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Ewald Gorsatt: Mineral Spotter with a Mission

The Gorsatt family enjoys a long history in the Binn Valley (“Binntal”), and Ewald Gorsatt kindly spoke to me this week about the passionate hobby he turned into his profession. His own father, he explained, was an avid mineral spotter (“Strahler”), a hobbyist who “brought home a rucksack full of 50 kg of stones every day.” As a boy, Ewald often joined him to look for crystals, taking a liking to it from the start. Once a teenager, he also assisted the “pros” in other mineral-hunting expeditions. Fast forwarding: After a number of years in his trained profession − mechanical engineering − he turned back full time to his passion for spotting crystals. And today, his enterprise offers a host of mineral-related activities that appeal to people of all ages and with various levels of skill and alpine experience.

The crystals Ewald Gorsatt seeks in the Binntal are likely the products of some 15-20 million years of geological history, and one that transpired some 10 km below the surface. Over the millennia, changes in pressure and the earth’s ambient temperature caused shifts in the ground surface, making a hot bed for the generation of mineral deposits.

Equipped with hammer and chisel, spud bar (“Strahlstock”) and gap hook (“Clufthaken”), now with many years’ experience under his belt, the 49-year old hobby Strahler Gorsatt knows what he’s looking for when he starts out. He uses the gap hook to pick out surface lime and refuse from a long mineral vein he recognizes as promising, or pursues a shine of mica that likely hides something beneath. He knows the feel and even the “little squeak” that a crystal gives off when the gap hook passes over its surface. In the rarest of cases, the crystal simply presents itself on the surface. One of his greatest finds, he says, was spotted on a glacier from some 300 meters away; “There was just a glimmer, almost like a small spot light as I approached it, as if it just wanted to be found.” Some luck!

In his simple but orderly shop, he offers a full range of the specimens, large and small, that stem from this rich valley. Smoky quartz is considered a “surface mineral”, but the specimens from the Binntal are legendary. It was some years ago, that his colleague Werner Schmidt, a professional Strahler, uncovered the “largest smoke crystal in the Alps” in the Oberwallis alps, which was 1.11 meters long and weighed in at 800 kilos. By comparison, Gorsatt’s finest specimens are modest in size and weight, but his magnetite crystals are precious because they’re so rare. Measuring 3 cm across at the most, the tiny little “gems” of the kind found in the Binn Valley are considered the world’s very finest of those specimens.

Gorsatt has discovered that mineral spotting has great appeal to young people, and the same applies to the craft of cutting and polishing their finds. In addition to excursions, he offers an introduction into the world of rocks and minerals to school classes, and also offers youngsters a chance to experiment at his well-equipped and spotlessly clean studio in Binn. Complete with cutters and polishers that he himself fashioned, “Safety First” is the rule of the day. Importantly, too, the machines are installed at a level easy for youngsters to operate. And no question: if passion for a subject makes a good teacher, then Ewald Gossart deserves his own school.

Ernen, Thursday, 13 July 2017, by Sarah Batschelet

From the beginning of July through mid-October, Ewald Gorsatt offers excursions that focus on the fascination of crystals for groups of 8-15 people (Note: Mandatory registration, and suitable for children above 8 years). From the beginning of May through mid-October, he offers cutting and polishing courses (for 5-10 people, and children above 10 years). A fine selection of crystals, polished stones, and small domestic objects made of stone are also available at Ewald Gorsatt’s small shop in Binn. For information: Tel. +41 79 347 54 30 (irregular hours, advisable to ring about 17.30 p.m.). To register click here. Website of Ewald Gorsatt. Also highly recommended to visitors interested in minerals is a visit to Werner Schmidt’s superb museum collection in Mörel. For a virtual tour of the museum click here.