Rubies, gold, emeralds and turquoise are among the more than 30 different minerals prospectors and rock hounds search for above ground and in mines. Tourist-oriented businesses make gem mining a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Visitors in search of a less-structured experience strike out on their own. Salted Sluices The easiest method for finding gold, minerals or other gems is to stop at a gem mine that offers sluicing, or panning for minerals in a chute with rushing water.
Tourists pay a set fee to buy a bucket of dirt that is salted with gems or minerals, which they “pan” for in the running water. All of them allow you to keep what you find, and some have lapidary equipment on site. These spots offer some shade, a place to sit down, rest rooms and usually a gift shop. Some of the salted sluice operations use both native and non-native gems and minerals.
Digging Operations that require visitors to expend a little more effort supply the equipment and access to an area where gems and minerals usually are found. Some sites require visitors to bring their own tools or to make an appointment to use the property. The Little Pine Garnet Mine gamineral.
One visitor from Colorado uncovered a garnet that was larger than carats after cutting. Find Your Own Michael Streeter’s “A Rockhounding Guide to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains” gives directions to sites and what you’re likely to find there, what equipment to take with you and photos of gems and minerals. The book includes a short history of mining in the state and rules for responsible rock hunting.
Rock hounding clubs lead expeditions into mines and on the surface in search of gems and minerals. Pan for gold in streams near abandoned gold mines. The best places to look are where the flow of the water changes or the stream widens.
Panning is prohibited in state parks and in most national forests. Museums Among the 4, mineral specimens from around the world on display at the Colburn Earth Science Museum colburnmuseum. The museum’s Grove Stone Room exhibits explain the geology of the state, and the gemstone collection contains more than 1, cut stones. Of particular interest to mining enthusiasts is the history of mining in North Carolina exhibits. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals blueridgeheritage.
The museum includes a visitor’s center and displays in an abandoned mine.