Moldavite fever in south Bohemia

Moldavite, photo: Mp, Creative Commons 3.0

In addition to garnets, the Czech Republic can offer the world one other semi-precious stone found almost exclusively on its territory – a bottle-green gemstone going by the name of moldavite. There are currently four moldavite mines operating in the Czech Republic but rich deposits of the gem in southern Bohemia have now attracted hordes of moldavite hunters out to make a quick fortune.

Moldavite,  photo: Mp,  Creative Commons 3.0
Dubbed “the gemstone from the stars” moldavite is thought to have formed from condensed rock vapors after a meteorite impact more than twenty million years ago. Rich deposits of it are scattered over south Bohemia and it is not hard to come across the gem in its crude form. For years the semi-precious stone left fortune seekers disinterested, but now that its market price has doubled they are leaving no stone unturned in search of the greenish-brown gem. The deep spruce forests surrounding the town of Netolice, known to hold deposits of moldavite have been completely destroyed as hunters dig one deep hole after another –some of them three metres deep. The local authorites have asked the police for help but officers say it is not in their power to stop the devastation. Milan Bajcura is from the local police department:

“The area concerned is simply too extensive –it is not in our power to safeguard the entire region. All we can do is perform checks in the worst affected areas.”

Moldavite jewel
The digs are illegal but apparently well worth the risk since a good find amounts to 100,000 crowns on the black market and the growing number of deep holes in the region suggest that hunters are not walking away empty handed. However unless they are actually caught with the gem –they have little to fear – digging alone is treated as a misdemeanour. The mayor of Netolice Oldrich Petrasek says the only solution is to take over – and mine the area legally.

“This used to be one of our best forests – now it resembles a moonscape. The only solution is to open up a mine here and mine the deposits legally –after which the land will be re-cultivated.”

Putting this plan in motion is expected to take around six months. The town hall has already set the ball rolling but until it has the required permits and selected a mining firm for the job the green fever in south Bohemia is not likely to let up.