Finding Gems in NC

Today we took the kids up to Hiddenite, NC, where there is a gem mining camp called Emerald Hollow Mine. Denis has been wanting to head up that way for a couple months now, and the weather was perfect today for a trek up there. It’s just over an hour away, and the kids had a blast.

You have three options – you can sluice, which is sifting mud through strainers to find gems; you can creek, which is just what it sounds like – sifting mud down at the creek itself; and you can mine, in which you go in the caves and look for gems. We opted to stick with sluice and creek today, but if we go back I might be enticed to try the caves.

For an hour we sat at the sluicing tables, sifting through four buckets of dirt. We found quite a few nice specimens. CootieGirl found some decent sized pieces of purple quartz, as well as some hiddenite (which is green like an emerald). CootieBoy got the biggest rock of the day – a beautiful smoky colored quartz crystal. It’s pretty big (about the size of 1/3 of a hot dog). A very nice couple next to us found several small emeralds which they gave to the kids – two each. The couple sounded like they did gem mining all the time.

When we were done with the buckets at the sluicing table, we headed down to the creek. I had made the (bad) decision to have the kids wears socks and shoes because I knew it would be dirty. But I should have had them wear flip flops because of the creek – they ended up getting in the water, socks and shoes and all, in order to get dirt to sift in their tray.

All was well, until CootieBoy decided he wanted to splash in the water. The ground was uneven, but he was very good and ASKED me if he could jump to create a splash. I said yes. He made a small jump, but hit an uneven area under the water and pitched forward, scraping his leg on a boulder right in front of him. Needless to say he began moaning and wailing when he saw the blood coming out from his scrapes. So he and I made the trek back up out of the woods towards the main campground so that we could get him cleaned up. He began riffing on how much he hated the woods and the creek, and finished his tirade by saying, “Mama, I don’t want to come back here because the creek freaks me out.”

Once home we got out a bowl of water and sifted through the rocks one more time, getting rid of ones that weren’t really useful or of any size worth considering. Each kid ended up with about 20-25 rocks of various sizes. We’re going to see if we can get some sort of rock tumbler to clean them up, and then possibly have a couple things made into pendants, rings and earrings. CootieGirl has enough of the purple quartz to make a nice sized necklace pendant, a decent pair of earrings AND a pretty ring.

All in all, a fun afternoon, even if all four of us ended up being covered head to toe in red mud. Time for baths and showers!!

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  1. What a great way to spend the day. When F gets older, I think I would like to do something like that as a family. Sounds very cool. Only thing is where would one go to find a mine where I live?!

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