PARIS—To the untrained eye, the purple ridged gemstone that landed on the faceting machine of South Paris jeweler Dennis Creaser appears small, but not only did it break a state record, it is the largest piece found in North America to date, he said.
On Tuesday, Creaser—who owns of Creaser Jewelers on Main Street—showed off a piece of purple fluorapatite, more commonly known as apatite, which was mined at Pulsifer Quarry in Auburn.
He said the stone is the largest ever found in North America and the second largest in the world. He was hired to cut the gem for a Connecticut mineral dealer, who obtained it after another Connecticut collector passed away.
“It had a lot of parcel wear to it. It had been around for a long time,” Creaser said.
When the stone first came to Creaser, it weighed 65.5 carats. More than nine hours later, after he was done studying and faceting the gem—which he said was challenging to cut since it’s a soft stone and heat sensitive—it weighed 21.53 carats. He formed the stone into a modified Portuguese cut, which is known for its numerous facets, and said the rock was an extremely rare collector’s gemstone, as faceted apatites weighing more than one carat are scarce.
“It will probably end up in a high-end private collection or a museum,” Creaser predicted.
There was one other piece that could be turned into another gemstone.
“If I can trim pieces off, I do that just because like to so I like to give something back,” Creaser said, adding normally most of the cut material is unusable.
No one knows when the record-breaking gemstone was mined, but Creaser suspects it might have been around 1901 when Auburn’s Pulsifer Quarry was established. He said it was started by Pitt P. Pulsifer and is part of Mount Apatite, which was the first place in the world where purple apatite was found. Stones discovered in this mine—which is currently owned and operated by Poland Mining Camps in Poland—are known for their deep purple and gemmy appearance and are some of the best quality apatites mined in the state.
“Maine is really very well known for our specimens of purple apatite,” he said. “It is one of the minerals that occurs here and a couple other places in the world of any other consequence.”
According to Creaser, the previous Maine record for a purple apatite was 7.63 carats. The world record stands at 55 carats from a stone mined in Brazil. Besides Maine and Brazil, purple apatite is only found in Afghanistan and a few other minor locations.
As for the large piece of apatite showing up in Connecticut, Creaser said it’s not all that uncommon.
“A lot of Maine gemstones end up in other places and you run into them in the weirdest places,” he said. “The best piece of Maine tourmaline I ever bought I found in Tuscon, Ariz., at the gem show out there.”