Outstanding giant quartz and sphalerite from Mont. St-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada.

Outstanding giant quartz and sphalerite from Mont. St-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada.

Author: Daniel Comtois
Content by courtesy of :  Daniel Comtois - Quebec Minerals

Reproduction of text and photos prohibited without permission of author.


This sunny Sunday  of August 2002, I'm going with my dad at the Poudrette Quarry in Mont St-Hilaire. Unfortunately this year is not very productive in good mineralogical finds , most of the exploitation is done in hornfell so except some minor smoky quartz in mm and altered dolomite, nothing really interesting and when blast are done in syenite area it is pure syenite not a pocket at all! Anyhow with my work this summer I don't have much time for expeditions, at this time I went 4 times for collecting including 3 times in MSH.

After driving around the quarry I park my truck along an old wall with very altered pegmatite's or should i say rotten pegmatite. Every thing is of a dark brown color like dirt. On the spot I engage a conversation with a fellow collector J.Pierre Beckerich and his son, J.Pierre is one of my favorite specialist collector for micros. After a couple of minutes we all realize that there is not many chances to find something since there was no recent blast done. Well I announce to my friends that even if there is no evidence of finding I'm here to dig even if there is no fresh blast  I'm here to get the job stress out and to do some exercise too so I decide to sit somewhere and dig until I will have enough and leave. Then I wont waste my day!

I turn around and started to dig the altered wall right beside my truck. That wall is covered with opened cavities completely rotten, with a wood stick I can easily remove pieces big as my fist and make them fall from the wall. Absolutely  nothing in there except mm pyrite cubes. I decide to put some big rocks on the ground and to get better perspective of the zone. May be there is a chance to dig deeper in the pegmatite and find an unaltered area with some xtls anything would be a gift. Do don't have other choice anyway… I dig that wall or I get back home to clean the windows, cut the grass, wash the driveway …J When I finished to clean that pegmatite I finally take a piece of a foot long by 2 inches think in the center I can see some little pockets with donnaite of 1-2 mm, rutile of 1 mm, minor microcline and very small xtls of pink rhodochrosite of .5 cm. When I decide its about enough I pull out from the bottom of that pegmatite a magnificent specimen of pink rhodochrosite xtl of 3x2.8cm partially covered with micro siderite about to replace it standing on a stick of a pseudomorph of 2.5cm long peppered with mm donnaite. A pure beauty without a single damage on it. But that was the end of that pegmatite, too late the collector's flame in my chest was running at maximum. I need to see behind those blocks may be there is something else like another pegmatite!

Altered pegmatites
Black arrows show the altered pegmatite's and the bucket can show you the dimension off the wall.
Altered pegmatites

An amazing specimen of rhodo xtl perched on a pseudo. stick with mm donnayite xtls.

With some distance I can see that those blocks will be a tough job to do and the edge of the wall over it look unstable. Some big bolder looked like they could fall on my head easily. So before removing any other blocks form the wall I need to secure the area by cleaning the top and edge of the wall. 1, 2, 3 and I’m in my truck with all my tools to get to the upper floor. A good 2 hours was enough to do the job. Now I can sit on the edge and get access to the pegmatite's area or stand on top of all the rocks that fell down in front of it at the from the bottom of the wall. Sitting on the edge using a long metal stick I can make those blocks move and then confirmed if there is something behind.

What a great surprise instead of a continuation I find another entrance to a new pegmatite. The first access was of 36 inches large by 3 to 6 inches high. From the bottom of the wall it was not possible to see it because of the angle of the entrance that look like a mouth opened looking at the sky. My first observation show me that the cavity is filled with broken pieces even the wall of the cavity went down probably after the blast. The composition of the pegmatite is almost the same like the altered one but not as rotten. You can believe that my head is already running crazy to find some other rhodochrosite and donnaite.I need to empty that pocket before I get my hands on my treasure, thrust me I taste every minute and every piece I grab with my hand into that pocket even if they are just cleavage, this is more then I first expected when I arrived in the quarry. Like I said to my dad Roland, just to have the chance to be the first one to empty a pegmatite it'sa gift no matter what you will find. I realize the luck I have to find what look like a huge pegmatite in less then 2 hours and at my third visit this year. When I think of my friends who are coming every single week-end and found nothing and arrived just like that I found.... they will be mad at me ;-)

I installed on the wall a ladder so my dad can join me without any risk at all and he can get a chance to share my joy and help me cleaning the pocket while I take some pictures for you guys. My dad is grabbing pieces one shot at a time slowly because there is broken xtls around the opening so it cut the hands like blades and no questions of wearing gloves and loose the feeling of touching the xtls. I will have to open the cavity wider. I started to hit the edge of the pocket with a chisel and a sledge hammer. More I brake rocks more I see in the pocket, even if I don't stop to work I give a peek in the pocket just in case I could be the first to spot the tip of a nice xtl, and it happened what happened when you don't concentrate on what you do I give myself a good shot of sledge hammer right on my hand. My dad replace me after he stopped laughing at me while the pain will get away but to be honest it was more a question of proudness.

