The Story of California's Crystal Cavern
The crystals you purchase and enjoy come from here. This crystal wall was the back of the original crystal cavern.
It is now a crystal stairway to climb down into the cave.
The geology of the California Mother Lode region is well documented. As the continents were forming, the North American Plate uplifted as the Farallon, or Pacific Plate subducted underneath it. This created the Sierra Nevada mountain range millions of years ago. Erosion and environmental changes shaped the landscape. Major seismic activity like earthquakes frequently occurred. Glaciers covered our area at different times.
These massive geologic events caused cracks in the bedrock that allowed really hot solutions of super-saturated silicate solutions to blast upward under great pressure. As it cooled, these silicate solutions formed quartz crystals. Scientists have long debated how the rapidity of cooling affects quartz crystals, their sizes, shapes, clarity, and inclusions.
In early years we used a derrick made of wooden utility poles with a block and tackle pulley system to lift big stones out of Pit A. Behind the derrick, scratch marks from glacial scraping are evident on the quartz cap rock.
Ken using hand crank on the derrick to lift a large quartz crystal group out of the pit, July 2002.
After working the side walls of Pit A, we found an entry to a cavern that held even larger quartz crystals. The cavern is north of the Pit in photo above. It took a few years to clean it out, many beautiful crystals were protected by the heavy clay.
Authors and noted crystallographers Si and Ann Frazier looking at Cluster One inside the cavern, May 2004.
The entry to the cavern was too small to remove this big crystal through it. The arch of quartz above Si's head was 4 to 6 feet high. In the cavern, it felt like being inside a giant crystal geode.
For years we studied the ceiling of the cavern to determine where it might break apart. Then with a Track-hoe team, we cracked into the cavern from the top and removed the big crystals vertically.
Cluster One in the cavern with ceiling intact, foamed and ready for extraction, October 2008.
The big crystal is prepared for extraction. The hard ball of foam was strapped up, and lifting ropes secured. To the left of the crewman is the arch of quartz that remained after the cavern ceiling was removed, photo October 2008. This arch is an unusual feature of Jaybird Quarry today.
Cluster One Dirty
The photo on left shows Cluster One after the protective foam was removed, still dirty, November 2008. The crossbar is a prominent feature on this stone.
Cluster One Rinsed
On right is the same big crystal after several weeks of rain rinsing off the dirt. On upper left is a trio of crystal points, one of which has a striking phantom crystal in it.
When we placed this big one in storage, the crossbar ended up on the top side of the crystal group. The top and bottom as seen here became the side views in the photographs below.
The Crystal Plate
This beautiful Plate of Crystals was lying face down in the cavern, underneath Cluster One. We walked on the bottom of it for years, having no idea how spectacular it was. Our team pulled it out intact at twilight as heavy rain started to fall. The imprint left in the clay of thousands of points was unforgettable.
Photo is a side view of the Plate, November 2008.
On left is Giant Spike in situ on the wall of the newly opened cavern. The tip is foamed, stone is strapped up and ready for extraction.
On right is Giant Spike clean and pretty, a phenomenal specimen! Twin terminations, with crystal barnacles along the back, April 2009.
Along the wall next to Spike was Cluster Two. On left is stone in situ, where it was created by Nature. On right is Cluster Two after cleaning. Several faces are water clear, some are translucent, and some are opaque. Photo from April, 2009.
The Crystal Plate
The Crystal Plate, second largest quartz crystal on record from California, with exotic rows of intertwined crystals. Exquisite and breath-taking, June, 2015.
The largest documented quartz crystal from California, a beautiful crystal group. Many unique features, including a large phantom crystal, and a crystal embedded in a larger crystal that is so clear, the base of the smaller crystal is easily seen through it. Photographed in June 2015.
The above photo shows what was the top of the crystal group as it was positioned in the cavern. The large crystal now at lower right in photo was 2" below the tips of other large crystal groups, the BirdBath and Lighthouse (on our Landscape page). The cavern formed 100 million years ago, above the fault line, where multiple seimic events caused shifting, melting, and reforming of highly pressurized silicate solutions that cooled into quartz crystals.
This photo shows the base of the crystal group as positioned in the cavern. At top, left of center you can see where a jet of hot fluid was ejected while the quartz was still in an elasticized state. As it shifted into its final resting position, some crystals were sheared, others punctured, as the crystal embedded in larger crystal demonstrates (just above center of Cluster One). As it cooled, the crystal faces completed their growth.
In this unusual crystal deposit, Jaybird Quarry, we find many bent, distorted crystals with odd habits, such as Cubic, Faden, Tabular, and various types of twinning. Some crystals are water clear, a few crystals have one plane "sugar-coated," where tiny micro-crystals precipitate out of solution and attach to a formed crystal, giving it the appearance of having sugar sprinkled on it.