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Arizona Peridot

Options for second careers are few in Globe, Arizona, a desert town 90 miles east of Phoenix. So why not open a takeout place or pizza parlor? Globe has only 5,000 residents, that’s why. How about a tourist shop? Nah, the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation, 20 miles east of Globe, grabs most visitors.

Luckily for Tyree Trobaugh, a miner who retired in 1971 at age 65, the reservation is the site of the world’s largest peridot deposit, producing, says the U.S. Bureau of Mines, at 80 percent of all current supply. What’s more, the Apaches, to whom the U.S. government awarded mineral rights decades ago, prefer to sell the rough that they alone are allowed to dig to a small number of nearby dealers, most based in Globe.

Trobaugh has been one of this handful for the past 20 years. Nevertheless, the decision to become a peridot specialist has seemed a particularly sound one of late now that the gem, the birthstone of August, is now fashionable.

As a result, Trobaugh finds himself buying, on average, hundreds of pounds a week of freshly mined material from about 100 different Native Americans. “They come with anywhere from 1 to 500 pounds of peridot, mostly small in size, and applied in everything from cereal bowls to buckets.” He says.

Peridot doesn’t make millionaires of those who mine it. To the contrary, Trobaugh estimates that total yearly production probably don’t exceed $250,000.

At around $7 to $8 per pound, peridot rough must be found in large lots for mining to pay off. The hundreds of people engaged in digging for the gem, often in family teams, gather as much of it has they can in a short period, then dispose of it.

But at least it’s a job in a region with few employment options. And with peridot gaining swiftly in popularity, demand is likely to make mining it a job for more and more Apaches.

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Arizona Peridot