My dad with is hand inside that pegmatite
My dad with is hand inside that pegmatite

A short time passed and I hear my dad yelling at me I can hear that he found something  really good. Between all those broken pieces he found a giant xtl of quartz like I never saw before what a monster laying down just like that. My first move is to grab it with my hand but I control myself and run to my truck to get my camera to take that picture with a quarter on it. Question of showing you the real thing! Funny how the pain on my hand can disappear fast when you see such xtl, I grab my tools again and back to work to open that cavity. What a pleasure to be able to feel faces of a giant xtl of quartz like that like. I get the xtl in my hand but no question of taking that quartz out of the pocket, my dad is going to the truck to get me some papers to cover it before exposing it to the sun. When expose to the hot sun, the smoky quartz explodes like grenades. So as soon as it is wrapped the xtl belong under my seat in the truck. Now the big question is : What else is inside that pocket ? I can tell you that the beat to get the broken pieces out is not the same anymore. We fill the bucket much faster to get to the bottom of that pocket. Many quartz xtls of different sizes are passing in our hands.

Quartz crystals covered with a thin gray coating

All those quartz xtls are covered with a thin gray coating, some xtls a single and others are complex twins even bizarre ! Some are squelettors, cathedrals, with windows everything goes. On some of them we can find all the minerals present in the pegmatite's like rutile, microcline, calcite, donnaite. Many times I believe I touched the bottom of the pocket but every time I remove a big piece and it start all over again. Suddenly I see the tip of a nice quartz xtl, but it refuse to move, there it is now it’s got to be the bottom. So I decide to clean around it taking care not to hit the tip of the xtl. I realize slowly that this xtls ain’t small at all. I decide to use one of my wooden tool to try to move it a bit then I see most of the bottom of the pegmatite move… My god this one is enormous. I remove all the broken pieces I can. Voila ! It's done. I'm in admiration in front of this masterpiece made of microcline and quartz. There is no way for now to get it out, too heavy, it slide on the broken pieces every time I try to pull it out and I don't want to damage it. So I need to open that pocket again until I can get the upper part of my body to access the bottom of the pocket. Damn, that syenite is hard ! I wont have time to do it that way time is running out. My dad came up to me with a good idea, it's always good to bring your dad with you, experience has no price. We will use two wood stick and use them like railroad to slide the monster out. It's like trying to grab a giant noodle with chinese stick.

3 quartz cluster

This piece is unbelievable, 24 cm in length, it is made of 3 quartz cluster making some kind of triangle with a giant piece of microcline in the center. Now I must say that I'm satisfy it cant be better and I'm convince that there is nothing more spectacular in that pocket. So I rush to empty the rest of broken piece, suddenly I find many giant plate of microcline cleavage up to 13x13cm it look like a puzzle to make some real giant xtl. On the tip of one I find a superb xtl of black sphalerite but when expose to the sun we can see it is gem and of a deep green color with a thin black coating.I believe I was about to finish my day with those quartz but it wasn't so.

quartz giant  quartz giant  quartz giant

These 3 pictures show you the 3 sides of that giant specimen. A pencil is showed for the scale. Absolutely crazy !

microcline  quartz giant  quartz giant

These pictures show you giants specimens from that pocket. A pencil is showed for the scale. Unbelievable !

I cleaned all the broken pieces all I see is the base of those microcline xtls and between them a dark spot that look like a ball. Gently, I hold that ball with the tip of my fingers, at the moment I touch it I can feel by is rough surface that it is not a quartz and it is kind of heavy for the size of it. When I finally have it to my eyes I can see with the sun, its another giant xtl completely clear, gem enough to be cut. A 7.5cm perfect xtl of dark green sphalerite damage free, with all those broken pieces around it, it survived the blast between those microcline. I extract from that area 4 specimens of sphalerite and the most extraordinary is a single xtl showing tetraedric shape of 9x9x8cm that's the one Roland is holding in is hand on the picture. A perfect beauty for the eyes. When the pocket is finally cleaned it was easy to figure how the bottom of the pegmatite was just too bad the blast broke all those microcline, the pictures I would have done would be unique like those xtls.

Giant sphalerite xtl ever found at Mont Saint-Hilaire

My dad holding one of the giant sphalerite xtl ever found at Mont. St-Hilaire. Even if i asked him to look at me for the picture he couldn't take is eyes off this beautyof a deep green gem color at the sun.

sphalerite  sphalerite  sphalerite
These 3 pictures show you those giants specimens of sphalerite from that pocket. A pencil is showed for the scale. Notice that the first and the last pics is the back and front of the same specimen.

What a wonderful Sunday of sensations and discovery! When I think of the beginning of that day when every one was saying that there was nothing here to find, well there I am driving my truck back home with under and over my seats specimens that will may be bring new records for the Mont. St-Hilaire history.

I hope I was able to bring in words the thrill I had that Sunday of august and don't forget that I am always happy to hear from your comments !

Daniel Comtois
Quebec Minerals

Content by courtesy of :

Daniel Comtois - Quebec Minerals