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1. Emerald Village, NC
- Location: Little Switzerland, North Carolina.
- Gemstones Found Here: Emerald, quartz, mica, and feldspar. Also found in these dumps are black tourmaline, garnet, fluorite, aquamarine, golden beryl.
- Activities Available: Dump Pile Prospecting, Flume, Gold Panning, Blacklight Mine Tour, Pre-Filled Buckets (Enriched), Museum
This is much more than a mine that has been dug into the hillside, this picturesque area is an amazing place to vacation with your family. Emerald Village has a mining museum and discovery center at its heart. Just outside of the museum you will find a grand cave opening to the Bon Ami Mine (one of 12 mines here).
More than 100 different rocks, gems, and minerals can be found here and at night you can take a blacklight tour inside of the cave that allows you to see some of the different rocks and minerals in a new light. A wide range of prospecting activities are available here including gold panning and gem hunting using the flume.
2. Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR
- Location: Murfreesboro, Arkansas
- Gemstones Found Here: Diamonds, amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, quartz
- Activities Available: Open Digging and Prospecting, Screen Sifting (wet and dry sifting)
While there may be more than one place in America where you can hunt for some gemstones, if you are looking for real diamonds this is the only place where you will find them.
Crater of Diamonds State Park allows visitors to enter the designated diamond field and leave with any diamonds that they can find. The largest diamond ever found here was just over 40 carats and was sold for $150k in 1971 (more than $800k today).
3. Bonanza Opal Mine, NV
- Location: Virgin Valley, Nevada
- Gemstones Found Here: Opals, Wood Opals
- Activities Available: Tailings Area Prospecting
Hunting for opal in Nevada is an experience that is much different than what you might go through in North Carolina while you are hunting for emeralds. At the Bonanza mine, you will share the dry land with seemingly fewer companions, but this means that there is much less standing in between you and your gemstones. Here you can walk around the old dump piles and tailings to look for opals.
This experience is best if it is planned as a camping trip instead of a family resort vacation, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing else to do in the area. When you are tired of hunting for opals, you can go hiking in the 1,000 Creek Gorge nearby and swimming in the hot springs of the Virgin Valley.
4. Herkimer Diamond Mines, NY
- Location: Herkimer, NY
- Gemstones Found Here: Herkimer Diamonds
- Activities Available: Open Digging, Pre-Filled Bags
Located between Albany and Syracuse, the Herkimer diamond mines are the only place where you can search for the “diamonds” that bear the area’s name. These are not real diamonds, but rather they are double-terminated quartz crystals that can have the appearance of a diamond.
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You won’t need to stand in a creek or go digging in the dirt here. Instead, you’ll need to crack open the rocks that you find to get to the Herkimers.
5. Emerald Hollow Mine, NC
- Location: Hiddenite, NC
- Gemstones Found Here: 60+ including emeralds, sapphires, aquamarine, garnet, topaz, amethyst, citrine, rutile, tourmaline, smokey quartz, clear quartz.
- Activities Available: Digging, Creeking, Pre-Filled Buckets (Natural and Enriched), Flume
Hidden in the hills of Hiddenite, North Carolina, visitors to the Emerald Hollow Mine can hunt for gems in a few different ways. They can get their feet wet in the creek while they screen through the creekbed soils, buy enriched or non-enriched bags of ore and sift through them on the flume, or you can head up to the mine yourself where you can dig your own ore and bring it down to the flume for sifting.
If you want to make sure that everyone feels like they had a winning hunt, you can spend as much as $1,000 on an enriched bucket of ore.
6. Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, MT
- Location: Philipsburg, MT
- Gemstones Found Here: Sapphires
- Activities Available: Pre-filled buckets (concentrated but not enriched)
Gems have been mined at Gem Mountain since 1892. The company that operates the mine does all of the digging. The ore is washed and concentrated and visitors to the mine can purchase ore by the bucket. They will also be happy to ship you a box of sapphire ore if you need something for your children to do on a rainy day.
You can get your sapphires cut and faceted onsite here by the mine's staff.
7. California State Gem Mine, CA
- Location: Coalinga, CA
- Gemstones Found Here: Benitoite
- Activities Available: Dump Pile Prospecting, UV Light Benitoite Identification
This is the best place to hunt for California's official state gem: Benitoite. The best way to search for Benitoite is to sift and wash your ore. Next, put it under a UV light and the Benitoite will illuminate and reveal itself.
The California State Gem Mine gives you all of the tools that you will need for prospecting and they also have a UV dark room where you can view your findings to pull out the Benitoite.
At this mine, you are allowed to keep most of the rocks that you will find. You can keep everything that fits in the ziplock bag that they give to you. However, if you should find something large enough that it can't even fit in your ziplock, you will wind up negotiating with the owners before you can walk away with it.
8. Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine, NC
- Location: Franklin, North Carolina
- Gemstones Found Here: Sapphires, rubies, garnets, rutile, kyanite, sillimanite, mica and quartz
- Activities Available: Digging, Pre-Filled Buckets (Enriched), Flume
The first prospectors opened this mine in 1895, and it has been operated continuously for more than 55 years now. Guests at Mason's Mine have the choice of digging their own ore or buying enriched bags to sift through at one of the flumes.
There are a total of 4 flumes here, and the grounds also feature a shelter and 9 camping spots. Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine is located just 2 miles from the Appalachian Trail, so hikers can treat this as a brief excursion from their grueling hike.
9. Jade Cove Trail, CA
- Location: Big Sur, CA
- Gemstones Found Here: Jade
- Activities Available: Hiking and surface picking
There is no price of admission here because the Jade Cove Trail is a public hiking trail that is open to everyone. This trail provides a picturesque descent down the cliffside towards the sea. In order to preserve the area, collectors are asked to follow the local guidelines for collecting Jade.
Jade can only be collected from below the mean tide level and you are not allowed to try and collect anything that you can't carry by yourself. You are also not allowed to bring any tools for hunting. This all allows the area to be sustainable while everyone enjoys the outdoors.
10. Morefield Gem Mine, VA
- Location: Amelia, Virginia
- Minerals Found Here: Amazonite, 80+ other minerals
- Activities Available: Dump Pile Prospecting, Sluice
Mining began here in the year 1929, and in 1984 this became a “find your own” gem mine where anyone could come to try their hand at mining. The primary mineral that is mined here is Amazonite, and guests at the mine are able to dig through the mine’s dump piles and screen their findings in the water of the flume onsite.
In addition to amazonite, Morefield has been used to mine for mica, tantalite, and topaz, however you can find an even wider range of rocks and minerals within the piles here.
© 2019 Marcus