|North Carolina Emeralds
We took off one day on a new driving adventure discovering the stunning beauty of the Smoky Mountains. We left
Hendersonville and headed east to Transylvania County (really its true name) and went to a small town called
Pisgah Forest. We then headed north towards Haywood County on Pisgah Highway (276). The scenery is fantastic
with forests, mountains, winding roads and we even followed the Right Fork Davidson River for a while. Being the
rockhounds we are, we stopped at many interesting places…the best one being a small shed-like building offering
mining trips. We spent a few hours talking with the owners. They actually own 3 mines in the area. We were shown
(and given) specimens from their mines. We were informed we needed to visit Hiddenite and Spruce Pine to find
North Carolina Emeralds. Most of the mines in North Carolina are privately owned. We feel very lucky to have been
invited to go hunting and digging for gems in their mines. We will be doing that over the next few years and will post
our trips on our rock talk pages.
We proceded on through Cashiers, Highlands, Gneiss and finally to Franklin, NC. where we found a rich
mineralogical history of Western North Carolina rocks, gems and minerals. It seems that the best rockhound and
geology areas here are Franklin and Hiddenite/Spruce Pine. This educational trip sparked our interest in
emeralds, so now we are on a quest for North Carolina emeralds! We still prefer natural specimens with the
emerald in matrix. Emerald is a gemstone, and a variety of the mineral beryl. Emeralds here are normally found in a
mixed matrix of black Biotite Mica, white Feldspar, clear quartz, and may also include black schorl tourmaline. In
our travels we have picked up a few nice emerald specimens in the Hiddenite and Spruce Pine areas. Here is a
value comparison of gemstones...diamonds=$1,632/ct, Emeralds=$126/ct, Saphire=$40/ct, Ruby=$11/ct
There are two active mines that the public can access if you are planning a trip to North Carolina. Here is some
general information and we have included links to each of the mines.
Crabtree Emerald Mine
Contact the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association (M.A.G.M.A.), who holds the mining rights, to schedule a
visit to the Crabtree Emerald Mine. After being granted permission you must print two copies of a release form
from the website. Sign and mail in one copy to the M.A.G.M.A. Club along with your check or money order for the
total of your fees. The Crabtree Emerald Mine charges a fee per adult per day. Sign and retain the second copy of
the release form. You will need to carry this copy with you during your visit to the mine. According to the Crabtree
Emerald Mine, if you do not have the release form with you at the mine you will be asked to leave the property.
Follow the rules of the mine. Use only hand tools and do not tunnel or dig into the walls of the mine. Basic items like
a shovel, pick, hammer and chisel are all that you will need. A bucket can be used for hauling specimens out of the
mine for further inspection. Any gems or minerals that you find are yours to keep.
Emerald Hollow Mine
Visit the Hiddenite Gems Emerald Hollow Mine. This is the only emerald mine in North America truly open to public
prospectors. Choose your prospecting method. The Emerald Hollow Mine offers visitors three different ways to
search for emeralds. According to the Emerald Hollow Mine website, staff is available to help you identify any
specimens you may find. Choose the sluicing method if you prefer to sit in relative comfort while searching for
emeralds. For a small admission fee, prospectors can sit at the covered sluiceway and rinse buckets of ore to find
minerals and other valuable gemstones. One bucket of ore is provided free with your sluicing permit. Additional
buckets may be purchased. Go "creeking." For an additional small fee, you can use the sluiceway and mine the
mineral-rich creek bed for emeralds. You can rent a creek screen and shovel . Purchase a combination permit to
enjoy the full experience of the mine. With this permit you can sluice, creek and even dig in the designated areas of
the mine. You can rent digging tools. All gems and minerals that you find are yours to keep.
Noteworthy Information…Emerald Hollow Mines also has a complete lapidary shop that will cut your gemstones
and even place them in jewelry for you. The Crabtree Emerald Mine is patrolled but not supervised. Always use
extreme caution when digging. It is best suited to prospectors with a little experience. We highly recommend that
you wear old clothes and shoes, and plan on getting very dirty. Bring an extra change of clothes along with a towel,
sunscreen and bug spray and plenty of drinking water.
For more information on North Carolina Emeralds please visit this great website
Second in demand to Columbia, South America’s world famous emeralds are the Brazilian Emeralds from many
mines in the central and eastern portions of the state. Emeralds from Brazil tend to be lighter in color compared to
the Colombian Emeralds and possibly taking on a slightly yellowish hue that some collectors find desirable. Today's
emerald deposits are found in numerous locations across the country of Brazil. Brazilian Emerald in matrix
specimens are normally intergrown emerald crystals in a matrix of translucent white to grey quartz with black biotite
mica schist. They may have the appearance of being coated with a black translucent coloring. These rough emeralds
are larger than most other locations and have been found up to 200 carats in size. Most Emeralds found in tourist gift
shops and rock shops are Brazilian Emeralds in matrix.
