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If you've been to the Valley of the Sun, the silhouette of the Four Peaks mountains in the skyline is probably all too familiar. To the Northeast of Phoenix are the Mazatzal Mountains - home to the Arizona Amethyst. These mountains (and the mine within them) have a fascinating history that is intertwined with Sami Fine Jewelry.
After the dramatic shifting of Earth tectonic plates, conditions were perfect for the Mazatzal mountains to form. Over millennia, the heating and cooling of the earth eventually lead to the creation of violet crystals within the rock, that we recognize today as amethyst. Amethyst in this region is truly unique. The same element that gives Arizona it’s telltale red rocks is also responsible for the magenta-red flashes within the amethyst - iron.
Even before the gem was mined, Natives in the area saw the beauty in this natural crystal, and used it for trade. Amethyst arrowhead tips were found on the mountainside, as evidence of the widespread use of this gem.
In the 18th century, Spanish settlers also discovered the gem, and brought back some of the vibrant Amethyst to Europe. Eventually, it caught the attention of royalty, and made its way into the Spanish Crown Jewels. Popularity of the amethyst from the New World spread through Europe to France, Portugal, Germany, and even Great Britain. Old legends of amethyst being a gem of power and wisdom were once again told, and the desire for this gem was ignited. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, the Four Peaks amethyst lode was mined intermittently.
In the early 1900’s the land that the mine would be built on was deemed private property, and activity virtually disappeared for nearly 50 years. The location was so inaccessible, commercial mining wasn’t even considered until 1998. The mine passed from one owner to the next, and endured disputes with land management, rockslides, floods, and even thieves. Eventually, in 1998, the current owner of the mine took control, and works alongside Sami Fine Jewelry to produce this “purple gold.”
After numerous incidents involving previous mine owners, special care is taken to keep the mining operation as eco-friendly as possible. Just a few miners work the land, living in rough conditions to leave a minimal carbon footprint. No power tools or explosives are used, as they would damage the amethyst crystals and the land. Only a small generator and solar panels provide power to the site, and rainwater is collected and cleaned for use. The miners must hike the Four Peaks mountains up to the mine. The area is surrounded by protected wilderness, and no vehicles are allowed. A helicopter flies in supplies periodically, and takes down rough amethyst.
Since Sami Jack moved to Arizona, she had a passion for unique jewelry and colored gemstones. She was interested in Native American jewels, and even sold unexpected designs in airports, looking for occasions to travel. In 1976, she made her way to Arizona, and fell in love with the landscape. She quickly began selling jewelry out of a humble flower shop. In 1987, she opened her first stand-alone store. At this same time, she discovered the Southwestern treasure that is Arizona Four Peaks Amethyst, and was determined to share this gem with the community.
Sami collected the finest pieces of Arizona Amethyst throughout her career, building the largest inventory of the gem in history. She marketed this gem and gave it a name, even before it gained national attention.
Sami was the mastermind behind the coveted tours of the Four Peaks mine. She knew the best way to get people interested in their home-grown treasure was to take them to the source! Her wild idea grew the mine into a top Arizona destination. Today, the Amethyst Mine Tours rank among the Top 5 “Bucket List” things to do in Arizona, according to Phoenix Magazine. Stephenie Bjorkman, Sami’s daughter and second generation jeweler, has only grown the prestige and wonder surrounding the Arizona Amethyst.
Sami Fine Jewelry boasts the largest collection of superior quality Arizona Four Peaks Amethyst loose gemstones and finished jewelry. In partnership with the mining operation at the Four Peaks, Sami’s is lucky enough to get first choice of all faceted gemstones that are produced. Here, it’s easy to find custom and one of a kind designs crafted with this Arizona gem.
Tours of the mine are still ongoing and coordinated through Sami Fine Jewelry, generally taking place in the Spring and Fall. Contact us to learn more about this once in a lifetime experience, and maybe take a piece of Arizona’s landscape home for yourself!
The Four Peaks mine is still going strong, tucked away between the summit of the Four Peaks Mountains. Though the operation is small, the passion and admiration for this gem is mighty.