Portrait of a Crystal Hunter

Crystal portrait

Today I’m meeting crystal hunter Jean-Franck Charlet. Like many other crystal hunters, Jean-Franck is a mountain guide, born and raised in Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc. The Frenchman has been “picking” crystals for over 50 years and crystal hunting runs in his blood.

Crystal Hunter
Crystal hunter Jean-Franck Charlet holds a prize speciman.

Family tradition

“I was 14 years old when my grandfather took me for the first time to the Pointes des Améthystes. I’ve learned everything I know about crystals from my father and grandfather and they learned the tricks of the trade from their forefathers. And now my son Jonathan continues the family tradition.” Thirty-year-old Jonathan Charlet is a mountain guide and crystal hunter, just like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-grandfather, etc…

Most precious find

“The most precious crystal I have ever found is a pink fluorite. My best friend René Ghilini and I found it in August 1985, but I can’t show the crystal to you. We sold it straight away to a museum in Washington. The mineral has now been resold to a private collector for 350,000 Euros.”

Pink Flourite
Pink Fluorite on Quartz, photo by WikiCommons.

The future

Although he has been picking crystals for more than 50 years, Jean-Franck has no plans of stopping anytime soon. I’m wondering how the experienced crystal hunter sees the future. “Climate change suddenly makes places accessible that weren’t in the past. Freed from the ice, we can now search, work and camp at an altitude of 4.000 meters. That was not possible 10 years ago. On the other hand, the mountains are also less stable, because the melting permafrost causes more and more rock debris to come down.”

Alpinism in all its beauty

The search for the precious treasures is difficult and dangerous. Why does Jean-Franck take the risks? Does he do it for the money? For the adventure? “You don’t do it for the money. I have never met anyone who can live off of it. There is of course the adventure, the excitement of finding a real treasure, but the most beautiful thing about crystal hunting is the sense of freedom. Crystal hunting is without a doubt the most beautiful form of mountaineering. You move freely through the mountains. With your best friends, but without a set route, without the impediment that you have to reach a top, often with overnight camps and there is nobody around. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Read more

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

  • Crystals of Mont Blanc
  • Crystal Hunters of Mont Blanc
  • Portrait of a Crystal Hunter
  • The Secrets of Crystal Hunting
Simone van Velzen

2 Replies to “Portrait of a Crystal Hunter”

  1. Bitumba says:

    Thank you very much

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