Herkimer Diamonds: Part One

Herkimer Diamonds: Part One

I’m excited to finally delve into a post that I feel like has been a long time coming – Herkimer Diamonds! Being that this is our local gemstone here in the Mohawk Valley, there is just a wealth of information to share about these unique and most special crystals we have the pleasure of co-existing with. So, to better cover all the bases on all things Herkimer Diamond, this will be a multi-post series. The best place to start with most things is the very beginning, so why not start there? But first, a little eye candy:

Herkimer Diamond
Herkimer Diamond, Middleville NY. Actual size – 1 5/8″

Once upon a time,  long, long, LONG ago (about 500 million years to be exact), Central New York was a very different place to be. Little Falls and the surrounding areas were in the shallows of the ancient sea that once covered most of the earth. This climate was host to a variety of sea life of which we find evidence all over the Mohawk Valley : from common fossils like Trilobites to extremely rare fossils such as the Eurypterids that are found in the Ilion gorge. There are many theories about how the crystals were formed, but to summarize what I consider to be the best theory, a massive die-off of ancient sea creatures called stromatolites provided the carbon necessary to begin the formation of the stones.

herkimer diamond history
living stromatolites in Shark Bay, Australia

Time, heat, mineralized fluids and pressure then took care of the rest. Luckily for us, glacial activity about 12,000 – 10,000 years ago sheared off the tops of what used to be very tall mountains to the elevation in the Mohawk Valley today. The glaciers carving out our valley is the reason we find these crystals literally beneath our feet today, otherwise they would be far too deep for us to find. If you’re interested to find out more, you can read a more in-depth explanation here.

Herkimer Diamonds have been fascinating human beings for quite some time. Herkimer Diamond arrowheads, knapped by the Native Americans of the Mohawk Valley, are rumored to exist from these hills. Albert Crim was the first Herkimer Diamond entrepreneur. Born in 1853 and hailing from Winfield NY, Crim began collecting and selling Herkimer Diamond crystals around the 1880’s,even taking out ads in magazines:

Advertisement for Crim's Herkimer Diamonds, circa 1880's
Advertisement for A. B. Crim’s Herkimer Diamonds, circa 1890

Herkimer Diamonds made their world premiere at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, in an award winning A.B. Crim exhibit:



Herkimer Diamond exhibit, 1893 World's Fair, Chicago
Herkimer Diamond exhibit, 1893 World’s Fair, Chicago

Since then, Herkimer Diamonds have fascinated and amazed collectors with their beauty and clarity. Part Two will cover the different types of these unique gems so stay tuned!