Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
Thomas Nagin is an explorer, filmmaker and entrepreneur. Born in Virginia, he lived most of his childhood in the Washington D.C. area and currently resides in Hot Springs. For more than four decades, Thomas has owned and operated Crystal Springs Mining & Jewelry Co. – sourcing + providing high-quality gems, crystals and minerals. Through his work and travels, Thomas has filmed award-winning documentaries. He is looking forward to the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival later this month where Pasto Bueno will make a world premiere.
Before he moved to Arkansas, Thomas promoted a rock band and related concerts. He jokes, “I went from one ‘rock’ business to another!” He continues, “I first came to Arkansas with a friend who was in the mineral business and fell in love with quartz and the natural beauty of Arkansas. I bought some Arkansas quartz crystals and took them to the East and West Coast to sell and decided to move here in 1976.” Now, these discoveries are prized by museums, collectors, decorators and shop owners around the world.
His initial explorations took him to South America. He recounts it fondly: “I initially traveled to South America to look for other kinds of minerals. I went to remote mines and encountered very rare and beautiful minerals, which I took back to the states and to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. The curator loved them and wanted more! That’s how my career in the mineral business began, and I have been traveling to South America ever since.”
At his daughter’s suggestion, Thomas began filming these adventures while mining in Columbia. He recalls, “We made a pilot episode about the emerald mines in Colombia, which won the best reality show award at the 2011 International Television Festival in L.A. That encouraged us to continue producing more films. We created two seasons of Mineral Explorers, a travel adventure series about the mines, the culture, and the natural beauty of the minerals.” The episodes aired for five years on public television stations all over the country, reaching over 90% of U.S. markets.
After the success of Mineral Explorers, Thomas partnered with fellow mineral dealer, Bryan Lees of Collector’s Edge, to mine the beautiful and valuable mineral rhodochrosite from the Pasto Bueno mine in Peru. Thomas explains, “It is a very remote former tungsten mine located at 15,000 feet in the middle of the Andes. This presented many challenges because of the high altitude, the dangerous roads and the very remote location. We were encouraged to produce a documentary about the Pasto Bueno project, which would cover more of the day-to-day life of the miners and the functioning of the mine.”
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will celebrate its 31st anniversary this month. The event will offer an eclectic mix of documentary features and shorts, both domestic and international, as well as exclusive film panels, tributes to industry greats, and local access to a host of celebrity guests and visiting professionals. Thomas looks forward to this well-established festival. “It’s a busy and beautiful time of year with tons of great films. We have screened a few episodes of Mineral Explorers there in the past and am excited to be back in the lineup. I appreciate the festival and their support of independent filmmakers.”