AZentertain: Arizona Gold Rush: Gold

Gold bearing quartz leads the Arizona Gold Rush

By Robert Zucker
Contributed by William Flint Carter

The white man's Arizona Gold Rush started in the late 1880s after several chance discoveries of the precious ore.

The search for gold, though, began centuries before when, according to legends of the Lost City and Lost mine, Spanish settlers operated a secret gold mine in the Santa Catalina mountains.

Read about Gold in the Catalinas pre-Arizona times.

Gold bearing quartz in the Catalinas

Gold typically occurs in quartz veins. Extracting gold ore from these hard quartz veins was historically referred to as quartz reef mining. The gold was brought to the surface as small particles embedded in lumps of quartz. The new mining companies had to sink very deep shafts to get quartz from the reefs deep underground. The quartz was then crushed into a fine dust by stamping batteries in a stamping mill. 1

One discovery of gold bearing quartz in the Santa Catalinas was reported in an 1886 newspaper article that described a chance finding of gold:

"There is a particular inquiry at this time for good gold mines in Arizona and, owing to the low price of silver only the best and richest silver properties can be sold. The recent discovery of vast gold bearing quartz ledges in the Santa Catalinas was not only timely but one of the greatest prospective importance to this city. A great gold belt will be opened, second only in size to the largest known gold lode in the world and first in productive capacity that will add many millions annually to the wealth of the country and give employment to quite an army of industrious people. These discoveries have not been made public or notorious and lucky prospectors having had ample opportunity to locate all they care to own, there now no reason why some publicity should not be given to a matter of such importance. We are promised a full description of these vast properties and hope in a short time to be able to give a reliable and conservative report of them." 2

A 1901 article in the Arizona Republican described the accidental discovery of quartz stones with gold found in the Catalina Mountains:

"The maneuvers of a rat led N.H. Ingoldsby to the discovery of a rich gold mine In southern Arizona. He appropriately named the property the Rat Hole mine. Mr. Ingoldsby had been spending several months near Mammoth, on the San Pedro RIver, in Arizona. His purpose, says the Tombstone Prospector, was to enjoy the hunting and make a collection of the animals and minerals of the southwest. He pitched his tent in the canyon of the San Pedro in the Santa Catalina mountalns.

He had no neighbors and was for a long time unable to account for the disappearance of small articles that he left lying about his camp. At last he noticed that when anything was taken something was left In Its place. This was usually a bit of stone or wood. The culprit he found to be a large rodent of the species known as the trading rat. The habits of the animal made an Interesting study for Mr. Ingoldsby, and he often lay awake at night to watch for his visitor.

A silver spoon was missing one morning, and in Its place was a piece of quartz carrying free gold. This still more excited Mr. Ingoldsby's curiosity, and after several attempts he succeeded in following the animal to Its home. Near by was the ledge from which the gold bearing quartz had been taken. Mr. Ingoldsby made an examination thorough enough to prove that his dlscovery was of considerable value." 3

In a 1901 article in the Arizona Republican, titled "Canada del Oro, A Rich Mining District in the Catalina Mountains."

"There Is excellent prospect of a mining boom In the Canada Del Oro dlstrict, situated just north of Tucson on the west side of the Santa Catalina range, says the (Tucson) Citizen. The Arizona Copper Hill Mining company, a Denver concern, Is the first mine on the road from Tucson. They purchased their claims for $75,000 and have spent $125,000 in development but are now closed down pending a sale. They expect to make a deal September 1 by which the mine will be transferred to a large company, the consideration being $2,000,000. They have a forty-elght foot vein of 5 per cent leaching copper ore. If the new company takes hold a large leaching plant will be erected. Just above the Arizona Copper Hill company Dr. N. H. Matas of this city is working come rich gold claims. From this property he has already taken quite a quantity of ore but recently struck a rich body of ore carrying free gold. It Is understood that he Is arranging for a sale, but the details could not be learned. The next claims In the canyon are owned by Mayor Schcumacher and Charles Bauer. They have a contract to sell the claims September 15 for a consideration of $60,000 of which $23,000 Is to be paid down. Extensive development work has already been done on these claims." 4

