Friday, September 26, 2014

A Little Maine Tourmaline History Lesson

The tourmaline industry in Maine began in 1820, the same year Maine became the 23rd state, upon the discovery of scattered deposits of the gemstone. Two students, Ezekiel Holmes and Elijah Hamlin were exploring the hills of south Paris in late august when a glimpse of green caught Elijah’s eye. They found several gemstones on Mt. Mica and continued returning to the site in the spring with more success. News spread of the gems and many villagers visited the mountain and specimens were sent to Yale University professor Benjamin Silliman who first identified them as tourmaline. The first mining of the mountain was a crude blast carried out by Elijah and his younger brothers Hannibal and Cyrus. They harvested more than twenty crystals of various greens and red colors, some larger than two inches long and one inch in diameter. Soon, the mountain became well known as the foremost mining site for minerals in the north, and is still considered to have the greatest potential for additional mining of gemstones and minerals. As recently as 1978, major deposits of large tourmaline have been found at Mount Mica.


Hannibal Hamlin, brother of Mt. Mica discoverer, Elijah Hamlin, eventually went on to be the first Vice President under Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Being such an important individual in state and national history, Hannibal has a well documented life growing up in Maine with his brothers. One of the most famous stories about his life connects him with native Maine Abenaki doctress and historical figure, Molly Ockett. During the winter of 1809-10, Molly Ockett was traveling through Paris, Maine when harsh weather forced her to seek shelter. She was turned away, until she came to the home of Dr. Cyrus Hamlin and his wife Anna who welcomed her. Molly, having befriended the couple, continued to return to their home, and one spring found Anna “sitting in her doorway one day, rocking her feeble infant”. The story then tells that Molly Ockett  looked at the child intently and said to feed the “papoose” warm milk from a cow, or he will die. Hannibal, the baby, once given the treatment, healed rapidly.

Molly Ockett
Molly Ockett was well known in Maine for giving her medical advice to those in need in return for shelter and other goods. Native American medical traditions she may have used include, herbal remedies, and possibly, the use of tourmaline. The gemstone may have been used in her work because it was traditionally known for its detoxifying properties for treating skin disorders, and cleansing and removing excess toxins from the body. Native Americans had many uses for tourmalines; green or pink tourmaline was used a funeral gift and schorl, or black tourmaline,  was thought to possess protective properties. Tourmaline does have unique scientific properties like pyroelectricity where the crystals become electrically charged when warmed, and piezoelectricity where the gem generates electrical charge when pressure is applied. They are still used in some healing practices today.

The preliminary discovery and exploration of the largest gem find in North America was made by George Hartman, Dale Sweatt, and James Young of August 1972 in Newry, Maine at Plumbago Mountain. By October 1972, Plumbago Mining Corporation was formed by George Hartman, Dale Sweatt, Frank Perham, and Dean McCrillis Sr., who then began mining the area and keeping a daily log of the events that ran through 1974. Upon their first day of mining their log reads “it appears the pocket [of tourmaline] may be large than we thought”-- and it was. As they continued the yield turned from a few good gems a day, to several hundred pounds of gem material. The team was persistent even through the autumn rains that washed out their only access road to the site. By November 5th 1972, they had opened several more pockets and had dug 25-30 feet into the mountain. The end yield of 1972 alone was over 1 metric ton of pure quality tourmaline gems, approximately 3.5 million carats worth. Through the winter of 1972-1973 they sorted their material and resumed in spring of 1973 with an opening of 8-10 more pockets. The 1972 Plumbago mountain find produced the largest, highest quality, and widest shade variety of pink tourmalines anywhere in the world, and put Maine back on the map of world tourmaline sites.

The Peary Necklace

In 1913 arctic explorer, Admiral Peary, commissioned a Brunswick jeweler to craft a tourmaline necklace for his wife Josephine’s 50th birthday. Josephine would accompany Peary during most of his expeditions and he felt he needed to thank her with a one of a kind gift. The jeweler, John Towne, mined all 37.5 ct. of gems from Mt. Apatite in Auburn, and hand cut each stone. The entirety of the gold, approximately 0.5 oz. was panned from Swift River in Byron, Maine then melted by a Portland jeweler who then set the gems in it. The necklace is now on display in the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Augustus Choate Hamlin, relative of Elijah and Hannibal Hamlin, had this necklace made with stones from Mt. Mica. Hamlin had purchased Mount Mica farm to mine the pegmatite, a composition of intergrowths of quartz, feldspar, and lavender mica, and ended up constructing the finest collection of specimens known in his time. He was a distinguished physician, businessman, and later Mayor of Bangor, Maine. He was also an ardent lover of gem minerals and often illustrated the tourmaline crystals that turned up in his mine in watercolor and published several books of his illustrations. Most of the originals of his paintings are preserved in the Harvard Mineralogical Museum along with the Hamlin necklace.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Love is a chain of love as nature is a chain of life" ~Truman Capote

"Love is a chain of love as nature is a chain of life" ~Truman Capote

Chains are often overlooked, when really they are the core of displaying precious jewels and pendants. Until the 18th Century all chains were painstakingly crafted by hand, until the first chain making machine made its debut in 1782.

 Here at Harvest Gold, we recognize the quality and originality of hand crafted jewelery, and our chains reflect those beliefs.

 Each of our chains is a completely original design,  and can be worn with a charm or pendant, but also works as a statement piece on its very own.

As always with our jewelry, we can work with you to create a custom chain that suits your individual needs. Whether it's a chain for daily wear, or a specific length needed for a special outfit and or occasion, we would be delighted to work with you!

Stop by when you are in beautiful down-town Center Lovell, Maine! We are overlooking Kezar Lake & the beautiful White Mountains! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Bracelet Designs, 2014

New Bracelet Designs from Harvest Gold Jewelry!
 Top-14k rose gold
Bottom- 14k yellow gold

Recently Bill and Lynda have been brainstorming new ideas for jewelry and playing around with different shapes in their bracelet work-- here are the fruits of their labor! This gorgeous new collection of bracelets recently debuted at the Maine Boat & Home Show in Rockport Maine and was recieved very well! Enjoy! 

Stop in the gallery, open daily, go on our website or call 208-925-6502 for more information about our new designs!


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