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The World Championship Quartz Crystal Dig is held annually the second week of October in the Mount Ida (Montgomery County) area. According to Montgomery County: Our Heritage, “The Quartz Crystal Festival held October 24, 25 and 26, 1986, was attended by some two thousand residents and tourists from coast to coast.” The event was the idea of Paul G. Griffiths Sr. of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce and Sonny Stanley.
The dig is a two-day event with two divisions: crystal points and clusters. The winners keep the crystal they mine and share in $1,500 in prize money. Contestants pay a $75 registration fee and compete in both divisions. On each of the three days of the dig, the contestants assemble at the assay office at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds near Mount Ida. The diggers pick up numbered sacks each morning at the fairgrounds and can dig from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at local mines. Among the mines that have been used are the Arrow Head, Fiddler’s Ridge, Twin Creek Crystal, Wegner Crystal, and Sweet Surrender mines. Contestants use their own hand tools and return their crystals in numbered sacks, which are judged at the end of the day.
In addition to the prize money, there are crystal trophies for each of the two categories and other prizes. About 10,000 people attended the dig in 1998. This included visitors from twenty-nine states, Canada, and the Netherlands. The Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors the dig, with support provided by local businesses. The dig is held in conjunction with the annual Quartz, Quilts and Crafts Festival held at the fairgrounds. In 2015, the dig event added a “Young Miners’ Division” with additional prize money and crystal award plaques.
The Mount Ida area has been identified as one of the major deposits of quartz crystal in the state. The other is in and around Jessieville (Garland County). Both of these sites make up a major “quartz belt” within the Ouachita Mountains, though the Montgomery County crystals have been described as being clearer. As host to the annual competition, Mount Ida claims the title of “Quartz Crystal Capital of the World.”
For additional information:“Dig Quartz? Mt. Ida’s Hip.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 11, 2002, p. 3W.
Howard, Darcy, and Mike Howard. Collecting Crystals: The Guide to Quartz in Arkansas. Little Rock: A&I Studio Press, 2000.
Montgomery County Historical Society. Montgomery County, Our Heritage. 2 vols. Mount Ida, AR: Montgomery County Historical Society, 1987, 1990.
Rockhounding Arkansas. http://www.rockhoundingar.com (accessed September 29, 2014).
Smith, Arthur E., Jr. Collecting Arkansas Minerals: A Reference and Guide. Little Rock: Ream Publications, 1996.
Stanley, Tim. “Gem Dandy.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 8, 1999, p. 3W.
Storey, Michael. “Quartz, Quilts, Crafts and Possums Galore.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. October 9, 2003, p. 1E.
Allen McMillanLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/2/2016
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