On MAY 9, 1892, The Jewelers Weekly mentioned J. H. H. Vosburgh’s remarkable collection of quartz crystals.

“The Little Falls man has a collection of more than 60,000 “diamonds” found within one mile of the village. This is one of the most unique and interesting collections of small crystals in the world. (Note: Mr. Vosburgh’s collection is on display at Colgate University.)”
May 9, 1892, Cooney Archives

Since 2020, the Little Falls Historical Society Museum has collaborated each January with students from the SUNY Oneonta Cooperstown Graduate Program of Museum Studies under the direction of Dr Eric Stengler, with his course “ A Science Cabinet of Curiosities”. For 2020, the students chose an object within the museum and their coursework was to communicate to the public the connection their chosen object has to the history of Little Falls. Each student authored a chapter within their virtually published book, the ” Industrialization in Little Falls, New York 1790-1960.”

Kathryn Dragan, a 2020 student of Dr Stengler’s course, selected the “ The Donal Hurley – Little Falls Diamond Exhibit” to write her researched chapter on. Ms. Dragan’s narrative “Our Rock Crystal | Little Falls Diamonds” can be found as Chapter 6 in the students virtual book, which can be read in its entirety here.

Donal Hurley and his Little Falls Diamond Collection.

Donal Hurley and his Little Falls Diamond Collection.

“The Little Falls Diamond” By Donal Hurley:

“The hills to the north and south of the “gorge” forming the Mohawk Valley at Little Falls, New York, you might find a small, clear, sparkling stone called the Little falls “diamond”.

This semi-precious stone is not a real diamond which is pure carbon – but is a silicon dioxide (SiO2), or sand and oxygen, the same composition as the glass windowpane although much harder. The Little Falls “diamond” is a member of the great quartz family which include opal, agate, flint, amethyst, and other branches either found massive such as quartz rock from which mountains might be built; or having a definite shape which is designated by the term “crystal”. When the quartz crystal is colorless and clear, it is called a rock crystal. Thus, we identify the Little Falls “diamond” as rock crystal and a member of the great quartz family of minerals.

Our rock crystal is not named after the City of Little Falls but the rock formation in which it was grown by nature. This rock formation was originally a sediment laid down in the Precambrian Little Falls Sea that covered much of central, northern, and eastern New York State, millions and millions of years ago. The original limestone sediment was later altered in composition by a great natural disturbance and is now known as Little Falls Dolomite.

The rock crystal, or Little Falls “diamond”, was fashioned by nature in small pockets or vugs in this dolomitic rock. The crystal is found by breaking open the rock which is often very hard; or it is free in the soil, having been weathered out of the rock matrix. Other minerals associated with and sometimes even included within the rock crystal are: calcite, dolomite, pyrite, and anthraxolite.

The Little Falls “diamond” is to be found in the mineral collections of universities, museums, and private individuals all over the world. It is recognized for an unsurpassed perfection of form and sparkling brilliancy. In fact, the Little Falls “diamond”, or rock crystal, has been mistaken for the real diamond.
Even when found as a six-sided prism capped at each end with a six-sided pyramid forming a crystal with 18 faces, all glass smooth and sharp edged, it is difficult not to imagine such a stone has not, in truth, been artificially cut and polished. When our rock crystal is actually cut into such a “brilliant”, it has a water clearness and lively sparkled that is beautiful even in the terms of gemology.

Let the scientific define it as a rock crystal… we will always recognize it as a Little Falls “diamond.”

Please plan a visit to the museum to view the “Donal Hurley Little Falls Dimond Exhibit.” If you can’t make it into the museum, the virtual “Pre Human History-Little Falls Diamonds Exhibit.

This article was written by Darlene Smith, in collaboration with Louis Baum, Jr., Mike and Gail Potter, and first appeared on the Little Falls Historical Society Museum Facebook page and website on May 9, 2023.