By Antoinette Rahn
Zoltan and Jody Matolcsy, owners of Dig Maine Gems (Main Mineral Adventures), have been rockhounds for as long as either of them can remember.
“I have been interested in rocks since I could walk,” said Jody. “I’ve had many rock collections over the years. Now we can reach out and share that love of rocks and discovery with people from all walks of life, and that’s huge for us.”
Zoltan, whose father was a painter and farmer who immigrated to America from Hungary and mother who was a professional dancer, grew up across the road from Ryerson Hill Mine and Quarry, in Oxford County, Maine. He recalls his father citing his amazement at the strength and hard work of the miners, who they would see daily, with weather-worn faces exiting the feldspar mine.
Early Mine Exposure Fueled Interest
Although Zoltan recalls as a young child being more afraid than amazed at the comings and goings at the mine, as he grew so too did his interest in the quarries.
“Like a lot of young people, to me quarries were scary, adventurous places where we could run, jump and swim,” he recalls with a chuckle. “Quarries were really groovy places to hang out.”
As time went on, the conclusion of feldspar mine operations brought gem mining onto the scene in this area of Maine, Zoltan recalls. Before her passing in 1982, Zoltan’s mother purchased a nearly 100-acre parcel of land across from their family homestead, the same property that once housed Ryerson Hill Mines and Quarry, which by that time had ceased operations, and is now Zoltan and Jody’s property.
Connected by Rockhounding
The 1980s were a pivotal time for Jody as well. Arriving in Maine in 1988, one of her first stops was Perham’s rock shop, which has since closed. It was in this shop she discovered a bevy of stunning rocks, gems, and minerals including the prolific pegmatite, tourmaline, and quartz. Furthermore, it was during this stop at the shop that she realized all of the beauty could be found in the very ground on which she stood.
“It was after that visit I pursued digging for gems here, as I had no idea what Maine had for gems,” Jody said. “It was unbelievable to me at the time. I had to find my own.”
That she did, and in short order, she started to help others find their treasures. By the time she and Zoltan married in 2005, she had been leading guided field trips to local mines, where they had mine owners’ permission to dig, for more than 15 years.
Field Trip Excitement
Guided field trips are one part of the services offered by Dig Maine
Gems, with the Matolcsy’s hosting a weekly dig trip to Mount Mica mine every Sunday morning. They also schedule special field trips for private groups and welcome thousands of people each season to their Woodstock site to dig through the dump piles, which they sometimes buy direct from local mines, including Mount Mica. The Dig Maine Gem season typically begins in May and runs through the end of October.
“We teach and offer a safe place for people of all ages to go rockhounding,” explained Jody, who along with her husband, has had the opportunity to work with the family’s three children over the years. “The best thing about Maine is the diversity of the minerals found, and the people who live around here.
“People who visit say they really enjoy their time here because of our personalities, which I appreciate because it’s very real. It’s who we are.”
Life Enhanced by Minerals
For Zoltan, who uses many of the traditional mining methods and teaches others the same, the opportunity to share the wonder of minerals with others, alongside his love, Jody, is one of the greatest experiences of his life, which he calls “an incredible journey.”
“Going into these spaces we are serious about the investigations on which we are embarking,” Zoltan added. “We aren’t just collecting pretty things. These are beloved gifts given to us by our creator to enjoy as we walk the earth.
“Crystals are tablets of information. The earth is screaming out every time to teach us. We just need to listen. As long as we are looking, we’ll be making discoveries.”