In his 1912 report on the Cody-Dyer mine at Campo Bonito, E. J. Ewing described large outcrops of quartz he saw on the Morning Star claim of the Southern Belle mine group which "rose some 25' or so above the surrounding limestone." 5

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Tiffany's gold quartz jewelry was a hit at the turn of the century

Gold-in-quartz was made popular as jewelry in the 1890s when Tiffany & Co. gemologist George F. Kunz wrote about it in his book "Gems and Precious Stones of North America" (Dover Books, 1892). Miners would usually grind up the stone to extract the gold, but gemologists created jewelry, watches and trinkets made of quartz in gold.

"Single specimens for scarf-pins, rings, and sets of pins and earrings sell from $2 to $10 each. Exceptionally fine or curious pieces bring higher prices. It is within a few years that gold quartz has been utilized to any great extent in jewelry. At first the designs were usually simple and the mountings modest, but the demand has created a supply of elaborate designs, and at present the quartz is used in every conceivable form of jewelry, and in articles of personal adornment and decoration of almost unlimited variety, such as canes, paper-weights, writing-cases, perfume- bottles, fan-sticks, bracelets, watch-chains, and lace-pins, the lat- ter in such designs as shovels, picks, and other mining emblems. In certain new furniture, it has been used as paneling ; and here, as in jewelry, the effect is better brought out by added colors, such as are afforded by agate, moss agate, native silver in a matrix, smoky quartz, iron and copper pyrite, cinnabar, mala- chite, turquoise in the matrix, and other bright minerals. By slitting and piecing, as is done with malachite, an entire table- top can be made from a few pounds of gold quartz. Much of the jewelry made of this material is sold to tourists from the Eastern States and elsewhere.

One of the large designs made of gold quartz, represent ing the Cathedral of Notre Dame, at Paris, is valued at $20,000. It stands about a foot high, and is perhaps the finest piece of work ever weighing 160 pounds was taken out of the bank of the Nevada Hydraulic Company at Gibsonville, Cal. The boulder was smoothly washed and had the appearance of having been ground in a pothole. Its estimated value was $2,500, but its real worth was more than this, since it was valuable for lapidary purposes. The gold penetrating amethystine quartz from Hungary is very beautiful, but the California quartz is the finest known." 6

Today, Tiiffany's & Co. sells a 20 Carat drop earrings with yellow quartz in 18k gold for $1,500 and a pendant of smoky quartz in 18k gold sells for $7,000. 7

While all of the substantial gold bearing quartz ore has been hauled away from the mountains, fortunate prospectors can still find quartz bearing gold and silver, in select areas of the mountains. Today, these stones are mined from the same locations in the Santa Catalinas and sold as Cody Stone.

Gold in the Catalinas

According to a mineral report from the U.S. Department of Mines:

"Heylmun (1989, p. 15) reports visible free gold in the Valerie May vein and "good gold values", and also notes " a number of gold- bearing quartz lenses and pockets in igneous and metamorphic rocks on the rugged south and west flanks of the Catalinas, much of it being in areas withdrawn from mineral entry." The mineral withdrawal reference is to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. USBM has no data to resolve the differences between Heylmun (1989) and Ryan (1982a) or to quantify the other reported gold occurrences of Heylmun." 8

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These links and article quotes are from:

1. Quartz reef mining,

2. Arizona Champion, Peach Springs, Mohave, A.T. Arizona, October 2, 1886, from the Tucson Citizen.

3. Arizona Republican, April 26, 1901

4. Arizona Republican, Phoenix, 8/31/1901, p 3

5. "The business of being Buffalo Bill: selected letters of William F. Cody, 1879-1917" By Buffalo Bill, Sarah J. Blackstone. Page 94-96.

6. "Gems and Precious Stones of North America," by George Frederick Kunz, 1890, p. 118-119

7. Tiffany's & Co. web site

8. "MINERALAPPRMSALOF CORONADO NATIONAL FOREST, PART 5 Santa Catalina-Rincon Mountains Unit Cochise, Pima and Pinal Counties, Arizona" U.S. Bureau of Mines, MLA 25-94 1994, p. 19.

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