Find Your Own Gems, Crystals, and Other Buried Treasures at These Mining Sites Across the Country
For those with a penchant for all things-shimmering and sparkly, gems are the ultimate treasures. If you're searching for your next adventure, a mining trip may just be the ticket. That doesn't mean you have to travel to gem hotspots like South Africa, India, or Columbia, though. According to the Gemological Institute of America, there are an array of gorgeous gems to be found all across the United States, such as tourmalines, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, turquoise, sunstone, rubies, and pearls. Not only are these gems widely available, but there are sites set up across the country where you can put hands to dirt, and mine your own treasures.
Whether hunting for jades off the coast of California or prospecting through soil in the mountains of North Carolina, there are many family-friendly trips you can take across the country to explore gemology, or the study of gems. Many of these parks also offer camping and other excursions like hiking and water parks to keep the whole family entertained. Once you acquire these treasures, you can seek out a qualified gemologist to inspect and appraise each gem for serious collectors. These experts look at cut, color, texture, crystal structure, and other elements to properly identify each gemstone. Head to one of these 10 hidden "gems" scattered across the country, embrace your inner explorer, and fill your pockets with finds to collect, wear, or sell.
Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro, Arkansas
Nestled in the small town of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, Crater of Diamonds State Park welcomes 1,500 people every day to dig in the Diamond Search Field for brilliant diamonds. Once you've enjoyed the dig and found some treasures, the park features a campground perfect for RVs and tent-sites, as well as hiking trails and fishing.
Jade Cove Trail, Big Sur, California
Many have trekked to the Big Sur coast in California to visit Jade Cove and scour the waters for the stunningly large gems found here over the years. Jade Cove lies on the southern end of the coast at the Sand Dollar Picnic Area. The jade that has been found in this area historically is green, black, red, blue, and white. While little jade remains in this cove, it's still worth a visit for true gem-enthusiasts.
Graves Mountain, Lincolnton, Georgia
Jumping to the other side of the country is the illustrious gem site at Graves Mountain in Lincolnton, Georgia. While this mountain is too rigorous for small children and is appointment-only, it is host to a wide variety of gems such as twinned rutile crystals, blue quartz, muscovite, and so many more.
Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Philipsburg, Montana
If you really want to feel one with nature, head out to Big Sky Country, to the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine in Montana. Also known as "The Treasure State," Montana is famed for its silver and gold mines. Now, you can add sapphires to the list, as the mine here is one of the oldest and largest, having produced more than 180 million carats of sapphires for over 120 years.
Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, North Carolina
Boasted as the only emerald mine in the world open to the public for prospecting, or searching for mineral deposits through drilling and excavation, Emerald Hollow Mine sits in the foothills of North Carolina. This popular destination, currently open by appointment-only, is known for a variety of rarer stones including garnet, aquamarine, topaz, quartz crystals, and hiddenite, the namesake of the town its based in.
Gem Mountain, Spruce Pin, North Carolina
Next, head west to Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where the family-owned Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine resides. This site offers flume mining (using water to sort through rough material and find gems), guided tours and digs in the smaller private mines, as well as the opportunity to have your gems turned into jewelry.
Bonanza Opal Mine, Denio, Nevada
Located in the Virgin Valley in Nevada, Bonanza Opal Mine is home to the most prism-esque of gems, the opal. Reflecting the full spectrum of color, these pearly gems can take many gorgeous forms. At Bonanza, you can put on your explorer hat, and dig for fire opals amid beautiful desert scenery. Right now, the mine is open for digging every weekend until Labor Day. Other opal mines in the Virgin Valley include Royal Peacock Opal Mine and Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine.
Herkimer Diamond Mines, Herkimer, New York
The Herkimer Diamond Mines offer a little of everything—mining, shopping, dining, and camping. This site is home to 500-million-year old crystals hiding in the surface ground mines, and with tools on hand and multiple methods to dig and mine, you're likely to find a decent haul of gems. Once found, you can turn your new treasure into jewelry on-site. Another nearby option would be Crystal Grove Diamond Mine.
Morefield Mine, Amelia, Virginia
You could also head south to Virginia to explore the Morefield Mine, a perfect "starter mine" for anyone new to gemology. Here, you'll learn to find and identify up to 80 mineral species that exists in the rock here. This is an underground mine which adds to the experience of exploration. This mine is especially ideal if you're traveling with kids, and offers education about minerals in addition to the digging aspect.