Home Mineralia Specimens Locations Sitio en Español English Site
Amatitlán, Guerrero, México.

The amethysts from Amatitlan, Guerrero are easily identified. The crystals are almost translucent and their colour ranges from a deep blood red at their base fading through purple and finally colourless at the tip. The amethyst crystals from Guerrero are the darkest in the world. The crystals generally form in small groups radiating out from the matrix. When these beautiful crystals have fluid inclusions, shadows, known as negative crystals, are created. These specimens that come from the remote mountains of the Southern Sierra Madre in Guerrero, are as beautiful as they are complex. For this reason Amatitlan, which has produced some of the finest specimens known, has become the second most important location in the world for the extraction of amethyst.
Amatitlan is situated in the municipality of Eduardo Neri, a small community at 1540 metres above sea level. Until 1987 this town was called Zumpango del Rio, but was changed in honour of the outstanding legislator Eduardo Neri, a native to the area. According to The Mendoza Codex the word Zumpango, means “place where they put the skulls from the sacrifices”.
In 1526, the explorer Rodrigo de Tamara discovered the mines of Zumpango. By 1534, Don Diego Garcia de Jaramillo had established several mines for the extraction of gold, copper, lead and silver, but was not consolidated until 1571. In 1811, by the agreement of the Anahuac Congress, the province of Técpan was created. This included the district of Zumpango. The area has historic value for the Insurgents Route that was led by the liberator José María Morelos. It was in this area that he gathered people to join his army.
Donato Retana, a farmer who lived in this tiny village, discovered the mineral deposits in the area of Amatitlan. He was sewing corn in his field when he discovered some purple crystals in the ground. He realized the potential of his discovery and asked his nephew to help him acquire a permit to excavate the land. Unfortunately for Donato, who was a humble, illiterate man, the nephew asked for the permit in his own name. This triggered a bloody war between the families, ending in the death of several members.
Whilst the family feud was raging, some specimens of the crystals were taken to the area of Queretaro, where gemstones were cut for the jewellery trade. Several buyers acquired amethysts from this area for this purpose, sadly fracturing the spectacular enormous crystals in order to do so. Later however, as the collectors began to show interest, the specimens stated to be sold in their matrix.
The area was mined extensively between 1930 and 1933. From this time on, references to the amethysts from Amatitlan, and sometimes from its neighbouring town of Iguala, can be found in specialized articles and books. The mines were operated as small family businesses, were tunnels 8 to 10 metres deep. Each deposit was worked until it was exhausted and then they would begin a new excavation. Several of the more prolific sites have retained the names of the original ranches where the deposits were found. Margarita, Valencia, Palo Verde, Santa Rita, Amatitlan Mine, Rayas and the effusive name Sorpresa (which means Surprise) are just some. These names help to identify the provenience of the specimens.
The veins of amethysts from the region of Guerrero, maybe be linked to the deposits of gold and iron skarn that run across the state, known as the Belt of Gold. For many years, the exploration of the region was difficult because of the numerous private contracts that had been made in association of the search for gold. In the beginning all rights were retained by the government, then with changes in the law, gradually permits were granted to private companies. This opened up opportunities for extracting specimens for collections and studies. Today, the region is still being analyzed and searches are underway to look for gold deposits. In modern times, not only have the legal problems undermined the extraction of these beautiful amethysts, but the mountains of Guerrero have become a refuge for drug dealers and their plantations of narcotics. Tragically, today the economy of Amatitlan is no longer based on mining amethysts. The area now produces large amounts of opium, making the area dangerous for possible visitors. It is a land of huge contrasts: on one hand its incredible beauty and on the other mortal dangers.

It is said, on account of the violent history of the region, that the deep blood red colour of the bases of the amethyst crystals, comes from the victims that have come to a savage and bloody end. Perhaps it is true; certainly specimens of such unique beauty are worthy of a mythical origin.

Luis Lyons photo
Luis Lyons photo