Treasures and Gifts for you from Mt. Antero, Colorado
Mt. Antero Treasures, located in Buena Vista, Colorado, creates and sells jewelry made with precious gems mined from nearby Mt. Antero.
At 14,275 feet, Mt. Antero is one of Colorado’s highest peaks. Though treacherous, its landscape is home to some of the world’s richest mineral deposits.
Mt. Antero was first mined for beryllium in 1952 by Grady Cardwell. In time, however, he discovered a rich resource for several types of gems. With growing demand for such gems, the Cardwell family began mining for aquamarine, blue topaz, phenakite crystals, purple and blue fluorite, and more.
Today, Cardwell’s mining operation is run by his grandson, Craig Cardwell, and Craig’s wife, Tracie. Using rough cut gems mined from Mt. Antero, Craig and Tracie work with cut houses and jewelers across the country to create beautifully set rings, earrings, and necklaces—pieces available for purchase at their Buena Vista storefront or online.
Craig Cardwell is a fourth-generation miner, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
At their start, the Cardwell family mined for beryllium. However, in the 1950s, after several lodes of gems and minerals were discovered on the family’s Mt. Antero stake, the business shifted to mining, faceting, and selling the many precious gems found on top of one of Colorado’s highest peaks. But this remained a side business, as mining could only take place three months out of the year.
Craig, who studied Mechanical Drafting and Design at Texas State Technical Institute, continued running the gem business on the side while pursuing a career in engineering. However, under his direction, gem sales grew, and soon, Craig was trading his full-time engineering career for his real passion—mining and selling precious Colorado gems and minerals. With this, Mt. Antero Treasures was born.
Today, Craig and his wife Tracie run a four-man crew that mines for aquamarine, blue topaz, and other gems and minerals on the family’s Mt. Antero stake. From machine-excavating to hand-digging, he says there’s a “symphony to the madness.”
With rough-cut gems in hand, Craig works with cut houses and designers to create the finished products found in his Buena Vista, Colorado storefront and online—unique pieces of jewelry that include rings, earrings, necklaces, and more.
As the daughter of a New Mexican potash miner, Tracie was no stranger to mining when she met Craig at the age of eighteen in Dallas, Texas. From friendship to marriage in 2004, she and Craig have formed a perfect partnership as each has discovered a passion for mining gems on Mt. Antero.
When Tracie first began extracting gems, she noticed how soft her hands had become and how shiny the mud was. Intrigued, she started rubbing the mud on her face and arms. To her delight, her skin felt plumper, more nourished, and well exfoliated.
In 2007, Tracie became an esthetician and developed her own line of skin care products made of the unique, mineral-rich clay found on Mt. Antero. Made of 33 different minerals, Gemclay feeds the skin and body with vitamins that prevent aging.
With a storefront in Buena Vista, Colorado, just miles from the base of Mt. Antero, Tracie not only sells Gemclay but also offers a full line of services that include waxing, facials, microdermabrasion, and more.
The Cardwell family is one of several showcased on The Weather Channel’s Prospectors, a reality TV show that premiered in March 2013 and follows miners in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as they look for precious metals and gems.
The show documents many aspects of mining one of Colorado's highest peaks, such as the dangers of high-altitude lightning, rock falls, cave-ins, and whiteouts while digging for valuable rocks.
Check out Craig, Traci, and the rest of the crew.
In 1952, W.H. Cardwell and his son, Grady M. Cardwell, a retired military professional, chose a new career path considered quite unusual for the time—mining.
Though known as one of the most challenging and dangerous industries in the world, the Cardwells approached the move with great determination, eventually choosing Mt. Antero in Central Colorado as their target.
At 14,276 feet, Mt. Antero is the highest summit in the Sawatch Range, a string of peaks that include eight of the highest in Colorado. To this day, Mt. Antero is one of the most unforgiving environments to mine, which posed great challenges to the Cardwells who began their adventure without the assistance of modern equipment or machinery.
Despite these difficulties, the Cardwells persisted, knowing the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 made the nation eager to discover new elements and minerals to aid in its nuclear projects. Grady Cardwell, using a combination of military strategies, such as field analysis and the use of the famous Wannamaker's reports, thus began construction for a road to the top of Mt. Antero.
Mt. Antero boasts some of the most ruthless granite complexes in the world, with boulders large enough to smash a house. To get them off the mountain, Grady used blasting techniques he learned in the military and was soon cutting the eight-mile road—now known as CR 162—from the bottom of Mt. Antero to the top. Though the process was slow and arduous, the construction of the road was testament that nothing would stand in the way of the Cardwells’ dream.
With the road complete, the Cardwells staked all of Mt. Antero's peaks to secure mineral rights, eventually developing one of the most famous rare earth sites know today. Though they’d sought beryllium, pit after pit produced gems and crystals like aquamarine, phenakite, and 22 other strategic elements only found on Mt. Antero.
In the 1970s, 20 years after Grady Cardwell began mining on Mt. Antero, operations were at last focused solely on finding these gems and crystals. It was then, that Grady retired and handed the operation over to his son, Tommy Cardwell.
In collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines, Tommy began a ten-year field study that concluded with the discovery of the most economical, efficient, and environmentally conscious methods for extracting gemstone on a commercial scale.
In 1994, Tommy and his son, Craig, began Mt. Antero Treasures, the same business Craig and his wife, Tracie, run today. Together, they produce some of the world’s finest aquamarine gems to date. And with the addition of a cutting-edge skin care line made exclusively from the same rare mineral recovered from Mt. Antero and appearances on the hit reality series, Prospectors, they’ve ensured this long-running family tradition is poised to carry on for generations to come.