Many gem hunters want to visit the Karelia

The Garnet Mine

In the north of Lake Ladoga, near the village of Kitilya - translated from the local language - a place where crystals live. For almost 500 years dark-red and violet-colored garnets have been mined here.

It began about 1500, the first Karelians came here from the coast of Ladoga. The garnets were literally lying on the ground. Farmers did not mine them on purpose, not knowing their price, they just picked up piles of them when tilling the land.

The Good Deal

In 1580, one guy brought Karelian garnets to the Swedish King Johan III, but the latter, unaware of the crystals, mistook them for expensive rubies. He was so fond of them that he used them to decorate his crown and sent a detachment of merchants to Karelia.

The crown and some of the stones can be seen in the  National Historical Museums of Sweden.

It took the Swedes a few months to reach Karelia, where the local natives sold them three barrels of garnets, which is quite a lot. The Swedes paid in gold - thinking about had bought rubies. The mistake was discovered when Sweden tried to resell the rubies. The king in anger sent a military detachment to Karelia, but the sellers were never found. 

This nearly led to a conflict between Sweden and Russia, but in October 23, 1583 an agreement was made to jointly develop the deposits of gems.

Probably by this time everybody had acquired a knowledge of crystals and could tell the difference between a garnet and a ruby.

What now?

Now the work of the mine is stopped, but it is open for visits and anyone can find a pair of garnet gems for themselves.

By the way, Karelia has hardly changed in the last 500 years. In a good way.

Garnet mine on the map: