From reading books about geology to reading rocks on a landscape, Rich Fretterd has found his passion, turning a young boy’s interest into a lifelong study of geology and a quest to find the rarest of gems.
Fretterd, a Woodland Park resident, began his interest in rockhounding at the age of eight after reading about rocks and geology in the children’s Golden Books series.
Originally from Hudson, New York, Fretterd as a child found treasure on the east coast in the form of shell fossils encased in limestone.
He now finds treasure on The Weather Channel’s popular “Prospectors,” a reality-based show that focuses on people who must live and work in the element extremes and are dependent on favorable weather conditions.
Fretterd, who makes his livelihood as a real-life prospector at locations such as the Tarryall Mountains, Mount Antero and Pike’s Peak, battles the elements at high elevations which are prone to harsh weather extremes such as blizzards, hail and cold.
As a young man, Fretterd moved out to Colorado where he was employed at the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company, working his way from the ground up as a hard-rock underground miner, then running the mine’s milling system and later performing analysis in the geology department. He also worked as a full-time surveyor for a Woodland Park based land survey company, but was laid off during the 2008 recession.
Regarding his abrupt career change, Fretterd says, “I came home; I was not afraid that I got laid off. I got down on my knees and said ‘God, you’ve blessed me with these mining claims. I think it’s time I start doing something with them. So I just put my trust in Him. It’s my passion anyway.”
Fretterd now has several successful claims in the Pike’s Peak region which have yielded significant findings such as the U.S. record-breaking sized smokey quartz crystal which stands at 4.5 feet in length. The noted crystal (one of two gargantuan smokey quartz finds) came from the “Godsend Claim” situated at the borders of northern Teller and eastern Park Counties.
That specimen was recently donated by Fretterd to the Colorado Schools of Mining and Engineering. The other specimen found by Fretterd is owned by the Pike’s Peak Historical Society Museum located in Florissant, Colo.
Fretterd's smokey quartz mining claim, is named the “Godsend” because he said he is “a man of faith.”
“And I believed ahead of time, before I ever dug anything, that my heavenly father was going to bless me with good things... I named it the “Godsend” before all of the good things happened,” Fretterd emphasized, referring to his other successful claims and his involvement with "Prospectors."
Fretterd’s advice to those interested in looking for rocks and gems is to find books on the geology of the area and to join the local Gem and Mineral Club.
“(Gem and mineral clubs) are just full of people who are willing to share their knowledge and information and take you out on field trips where you get hands-on and actually find something," Fretterd said.
“People want to know why I am so successful? I pray ahead of time. I say, ‘God, you’ve created it all. I know you want to bless me because you tell me so in your word and so I’m going to go out to these areas and ask you to just give me a peace when I should slow down.“That’s my prospecting secret really. I’m in prayer before I ever go out and I know by faith, without seeing it, I know it’s going to happen.
I can’t explain that to people unless they’ve really have lived that walk of faith. You’ve got to believe it. The things that you speak - they can be a blessing or a curse. This is what works for me and it’s what I stick with.
“And so when I speak and I say ‘I am going to find the largest quartz crystal in the National Forest' - and I said that three years before it happened,” Fretterd said.
“A lot of (prospecting) is being able to read the rocks. I have a gift and I know how to look at rock types and think ‘Hey, there could be something there... or not,’” Fretterd added.
“Prospectors” Season 2
Currently, Fretterd is in the process of being filmed for the upcoming second season of “Prospectors” which will begin airing this fall. The filming is being done by Denver-based High Noon Entertainment, who also found Fretterd by word-of-mouth through the relatively small community of prospectors, rockhounds and geologists.
Although the reality series focuses on weather extremes, Fretterd is especially excited about sharing the rediscovery of a mine that has yielded an extremely rare pink topaz, completing three years of research. Fretterd and his girlfriend, Jean Cowman, made the find on Dec. 8, 2013, eight days before his birthday.
“I’ve been told (the pink topaz specimens) might be the finest in the world,” Fretterd said.
Fretterd named his claim the “Agnus Dei,” Latin for “Lamb of God,” and the new pocket yielding the fabulous new topaz is called the “Tribute Pocket,” in honor of the two prospectors whose original discovery location secret was taken with them to their grave.
“I spent three years of research trying to figure these guys out and think like a prospector,” Fretterd said.
“The show, this season, is going to be better than last season. I know it’s going to exciting to the viewers. What I’m hoping for this year, what I’m trying to get the message across the Weather Channel is gearing more towards actual prospecting and how it’s done. I (was able) to shoot a feature (showing how prospecting is done), going from point “A” to point “B” and the end result,” Fretterd said.
Words of inspiration
Fretterd believes that everyone has a treasure that God has given them and perhaps it’s time for them to do a little prospecting in their own lives to discover that hidden gift or talent.
“I believe there are a lot of people who may be unhappy with their employment - a paycheck - and they’re looking at it as a way to pay the bills. In life we are given a chance to get in touch with ourselves, with who we are and what drives us. The thing is to search out your passion, whatever it is. And it will happen, once you search it out and move forward with it and doors will open,” Fretterd said.
Fretterd, and his pink topaz display will be at the upcoming Denver Mineral Show at the Merchandise Mart on Sept. 13-15.