Betty Jean Pocket Summer 2019



Summer of 2019, midway through the season, we hit a small, but incredible pocket on the Smoky Hawk. We eventually named the pocket the Betty Jean pocket in memory of Linda Burns’ mother. The amazing thing about this pocket was it was discovered when some visitors from Dallas, Keith and Diane Brownlee, were present and able to collect this pocket as part of the mineral trip auction sponsored by the Arkenstone. (Proceeds from this auction support Rocks and Minerals and Mineralogical Record magazines.) Although this was a great find, not every group who has visited the Smoky Hawk as part of this auction has succeeded in recovering a great specimen. The 2019 trip has thus far produced the best specimens (although some nice pieces still being worked were recovered in 2020).

We had been working this site since 2012. You might recognize an episode on Prospectors 2014 when a youngster was pulling smoky quartz crystals out as part of his Make a Wish Come True dream with Wayne Hall and ourselves.

We dubbed this site, Site D of the Smoky Hawk. We reclaimed this site at the end of 2019; thus, the Betty Jean pocket was the final great pocket discovered in this area. (Other pockets included the Norah Jo, which was also filmed for Prospectors, and the Big Foot Pocket.)

Carl Tanner and Linda Burns were assisting during this past season and helped in the recovery of the 2019 pockets.

These are some photos from the discovery of the pocket and its eventual cleaning. The largest specimen is nearly a foot across. The smallest specimens are miniatures. About ten collector-quality specimens were eventually produced. What made the pocket nearly unique was the smoky quartz quality and aesthetics. The smoky quartz are long, tapering crystals like porcupine quills sticking up from the matrix. Rarely have pieces been discovered that exhibit these long, undamaged, smoky quartz crystals. The amazonite is a great contrasting vivid blue with smallish crystals. Of note, the diameter size of the smokies and the diameter size of the amazonite happen to be complimentary in that neither overshadows the other.

Collecting the pocket was a challenge. Tim, Carl Tanner, Linda Burns, the Brownlees, and myself all had a part in collecting this pocket and others discovered during the same dig.

Digging had been slow at the site for some time and we had reached the decision to close it in. We had nearly reached the extent of the permit site as well. Most of the pegmatites were what I call the feather zone, where numerous threads were spun off the larger pegmatite dikes. None of the pegmatites we had been following in the zone were wider than two or three inches. No pockets were opening that were larger than a couple of inches. Most of the specimens were small thumbnails to small miniatures and almost all of them were common tan microcline and not the bright blue amazonite. We had simply pushed out of the productive larger pegmatites that had been producing the larger pockets with fine color. We were done.

Nevertheless, we dutifully collected specimens that might be good enough for wholesale or even giving away to visitors, and we wanted to discover something that the Brownlees could have fun collecting. After one scrape across the face, we opened a couple of smaller cavities in the dwindling pegmatites. Linda Burns began working one toward the bottom of the face. Carl was working one to the far left. Tim was working one to the right. The Browlees were helping with whatever we were finding, which at the time, wasn’t much. Then Linda got my attention. She had discovered a long smoky quartz in near-contact with the ceiling of a mud-filled pocket.

I examined the crystal. Sure enough, it had potential even if it were a single crystal. There was almost no trace of amazonite at that point, but I knew I had to recover the piece while pretending there was something good or would be something good. I also wanted our guests to be able to collect in this pocket.

The face was dangerous to the pocket, meaning if it sloughed, it could pull the pocket out and damage crystals that had possibly not already been damaged by the natural breakdown over the millennia. I removed enough material to put padding above the main crystal. We then pushed the face back using pick and shovel and screwdrivers. When safe, the following day, we finished collecting the pocket. You can see Tim pulling away pieces using his fingers and the main piece as it was revealed. Remarkably, the main smoky was recovered intact and more remarkably, it had almost no preexisting damage. The tip was pristine. Painstakingly, we all joined in in removing every scrap from the pocket.

And for you who understand, for the main specimen especially, this then became its most vulnerable time in its exitance. To survive extraction is dangerous, but then the following steps are even more demanding and threatening—fit-finding, cleaning, and final preparation. At every facet of every step, damage can occur.

Above is the main piece with intact smoky quartz. The tip is pristine. To the right, Tim inspects another piece from the Betty Jean Pocket and checks for fits.

Very rarely do we discover a pocket and are able to get it through the cleaning process to display quality in less than two years. In some respects it was nice to have a small pocket because it gave us the chance to do so. Even so, all other operations were slowed down or stopped in order to get the Betty Jean out and on display at Tucson 2020. We succeeded, and it was a hit.

The photos above show the main piece after fit-finding is completed. The middle photograph shows the piece before being disassembled again. The far right photo shows the pieces before going into the cleaning process.

Below photographs are of four pieces from the Betty Jean Pocket that have been finalized. What great specimens these are with long, slender smokies and teal blue amazonite. The largest group recovered is also shown.

The finished main specimen that Keith and Diane Brownlee helped collect and which is now in their collection. This piece is shown in the Texas III edition of Mineralogical Record. Truly a fantastic piece.

Below are four photographs which show us exposing he pocket and then the final reclamation of Site D. The Betty Jean Pocket was the last pocket found in this area of good quality. The lower right photograph shows the first grass growing on the reclaimed site. This season, 2021, we will likely finish reclamation on the main Smoky Hawk pit and the remainder will be regraded and reseeded.