Herkimer diamonds, believe it or not, are not diamonds at all. They are actually quarts crystals that are “doubly terminated,” meaning they have two pointed ends instead of one. They are called Herkimer diamonds because they were originally discovered in Herkimer County, New York. Their importance is so great because of their intense rarity. They can only be found in spots with incredibly unique conditions.
In order for these rarities to occur, conditions in the environment in which they grow must be perfect. The reason they form in such a unique way is that they have little, if any, contact with their host rock during formation. The host rock, however, does play a vital role in the formation of the Herkimer diamonds in a different way. Herkimer diamonds are formed inside of a special rock called Little Falls Dolostone. The Little Falls Dolostone was deposited roughly 500 million years ago and is vital in the Herkimer Diamonds formation because the Herkimer Diamonds formed in cavities within the dolostone. The inside of these cavities are covered in a dusting of a tarry hydrocarbon that allows the crystals to form without much contact with the host rock and thus creates the unique double terminated shape.
These doubly terminated crystals can, however, be found in other places other than Herkimer County, New York. They have been found in Arizona, Afghanistan, Norway, Ukraine and China. These cannot be called Herkimer diamonds, however, because Herkimer diamonds come strictly from Herkimer County and the surrounding areas.
The crystals were originally discovered by the Mohawk Indians, who found them in streams and dug them up while they were plowing their fields. Even then, these rare crystals were considered to be incredibly valuable. These days, hunting for the crystals is pretty big business. Their rarity makes these unique formations very valuable. Illegal mineral hunting has also become a big problem because people do not always own the land that they go hunting in. This causes problems with people crystal hunting on land that is either owned by private owners or by the government.
In order to find these well-hidden sites for digging, one must look for places where there are high deposits of dolostone. Dolostone isn’t without its obstacles, though. Dolostone is an incredibly hard stone and is very hard to break open. So most hunters must use large tools, machinery, and even explosives. All of these methods of find the crystals is incredibly dangerous and often causes injury to the one doing the hunting. Overall, the search for these rare and prized minerals has greatly increased their value. They are just another example of how amazing and talented the Earth is at creating fascinating formations.