The Secrets of Crystal Hunting

Mont Blanc

There are many crystal hunting secrets. When I meet crystal hunter Jean-Franck Charlet in his house in the Chamonix Valley, my biggest question, of course, is where, in the immeasurable amount of granite, you can find those precious minerals? The French crystal hunter uncovers the secrets of his profession without any hesitation:

 Step 1. Find a crystal oven

“Crystals were once formed about ten kilometers (32,808 feet) beneath the ground. Due to the rise of the Alps, you can now find them on mountain walls in so-called crystal ovens. Such ovens are located in horizontal crevices on rock walls, and especially in those crevices where the veins in the rock are filled with quartz. Due to the white color of the quartz, these crevices are easy to recognize, making the crystal ovens in the Mont Blanc range reasonably easy to find. However, this is terrain for alpinists: the ovens are usually located in steep and extremely unstable terrain. “

crystal secrets
crystal secrets Photo by Kali Neri.

Step 2. Extract the crystals

“Once you have found an oven, the real work begins. Chopping out the crystals at thousands of meters of altitude is difficult, especially when working with ice-cold fingers. The ovens are often frozen, particularly on the north side of the mountain. To free the crystals from the ice, we can use gas burners or salt, but you have to be very patient, because if you go too fast, the crystals will burst because of the sudden heat. Sometimes extracting the crystals is so much work that we spend the night on the rock face.”

crystal hunting safety
Safety is the highest priority in crystal hunting. Photo by Inspire Tout.

Step 3. Carry the crystals down without damaging them

“This is perhaps the most dangerous part of crystal hunting. It means spending hours abseiling and scrambling over glaciers and loose rock debris with a backpack of at least 40 kilos, crammed with crystals. Even as soon as we leave the steep walls and glaciers behind us and walk on a hiking trail, tripping can be fatal. That is why you need a lot of energy for the descent and an extraordinary concentration. That’s why you look for crystals with your best friends, because you take huge risks. It only works with people you feel safe with.”

Step 4. Cleaning

“Once at home, the crystals have to be cleaned: you take a bucket of water and then brush them gently with a toothbrush. This is a magical and delicate moment, because this is when you really can see what you have found and estimate its value. In the winter, as soon as the season is over, we go to trade fairs to show our pieces and possibly sell them.”

There you have it: the crystal hunting secrets. You may be tempted to venture and hunt for crystals yourself. However, ensure you have an expert crystal hunting guide – they will use their expertise to guide you and will have a more thorough understanding of local crystal hunting laws and standards. Safety is the number one priority when crystal hunting.


This interview is the final part of a series about the crystals and crystal hunters of Mont Blanc:

Mont Blanc Crystals

Hunt for Mont Blanc Crystals

Portrait of a Crystal Hunter




Simone van Velzen

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