There are three main Emerald mining areas in Colombia. The areas are Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Each of these
areas has many individual mines. Muzo and Coscuez areas are on long term leases to two Colombian companies
from the Colombian government and Chivor is privately owned. Muzo mines have been worked almost continuously
since 1537 with many changes in ownership and control. The Columbian emeralds are found almost entirely in
calcite veins that traverse a black, carbonaceous, rather intensely folded formation consisting of thin-bedded shale
The different combinations of matrix materials are what help determine the locale. By inspection of the matrix, it can
usually be logically determined which specific area the particular Emerald specimen is from. Black and grey shale,
white and grey calcite, and pyrite are the predominant elements that make up the typical Colombian emerald matrix.
In the Muzo area of Columbia, three elements combined with the black shale provide the best clues in identifying a
Muzo matrix. Those three elements are pure white calcite, crystallized pyrite and clear quartz. White calcite and
crystallized pyrite are quite common with clear quartz being relatively rare. The Muzo emerald deposits are situated
in the western foothills of the eastern branch of the Colombian Andes and are about 60 miles as the crow flies
northwest from Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.
In the Coscuez area of Columbia, black shale in combination with either grey calcite, or a rust colored layer of iron
oxide, or a gray calcite matrix by itself are the most common matrix material combinations found. Thin veins of pyrite
in the black shale may be present, rather than crystallized nodules of pyrite.
In the Chivor area of Columbia, the matrix material tends to be very fragile and falls apart easily. It is normally a
brown brecciated mixture of calcite with layers of iron oxide with overall iron stains being very common. The matrix
may also be found as grey marbleized looking shale. Chivor frequently has crystallized nodules of pyrite occurring on
the matrix. Because the matrix crumbles so easily, specimens from this area are rarely seen.
|This rare and beautiful cluster of North Carolina Emeralds in a matrix of
black Biotite Mica, white Feldspar, clear Quartz, and black schorl
tourmaline. There is also a tinge of the well known Hiddenite rust coloring.
We procured this specimen from a mineral dealer who purchased the
Junior McKinney "Gem Shop" inventory a few years after Junior's death
( see http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/content/6988/ ).
There was a tag glued on the specimen many years ago to prevent "tag
switching" on valuable specimens in Juniors shop. The McKinney family
owned several mines in the Spruce Pine/Hiddenite area and were one of
the most respected experts on NC minerals and gems.(The Crabtree
Emerald Mine is located on McKinney Mine Road).
As nearly as we can measure what is exposed, there are emeralds that
measure 15 x 8mm,15 x 5mm, 8 x 3.5mm and 6 x 4.4mm plus multiple
other small emeralds. There may be more still hidden in the matrix. Based
upon information we obtained about the Gem Shop, we believe these are
from the 1970's. These specimens are almost impossible to find.
We made a trip to Spruce Pine and showed this specimen to several
dealers...all said it was worth in the $1k+ range and suggested we remove
the old price tag (we did) which read 200.00 which had been changed
years ago to read 1200.00 then 1300.00 in pencil or water soluble ink that
faded (This can be seen in the first top left photo...click to enlarge it). Our
sale price is based upon what we paid for it. This price is firm.
This piece weighs 6.48 oz or 0.4 lb (184g)
measures 3 x 2.2 x 1.59 inches (7.6 x 5.6 x 4 cm)
Rare Cluster of NC
Emeralds in matrix from the
Junior McKinney Collection
|This is a rare and large matrix specimen of bright green Emeralds in Quartz
and Feldspar Matrix with Black Tourmaline(Schorl) and minor Garnets. It is from
the Crabtree Emerald Mine in Spruce Pine, Mitchell Co., North Carolina. We
procured this specimen from a Gem dealer in Watertown, South Dakota. He
got it years ago as a gift from an old friend of his. We were very lucky to find this
Large Cabinet display specimen! This specimen could be slabbed into many
pieces for making jewelry and cabochons. There are Emeralds showing on
several sides and who knows what is in the middle of this piece? These
specimens are almost impossible to find.
This piece weighs 39.5oz or 2.47 lb (1121g)
measures 4.1 x 4 x 2.87 inches (10.5 x 10.2 x 7.3 cm)
Rare Large Specimen of NC
Emeralds in matrix from the
Crabtree Emerald Mine