Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
If you love gemstones as a collection or to fashion in to jewelry, you might like the thought of mining for your own gems. This is a safe and fun adventure for the whole family. It also provides a way to play in the mud without feeling silly or getting scolded. Gem mining is a great hobby and a great idea for a vacation that is a little different than the normal ones.
North Carolina is the place to go if you want to find some real gemstones. The stones are just sitting there waiting to be found. There are so many mines that are open to the public. Most of the mines are open from spring through autumn -- some may be open longer. If you have never gone mining for gems, it is important to be prepared. The first thing to be aware of is that you will be in and around mud all day, standing a lot, bending, sitting on hard benches, and outside in the sun or rain, so, think "old comfortable clothing and tennis shoes".
First, you will purchase a bucket of gem ore (dirt that has been taken from the mines). You will be working at what is called a "flume" -- this is a trough with water running through it. There will be a wooden bench to sit on. A screen will be given to you and and you dump your bucket of dirt in the screen. You put the screen in the water, gently move it back and forth until all the mud is washed away, then you search through the stones to see what you have. If you are lucky, you may have a gem or two, or more, in that screen box.
Depending on which mine you choose to go to, you will be looking for ruby, sapphire, aquamarine, topaz, garnet, emerald, amethyst, quartz, moonstone, citrine and more! Mine operators or staff members can help you identify the stones. At some mines, you can also pan for gold. Another great service most of the mines offer is cutting and setting of your gemstones into a jewelry piece of your choosing.
Whichever mine you choose to go to, there will be camping, or lodging near by -- check ahead for options and availability. There are other attractions and activities available at some of the mines, so everyone will find something fun to do.
Before you go prospecting, make a list of things you may need for the day. Some good things to take along to the mine with you will be:
- a seat cushion for those hard benches
- large plastic bags for muddy shoes (keep a clean pair of shoes in your vehicle)
- rubber gloves to protect your hands
- a hat for protection from sunburn
- a towel for wiping mud off yourself
- plastic container, like a butter cup, to take your gems home in
- snacks, bottled water, lunch
There are so many gem mines open to the public. Go online and type in 'North Carolina gem mining' and you will find a lot of very interesting sites to review. All the information you will need for location, directions, service provided, phone numbers, etc., will be on each individual site.
Have fun being a prospector -- and good luck!