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THE  CORUNDUMINIUM

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PROPST  FARM  (Update June 7, 2014)
             
     Approximately forty years ago, Helen Propst found a, flat "hex outline" rock in her garden.  It was identified by a local jeweler(?) as a sapphire.  Soon after, she found another.  Thinking they were parts of the same crystal, she "tried them together, but they wouldn't fit".   Soon afterward, word got out and the "Propst Farm" became a favorite dig site for rockhounds.   The locality has been open for casual digging ever since, and for a nominal fee you can still park your car on the grass under the big oak tree and have at it!  (See picture to right.)  
     The farm is on the Startown Road, south of Conover, Lincoln County, North Carolina.  I will get exact directions and insert them later.   Doug Hess and I spoke with Helen when we visited the site on May 29, 2007; so the above anecdote is from the primary source.
    
     The sapphire distribution began in the center of the second photo, where crystals and clusters occurred in a thin layer about a foot below the surface.  It continued to the left, around the big oak tree to the barn in the background of the first photo; and onward how far nobody yet knows.    Off the first picture to the left is an area of secondary growth that covers numerous old pits; and although there might be some material left between them, you would surely earn what you got - bring mice to bribe the rattlesnakes!  (The grassed portions have been thoroughly worked, reworked, and reclaimed; so forget them too!)  I recommend you go behind the barn and into the woods, where Doug has been digging recently.  He's the guy in the first picture.    
     The pay layer seems to be buried more deeply as you go farther to the left, and it can sometimes be identified by a greyish to yellowish clayey layer immediately above it.  It seems to contain larger milky "bull quartz" cobbles (to about 3" diameter) along with the sapphires.  Doug's pits above reveal about 4' to 5' of overburden, and he tells me the stones recovered seem to be "not as good."  It may be that the best of this "vest pocket" deposit has already been found.  Regardless of its size, it is an important American corundum locality.
                                                               THE DOUG HESS COLLECTION
     I met Doug Hess at the Asheville Mineral Symposium in June, 2001.  He showed up with a fishing tackle box full of carefully wrapped stones, which we carefully unwrapped to reveal some of the most unusual and attractive corundums I have ever seen.   It, and the collector, were featured in a video on North Carolina's natural resources (I will get details and publish here).  If ever a collection defined the material a locality produced, this is the one!  On May 23, 2014, the collection became ours, and it will remain intact for at least a while.  Here are a dozen of the more than eighty pictures I took of it on May 29, 2007.  They are thumbnailed, so you can click on any image to see it in high resolution. 
 
     In all, there are 63 specimens in the collection.  Here are some pictures taken on June 5, 2014.