Do you sometimes wonder why alpine minerals are so expensive, so hard to find and sought after ? Take a step into the world of French crystal hunters in the Mont-Blanc mountains !
Climate change is melting the glaciers and permafrost of the Mont Blanc massif, revealing crystals hidden in pockets once covered in snow. Simon Akam tagged along on an expedition with one of the area’s most legendary hunters, a daring French alpinist who completes dangerous climbs to discover specimens worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Mont Blanc, the roof of Europe. There have been crystal seekers in the mountains of the Mont Blanc area for centuries. The find areas can be reached from France, Italy and Switzerland. The red and pink fluorites are known all over the world, but the smoky quartz and gwindel are also a specialty of this region. This issue not only reports of the beautiful and rare crystals and minerals of this area, but also on the efforts of the mountaineers and crystal seekers who often expose themselves to a high risk in this extreme area. 108 pages, including many pictures – Written in German
The Couvercle is a mountain refuge located in the heart of the Mont-Blanc massif. This place is used as a base camp by many local crystal seekers (cristalliers in French) because of its useful location, surrounded by mineral-rich mountains and glaciers. Follow Séb and his cristalliers friends making amazing finds, including gwindels and huge quartz clusters. Moreover, you will enjoy the awesome landscapes and light ambiance.
In this second crystal quest video, Yannick Calonge follows Grégoire de Bodinat, a cristallier from the Oisans area, on the hunt for one of the rarest alpine minerals : axinite. Digging for this mineral is very paradoxical because these very fine and fragile axinite blades are found in one of the hardest matrix : amphibolite. That’s why these crystals are very hard to dig out without damaging it. Enjoy these are shots !
In this video, Yannick Calonge follows a team of cristalliers (Sylvain Desfarge & Sébastien Khayati), digging on a quartz deposit in the French Alps. These beautiful images show the hard work involved to dig ouy these fragile quartz needles. This deposit produced some very fine quartz scepters and twins. Enjoy !
It was a godsend that a huge find of gems lay just two hours away from our way-station we called “the refuge” in the Argentiere. And so, my associate, Laurent, and I became partners and formed a team on the first of July, l993. At first, all seemed to be going well. But my new partner Laurent’s former colleague showed up at this alpine way-station. This “ex” could not accept that the two of them were finished being partners. Everyone knew that they had shared in three years of intense adventures there in the Argentiere basin.
Here is probably one of the best books about the world of the crystal seekers in the French Alps. The author, Sébastien Khayati, is one of these “cristalliers”. After nearly 20 years as a cristallier, rich in experience and amazing encounters, the idea came to him to share it. The book focuses on famous names, major discoveries and well-known localities which have shaped the French alpine mineralogy for half a century. A lot of high quality pictures come to illustrate the stories behind famous finds from the Oisans area (La Gardette, Rochers de l’Armentier, Combe de La Selle, Les Deux-Alpes, Plan du Lac) to the Mont-Blanc mountains. Hard cover – 224 pages, including 550 pictures, drawings and site maps. – Written in French
Before we follow Sebastien on his wanderings, let me tell you about a particular place hidden in the heart of the Mont Blanc massif. The wall was crossed by thin galleries leading to collapsed cavities. For the most part, crystals were broken but their quantity seemed inexhaustible. I gave a name to this sector: The Mine.
Collecting quartz crystals in Mont-Blanc Massif. You don’t have to climb to the mountains top to find nice specimens. Take a look at the quality of these quartz, found at lower altitude, near Chamonix. These water-clear crystals are a good example of the quality of alpine specimens. Enjoy !
When winter is coming, the snow covers the rocks and it’s no longer possible to climb the alpine mountains looking for precious minerals. For some strahlers, the crystal seasons stops there and they will wait until the next summer fo a new season to begin. In Oisans, the hunt continues undergound, in the dark, cold and wet universe of mines. Follow Sébastien Khayati and Grégoire de Bodinat in the famous Mésage mine, not far from Vizille, another famous minerals locality. This old iron mine has been rehabilitated by Grégoire. Enjoy !