The Crystal Hunters of Chamonix
In France there is a fascinating group of fearless people who scale Mont Blanc in search of precious crystals.
It was a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight,
like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!
Comparable to those who fall in love with the sea and they let it exercise its charm over their daily life, those who fall in love with minerals, as has happened to great men like Oliver Sacks, is placed under one of the most powerful spells of nature. It is sufficient to look at the crystal hunters of Chamonix to get an idea.
Theirs is a temerarious dream: battle the ice storms and avalanches on high mountains in the hope of finding a blue geode the size of an apple. Since the 18th century, the crystal hunters have been scaling Mont Blanc before climbing existed as a sport. But the idea of finding a treasure has always been the motive for the most memorable adventures in human history.
The crystal hunter is a special type of adventurer; part climber, part geologist and collector who, of course, keeps the best finds for themselves and the rest are sold to be used in chandeliers and jewels. The activity prohibits the use of dynamite, machines or heavy equipment to remove the rocks, and is therefore a real hunt for light. The harvest begins when the hunters find “an oven of crystals,” a perfect cave that functions as a natural incubator for geological processes (super saturation and nucleation) that allows the crystals to grow in splendor. They usually find seams and mirrors of quartz, but when they are really lucky they find malachite and shiny fluorites; treasures that make the danger and discomfort of the Alps worthwhile.
The Musee de Cristaux in Chamonix houses a beautiful collection of some of the best finds since Victorian times. Today there are only around 20 crystal hunters in Chamonix who, while tourists ski, take their ropes and picks and climb the whitest mountain in the world in search of pieces of its heart.
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