THE GOLDEN ONE
The Golden One is the name given to a massive citrine quartz crystal unearthed in Zambia, equatorial Africa, remarkable because of its size, internal clarity, majestic golden color, and presence. At 900 kilos (almost 2000 pounds), the crystal’s outer skin wore the weathering of millions of years, while retaining the beautiful symmetry of the hexagonal crystal shape. The tip, however, had been sheared off. Restoring the original crystal shape inspired my approach to reinstate the majesty of this ancient stone.
Gemstones, even the largest ones, are measured in carats. The approximate finished weight of The Golden One is 3,178,000 carats (over 1400 pounds). It stands approximately 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep, and appears much larger in person because the mind’s eye is able to fully experience the volume of transparent three-dimensionality.
Work on The Golden One began in 1997 in the CrystalWorks Studio in central Oregon. New tools and techniques were developed to accommodate the cutting of such a massive crystal. As the crystal became more internally clear from the polishing process, those of us witnessing it became spellbound with the plays of light and the numerous dancing rainbows that floated in the vast sea of transparent golden quartz. Because of this gem’s transparent depth, the eye can descend into it. Never before have we been able to look so deeply into such a vast terrain of some of the earth’s densest matter.
I needed to build a second studio to accomplish the cutting and finishing of The Golden One. I also needed to invent a system to move the massive stone around. I solicited the help of engineer (and all-around problem solver) Peter W. Small to help me design and fabricate a cutting technology that would work. My research led me to monument carving, whose tools could cut giant blocks of granite and marble. Sadly, I lost Peter, my friend and co-worker several years ago.
I purchased a small (by industry standards) wire saw, which was 12 feet tall. Peter built a huge concrete table/runway. We then designed, and Peter built, a carriage to carry the stone. Under the carriage we placed pontoons, one on each corner. Attached to each pontoon was a garden hose fed by well water. When the hose was turned on, the pontoons lifted the more than 2500 pounds of crystal and steel. I could then maneuver the crystal with the touch of a finger to any location on the table. Peter also rigged up a pulley system with a cable from his old hang glider. With a few pounds of weight from some discarded barbells placed in a bucket on one end and the carriage on the other, the crystal was drawn through, being cut with a diamond-beaded wire blade. This system, while inventive and functional, was wrought with challenge after challenge, day in and day out; the process of rough shaping the crystal took more than a year.
Two years after I finished the three-year process of working The Golden One I had the opportunity to meet the miner who had unearthed the giant crystal in Zambia. I was brimming with questions, the answers to which might fill in some of the life story of this magnificent creature, and give me an idea of what occurred in the millions of years leading up to our being introduced.
Nassim Doost and his family had been mining for aquamarines in a northeastern tropical region. He told me that this crystal had been found in a sandy pit uncharacteristic of the geological environment that would produce such a specimen. He went on to say that as several men burrowed into the earth looking for very small aqua crystals, the thud of their shovels began to define the outline of something massive. As the entombing loam was scraped clear, they uncovered three crystals in the sandy soil. Instead of the earthen bed that was mineralogically expected, displaying the geological conditions to produce such specimens, the three crystals were stacked one on top of another.
Nassim’s excitement exceeded mine as we puzzled over how this could have occurred. Were they shifted and transported by the geological forces of millions of years? Were they part of a pegmatite pocket that collapsed in an earthquake? Why had these crystals not shown the typical geological characteristics consistent with the mineralogical evidence of their growth, which presumably occurred in this location millions of years ago? How were they placed one on top of another? Upon excavation, it was discovered that the tip of the giant citrine was entirely sheared off. Yet Nassim was quick to point out that no chipped pieces or remnants of any kind were found in the pit. He looked at me and said with bemusement, “It appeared as if someone placed them there.”