I am overflowing with excitement to introduce all my dear followers to Fred Krone, co-owner of Northern Maine Minerals and my gem and mineral business mentor. I truly do not believe Little Lemuria would be what it is today without Fred giving so generously of his time when I hit him with questions during all hours of the day and night. Remember those incredible Herkimer Diamonds that gave me a leg up on the competition back in the Little Lemuria beginnings? Yes, those were Fred’s doing as well. My gratitude is difficult to express. I will always hold Fred in very high regard. Now on with the interview! Feel free to drop some comments if you have additional questions for Fred. I would be happy to do a follow up in the future.
Jess: I know you grew up very close to the Herkimer Mines in New York. How were you first introduced to Herkimer Diamonds, or crystals in general?
Fred: My first introduction to crystals was as a newborn coming home from the hospital. I come from a long line of rockhounds, so I've been exposed to them since birth. My family's house had different decorative pieces displayed and my room as an infant had lots of color. There were rows of shelves, out of reach of course, containing many different kinds of crystals, including Herkimer Diamonds. My parents would take my siblings and I on ritualistic trips to the Ace of Diamonds Mine. My first trip to the Ace was just after my 2nd birthday. I don't remember anything from the trip BUT there's a scrap book someplace with photos from that day as well as our many other trips to the mine.
J: Obviously the big beautiful Herkimers that Northern Maine Minerals is known for come out of New York. What brought you to Maine?
F: I wrote my college thesis on the Complex Pegmatites of Maine. I had researched localities all over the world and been to quite a few by the time I was ready to graduate. Nothing peaked my interest quite like Maine. The more I learned, the more my fascination grew. I met my wife before college and when we graduated, she got a job offer working at a hospital here in Northern Maine. I was working for myself writing grants at the time so the decision to move was really a no brainer for us.
J: How did you end up getting connected with mines and setting up shop there?
F: I’ve always been a rockhound. As a kid, my friends and I spent a lot of time finding, collecting, and trading cool crystals. As I got older my interests changed but my passion for minerals never wavered. My whole life I always dreamed of having a physical rock shop. I had been selling and mining my own minerals already, but I didn't have a physical shop to bring everything together. Then we moved to Maine. :) My move to Maine really happened at the perfect time. As I spent more time at the mines here, I made more connections. Believe it or not it was who I was/am as a person that did the most for me, not just the timing. My success in Maine really comes down to one thing. Being a good person. Treat people how you like to be treated, be honest, work hard, don't steal, be dependable, be kind, be trustworthy, be happy, and know how to keep a secret. It takes more energy to be a jerk than it does to be kind. I owe a lot to my family and friends who have supported my passion throughout the years.
J: My followers have reaped the rewards of your adventures probably more times than they know. The Nova Scotia quartz, one of my all-time favorites, came with a marvelous tale of an abandoned home on the brink of being destroyed. Before those were the abalone buttons from a now protected species that had been left in a factory in Africa to be forgotten. You have always engaged me with stories that accompany these crystals like they’ve led a life of their own! Can you walk us through a story of one of your most memorable finds?
F: Ahh yes, all rockhounds have their stories and I definitely have my fair share. One of my favorites is the story of my brother's first pocket here in Maine. My brother and I were prospecting the Harvard quarry in Greenwood. It was the first year he came up and we had moderate success that season but nothing crazy. It was raining, cold, and miserable but we were still out there chipping away at one ledge after another. The sun was going down, so we started to pack everything up to head down the trail. We had made a little tarp fort to keep ourselves and our gear dry. One of the anchors we used was a chisel that we pounded into a ledge. He tried to pull the chisel out and it was stuck. He took a hammer out of his bag and smashed the chisel a few times to loosen it up. When he hit it, the chisel came out, and so did a chunk of the ledge, exposing a pocket of absolutely breathtaking gemmy purple Fluorapatite crystals. The pocket itself turned out to be the size of a softball with random much smaller sub pockets around it. We ended up getting out our head lamps and grabbed what we could. We stayed the night and worked all day the next day. I think we've all had those experiences when we're looking for something that's right in front of our face the whole time. That's defiantly a trip he and I will never forget and as many times as I have been back to the Harvard, I have yet to find anything that comes close to what we found that day.
J: You told me in a chat once that you didn't have much of a personal collection. The crystals you have are all ones that have been given to you and hold sentimental value. I must know, in your years of sales is there "the one that got away"? Is there any mineral that's passed through your hands you wish you didn't sell?
F: The one that got away :) As sellers I think we all experience seller’s remorse along the way. I don't think I could choose just one lol, there are so many I look back on and think "I really miss that piece, I shouldn't have sold it". As both a collector and a shop owner I do my best to fill the store with pieces that I myself find awesome. I keep it stocked with crystals I would buy if I were at someone else's shop or at a show. When you do that, the store itself becomes like a big personal collection and parting with anything from your personal collection is bound to make you feel a little remorseful.
J: With all this experience under your belt, professional geologist, prospector, expert social media manager, successful business owner, storefront operator, and even mineral tour expedition leader…where do you see yourself going from here?
F: Where do I see myself going from here, that's a great question. When you genuinely love and are passionate about what you do, the sky's the limit. Maybe add "Mine Owner" to the list ;)