Big Emerald

As a sometime rockhound, this CNN article on a huge cluster of emeralds worth millions of dollars caught my eye.  Most collectors can only dream of finding a gemstone this large and beautiful.

Though this specimen is from Brazil, emeralds have also been found in North Carolina, the best known location probably being Hiddenite, in Alexander County, which I visited a time or two as a boy.  The place is named after William Hidden, a geologist who was there ca. 1880 and found not only emeralds — which the natives of that period, unaware of their value, referred to simply as “green bolts” — but also a rare green form of the mineral spodumene, subsequently called “hiddenite.”    

You can still prospect for emeralds there, as well as at the Crabtree Emerald Mine, located in the mountains near Little Switzerland, North Carolina.

If you’re interested in gem and mineral collecting in North Carolina, the library may have some resources you’ll find helpful.  Rock, Gem, and Mineral Collecting Sites in Western North Carolina by Rick James Jacquot, Jr., is an excellent book which can provide you with information about how to find some of the best locations in the State, fees, restrictions, maps, etc.  Also, check out Jacquot’s Mountain Area Gem & Mineral Association (M.A.G.M.A.) website for loads of information on collecting in this region.  M.A.G.M.A. conducts a tremendous number of field trips each year and free memberships are available.  Some of the M.A.G.M.A. field trip reports are for visits to the Crabtree Emerald Mine, mentioned above.

Another good book on this topic is A Rockhounding Guide to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains by Michael Streeter.  Streeter is a professional geologist with North Carolina’s Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources. 

Let me also note that our North Carolina Collection (which is a reference collection, meaning it has to be used at the library) includes a number of out-of-print resources on gem and mineral collecting, gold prospecting, etc., which may prove useful to those doing research on older collecting locations and mines.                  

Lastly, if you’re interested in gem and mineral collecting elsewhere in the country, try Treasure Hunter’s Gem & Mineral Guides to the U.S.A.:  Where & How to Dig, Pan, and Mine Your Own Gems & Minerals by Kathy J. Rygle and Stephen F. Pedersen.

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