From Prism Volume I 2024: Map the Mine, Four Peaks Amethyst Mine LLC in Arizona

By Kurt Cavano

Kurt Cavano, Managing Member, details the history of this hard-to-access mine in a national forest near Phoenix that is rich in regal purple Quartz.

Hello, Friends!

For years, my purchases at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show have generally fit into my luggage, but that changed in 1997. That’s when a chance encounter at the show led to a helicopter trip, an environmental impact study, and a year later, the purchase of the historic Four Peaks Amethyst Mine.

Located 45 miles northeast of Phoenix in the Tanto National Forest, the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine is nestled between the third and fourth peak at an elevation of 6,600 feet. Surrounded by national wilderness, the only way in is on foot or by helicopter.

The remote location is challenging. In the first few months of the pandemic, the “Bush Fire” ripped through the area and destroyed our miners’ shack and much of our equipment. We lost a lot but were able to rebuild and regroup a year later.

The mine’s history dates to when local Native Americans used the Amethyst to make arrowheads—sharp ones, I might add. Plus, when Spaniards explored the area, they brought back Arizona Amethyst to Spain and, reputedly, three of the gemstones in the Spanish crown are from this mine.

Then in the early 1900s, prospector Jim McDaniels was searching for gold when he instead discovered a large deposit of purple Quartz. Over the last 100 years, the claim was patented and changed hands multiple times until I purchased it with my college friend, Jim MacLachlan.

The iconic Four Peaks Mountains, featured on Arizona license plates, developed out of an uplifted sheet of 1.3-billion-year-old Quartzite. The Amethyst deposit formed when superheated iron-rich water pushed up through this Quartzite, dissolving some of it into solution. As the water cooled, Amethyst crystallized on the walls of the hydrothermal vents in the Quartzite.

From Prism Volume I 2024: Map the Mine, Four Peaks Amethyst Mine LLC in Arizona

When we purchased the mine, we found where one of these vents came to the surface and have been following it for over 20 years. All the mining is done with hand tools, so in 20-plus years of mining, we are only 120 feet into the mountain. When you step into the mine you are actually in a massive geode with amethyst crystals surrounding you.

Because of its remote location, a two-person mining team hikes in and stays on site in the miner’s shack for seven days, then hikes out. That happens twice a month, weather permitting, as it is not unusual to get several feet of snow in January and February.

Two solar-power systems generate electricity for the shack and the mine’s lighting and ventilation. Rainwater is collected and filtered for drinking and washing, and all amenities on site are designed to reduce our environmental footprint, as ours is the only private land in the Tonto wilderness.

In the spring and fall, we helicopter in six months of supplies and fly out the mined Amethyst. We get about 2,000 pounds of rough per year. The rough is sorted by our partners at Commercial Mineral Co. (CMC) in Scottsdale, Ariz. Out of all that rough, less than 100 pounds is suitable for cutting. High-grade rough is cut locally but most is shipped to our cutters in Bangkok. What comes back is 1,000 to 2,000 carats of beautiful Amethyst.

The Amethyst ranges in color from lilac to deep purple, but our material is famous for red flash in the stones, known as Siberian Red. This is named for where that trait was first discovered in Amethyst, the Ural Mountains of Russia. Most of our gems are in the 1–2 carat range, but we also get larger stones, with 80- to 100-carat beauties produced over the years.

From Prism Volume I 2024: Map the Mine, Four Peaks Amethyst Mine LLC in Arizona

We sell the largest stones into the jewelry trade through our partners at CMC. While the demand for sustainably mined American gemstones is strong, what really keeps the mine afloat is the silver jewelry we make with the amethyst in our factory in Bangkok. This merchandise is then sold in jewelry stores, gift shops, online, and at our own store in Scottsdale.

For the first 10 years of operation, we paid for the helicopters in and out of the mine but have since discovered a demand for tours. Now we offer them twice a year, and the tour fees cover the costs of the helicopters. We also offer private tours, and since Phoenix Magazine listed our tour as an Arizona bucket list event, we now have a one-year wait list. Several couples have married on the site and others have gotten engaged there! Celebrity miners from the “Prospectors” TV series have visited, too. Who knew a tiny remote mine could draw such interest?

As a lifelong stone-cutting, jewelry-making rockhound, owning the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine has been an amazing experience, but the challenges make me glad I have a day job as tech-industry professional.

Best regards,

Kurt Cavano

This is proprietary content for AGTA and may not be reproduced.

This article first ran in Prism Volume I 2024. See the flipbook by clicking here.