Purple Gems, Mountain Majesty

We often hear stories of the complicated journey gemstones take from the mine to the jeweler’s showcase. Yet it’s difficult to truly appreciate that odyssey unless you’ve lived the experience. It’s an eye-opener, as I recently discovered on a trip with my son to the mountains east of Phoenix. We expect primitive mining conditions in Third World countries. But in the United States? A climb to the top of a mountain in search of amethyst at the Four Peaks mine was a step back in time. No room for the squeamish. An hour and a half outside of our starting point—posh Scottsdale, Ariz.—we turn off the main road; within minutes, we’re transported back to primitive times. A one-lane dirt road takes us up the backside of a mountain in the Mazatzal range. The road is bumpy, with constant curves and never a guard rail. The 11-mile ride takes us 30 minutes. It’s not for the squeamis

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