ability to mine gem and specialty minerals (Amazonite, Spessartine garnets, beryl, and rare earth minerals) is hampered by its being strictly a by-product of other mining (p. 64).

Additionally, the difficulty of needing to utilize dynamite in the mining process means that a significant amount of sand and smaller material are formed, which are less marketable.

Since the goal of the Dunaway’s retirement project is education, whether the mine makes money as a producer of mined product is secondary. Nonetheless, a large proportion of Morefield Gem Mine is leased to Martin-Marietta. They store mining overburden on 65 acres of the property, while the gem mining activity takes place on 15 acres.

The United State Geological Survey’s Mineral Resources On-Line Spatial Data (Sapakoff 1995) lists Morefield mines as a producer with the following commodities: Beryllium, Feldspar, Gemstone, Mica, Niobium (Columbium), Tantalum, and Tin. These commodities are listed as Tertiary (in contrast to Primary or Secondary importance to the country). Specific materials listed are as follows: Amazonstone, Beryl, Cassiterite, Columbite, Feldspar, Mica, Quartz, and Tantalite.

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Was Joséphine Bonaparte a fan of amazonite?

This hand-written, non-sourced card can be shown in the Morefield Gem Mine store.

Insert Photo of the card: shown in the video

“Amazonite – Josaphine [sic] Bonaparte, wife of French general Napolean Bonaparte, was a leader of the fashionable society of Paris and set the tone for clothing and jewelry. She was graceful and stately in her public appearance and beautifully adorned with earrings, necklace and rings. One of her favorite necklaces was made of the blue-green stones, which were known as Amazonite.

Since Josaphine favored Amazonite, it also became a favorite of the ladies of the court. So the jewelry makers of that period were hard-pressed to find the gemstone.

It was about this time (1798) rumor had it, amazonite had been found in America. Since Virginia was one of the older of the American colonies, the gemseekers headed for the capital, Richmond. It was here they heard of a place called Amelia, where there was said to be Amazonite of a beautiful blue-green color.

Yes, there is a beautiful blue-green Amazonite found in Amelia, Virginia. It is mined at a place called The Morefield mine. There you will find some of the most beautiful Amazonite in the world.”

Fact checking this requires asking a few questions:

  • Did Joséphine de Beauharnais Bonaparte have an amazonite necklace? If so, was it one of her favorite necklaces? And as a fashion-setter, did she convince others to wear amazonite?

    Our research did not uncover any interest that Joséphine had in amazonite. Nor did she documentably start an amazonite trend. However—in a moment inspired by the movie Six Degrees of Separation—we would be remiss if we did not point out that Joséphine’s 260-carat diamond necklace is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (catalog # G 5019 00), on the same floor as the Morefield mine exhibit full of Amazonite (Napoleon 2017).
  • Was amazonite a topic of interest in 1798? And is there a record of its having been found in Virginia at that time? Did gemseekers search for it in Richmond, then get forwarded to tiny Amelia?

De Terra (1955) suggests that, at the minimum, it is fair to say that amazonite was a topic of interest in the 18th and 19th centuries—at least in South America. In Humboldt, The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 1769 – 1859, she describes how and why Native Americans were inclined to wear it:

This was the land of the fabled Amazons, Not that Humboldt expected them to emerge from the jungle, and if they had he would no doubt have questioned them at some length about the Amazon stones, which the Indians invested with magic powers. They wore these green stones suspended from their necks as amulets to defy nervous complaints, fevers, and venomous snakes. The beads and pendants were ornamented with strange inscriptions and symbolic figures vestiges, Humboldt thought, of very ancient traditions, as the natives no longer knew how to carve such hard stones. In former times the Indians had cut the amazonite mineral into very thin disks, "perforated in the center and suspended by a thread, and these ornaments gave a metallic sound when struck by another hard object.

Fontaine (1883) indicated that “amazon stone” [sic] was found in significant amounts from Rutherford pit number 2 (p. 332).

In The Farmville Herald, “Moorefield” (sic) reminisces that, once when he displayed some of the minerals from his farm, a neighbor responded, “Humph, the Indians must have taken it over from my place” (Amelia Mine, 1957, p. 20). There is a rather obvious implication that Morefield’s mineral find wasn’t of any particular import. However, more interesting is the prevailing thought that, in this area, Native Americans (from which Morefield reportedly descended) were known to have frequented this area, were perceived to have used local rocks and minerals for various purposes, and were thought to have left objects in the area.

According to Glass (Sinkankas 1953), “[g]em-grade amazonite was found in the [Rutherford] No. 1 mine sometime prior to 1912” (p. 374), which does not necessarily suggest Richmonders having 18th-century knowledge of it in Amelia, not to mention more precisely at the Morefield pegmatite.

Unfortunately, searches have not uncovered Native American objects with Amazonite—not to mention objects specifically connected to Virginia tribes. Therefore, even if they were mining the mineral as Fontaine suggested, it is unclear what (if anything) they were doing with it.


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