When we talk about Lapis Lazuli, we immediately think of lapis from Afghanistan or Siberia. We even think of Chilean lapis, but there is also a lapis de Colorado, USA. It is known that it is of a fairly acceptable quality. Unfortunately, the Colorado mines are closed. Here is his story …
Crested Butte Lapis Lazuli was once described as “among the best the world has ever seen”. It was discovered in 1939 and closed in 1990. The Crested Butte lapis ranges from dark blue-black to royal blue to blue ‘denim’.
The Blue Wrinkle
Although the Afghans have been mining lapis for more than 6,000 years, selling them to the Egyptians who used it to make jewelry and talismans, to the Hindus who put it in the Taj Mahal, and to the Chinese who used it in curtains, nobody he knew the Colorado depot until 1940, when Carl Anderson, a character from Gunnison, discovered him on a mountain on his property.
Known as “The Blue Crinkle”, its makeshift mine had the following sign: THIS PROPERTY BELONGS TO A CRAZY. IT HAS A PERFECT APPROACH. DO NOT EXCAVATE.
For a time, the Colorado lapis was brought from the mine and sold at gift shops in Crested Butte and Gunnison. Some even claimed that it cured the bites of snakes. But lately the lapis movement in Colorado has stopped.
Carl Anderson was a mine digger. He was quite high on the Northern Italian Mountain on his way to work at Star Mines, when a cold winter rain made him seek refuge in a gorge at 12,700 feet.
A story tells us that he was drunk and fell off his horse; others say he was protecting himself from the rain. Suddenly it’s a bit of both stories. The rain had washed the blue part of an exposed lapis, causing Carl to notice the stone. With a hammer he took out a piece and days later he had it examined and to his surprise it was Lapis Lazuli.
After notifying their discovery, I return to the mountain over the ravine. He started digging and found the main vein about three or four feet below the earth and eventually followed it for a few hundred yards around the mountain.
Immediately the gem got incredible attention, as it was the first quality Lapis lazuli gem in the United States. Several authorities gave it first quality lapis. Mr. Whitmore of the Smithsonian Institution said, “It has the color and is also matched to any of the ore specimens from any of the locations represented in our collection.”
Carl notified some areas and worked with pick and shovel every summer for three decades.
Carl died thirty years after discovering lapis. His son Andre took over the mines. Andre worked in the blue vein for another decade. He was the poet who wrote the sign above.
Andre became ill in the 70s and apparently sold the mine to finance his heart operation. He died in 1981 and sold the mine to Anchor Gas. I leave $ 69,000 to the Gunnison Library for a music and reading room.
Under the direction of Anchor Gas, the Blue Crinkle entered a new era, when the company took the backhoes to replace the hand tools and cut deep into the mountain in the Paleozoic sediments.
In the 1980s, the Colorado lapis brought more attention when an Associated Press article proclaimed it “among the best the world has ever seen.” After that, the newspapers made headlines all over the west, from Tulsa to Denver to Rapid City: “Remote Mountain in Colorado has the best Lapis in the world”.
However, Anchor Gas was faced with a diminishing return on its investment and closed the mine. Gary Christopher bought Blue Crinkle in 1991 and occasionally worked on it on his own before closing it forever. He donated the emblematic pieces of The Blue Wrinkle, a polished 37-pound piece from the Anderson era, to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
I am always happy to hear about new sources from my dear Lapis Lazuli. Who knows if in the near future new mines of lapis will be discovered. Keep your fingers crossed ..