gem mining in north carolina

Gem Mining in the High Country

A Modern Day Treasure Hunt

With lush forests, breathtaking mountain views and a diverse community of wildlife, the High Country is rich with beauty and excitement. But don’t think that’s the only way you’ll strike it rich on your vacation! Known as the Gem Capital of North America, North Carolina—Western North Carolina in particular—is chock full of sparkling gemstones just waiting to be snatched up by discerning miners. Aquamarine, rubies, emeralds and garnet gems are just a few of nearly 60 different rock types that can be discovered among these rocky cliffs—but don’t expect to have to work too hard for your treasure. The High Country is home to a multitude of gem mines, all offering an exciting and family-friendly experience that doesn’t require you to get your hands dirty…well, not too dirty. Round up the family, roll up your sleeves, and try your luck on a bucket of high-quality, mine-run rough.

Many gem mines offer buckets of all sizes and prices, usually with the guarantee of discovering a shimmering sparkler in the end. And remember, the largest buckets are known to carry the biggest gems, so choose wisely!

Once you’ve chosen your bucket, head on down to the flume line, a long stretch of enclosed water reminiscent of the shallow streams used by miners of the past. Scoop up a healthy helping of mine ore from the bucket, pour it out on the sifting screen and rinse in the flume. You’ll be amazed at the dazzling spectacle of brilliant gems shining through amidst the stones.

Itching to show off your new High Country treasures? Most gem mines are one-stop shops, offering a full range of services once your baubles have been discovered. Experts will reveal the types of stones you’ve found, and many times you can get your gems cut and made into jewelry by experienced gem cutters. Some gem mines even sell rare gems and stones that have already been set.

When you’re looking to learn more about gem mining, local museums offer educational mining programs. Geologists on staff are equipped to answer all your questions when it comes to gem mining in the High Country.

If you happen to be visiting in late summer, make the trip to Spruce Pine, where they host the annual Grassy Creek Gem and Mineral Show. At the event, people of all ages learn more about gems and the long history of gem mining in the area as they hear from dealers from around the world. 

Whether you’re panning for jewels for yourself or discovering hidden treasures with the family, the High Country’s gem mining is an exciting adventure that all ages can enjoy. Happy hunting!