It was nearing the end of a dreary day of heavy rain in Dahlonega, Georgia. At the Crisson Gold Mine gift shop on the outskirts of town, Brianna Weaver was behind the lapidary counter, cutting gemstones. An employee was manning the main counter. The last thing either expected was the man who walked in the front door, brandishing a handgun. Minutes later, he left with a bag bulging with about $100,000 in cash, gold and jewelry.
More than a month after the Feb. 3 armed robbery, the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for the suspect, a white male in his in 30s, maybe early 40s, indicated by his hands, the only part of him that was uncovered. A reward offered by Crisson was boosted to $10,000 with community donations.
According to Weaver, investigators followed up on two small leads, with one resulting in a local drug bust unrelated to the robbery. Now, their hopes the thief will be caught lie mainly with the slim chance that he attempts to sell their natural gold nuggets or gemstone jewelry, and it’s recognized.
The jewelry is fairly distinctive within the general vicinity. The only area pawn shop is about five minutes away, and the thief would have been crazy to go there. Weaver, a manager and part owner (fourth generation), in business with her parents, Tammy and Tony Ray, said they have been checking sites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace with no luck.
About 70 miles north of Atlanta, in the North Georgia Mountains foothills, the open-pit mine was established in 1847, was worked into the early 1980s, and has been open to the public for panning since 1969. It has yielded a wide variety of gemstones, but its most valuable treasure is its gold — more than 23KT — making it the purest in the world.
“I think it was planned,” Weaver said, describing how the thief was captured on many of their 14 security cameras, first walking through the gift shop, coming up behind the panning area and peeking in windows and checking out a storage shop before striding in the main entrance.
“He locked the door behind him. He had the gun out the whole time and was yelling. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, give me your money!’ He went right to the counter where all the nuggets were and told them ‘Start here,’ demanding the pair fill his bag with five trays of nuggets, each holding about 50 pieces. He went for the unique gold and quartz jewelry next, then told them to empty the cash register, before directing them to another gold display.
“It probably took less than two minutes,” Weaver recalled. “The bag was really full. He asked for our phones and threatened us, saying he had a buddy with him who would kill us if we called the police.”
The thief went out the back door and fled on foot. He was estimated at 5’7” to 5’10” and 225 pounds. He wore light-blue jeans and a black mask and boots, as well as a black Cincinnati Bengals jacket, with a hood he pulled over his head. While he did not wear gloves, Weaver said he used his jacket to touch the doorknob, and touched nothing else.
With the robber’s gun pointed at them the entire time, Weaver made what was likely a wise decision not to pull out the shop’s gun, or to hit a panic alarm, but waited only about 20 seconds after he was gone to grab the gun and call for help. The pair hid in a back room until police arrived.
Weaver believes there is a good chance the thief plans to melt the gold down, which will greatly diminish its value, but make it untraceable. One nugget, weighing exactly two ounces, is worth about $6,000. Its spot value would be about two-thirds of that on the current market. All told, the haul is worth close to $50,000 melted down.
The business was closed for only a day, but the family spent a week pulling invoices for all the stolen items.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Weaver said. “I’m trying not to make two minutes of my life have a big impact, but it makes you look at people differently.”
Anyone with information should call 706-482-2622 or email Sterling.Cole@LumpkinCounty.gov.