Where To Dig For Gemstones
Plan a Rockhounding Vacation
Want to plan a family vacation that’s sure to keep the kids (and the young at heart) entertained and yet won’t break the piggy bank? How about a vacation that could potentially provide a profit? If searching for gemstones and crystals sounds like a vacation idea to shoot for, then consider planning a trip to some of these locations and see what pans out.
There’s more than just gold to be found in the wide open spaces to the west. Arizona has a wide variety of gemstones that have kept rock hounds coming back for decades. Peridot and turquoise lead the pack, followed by notable amounts of agate, garnet, jasper, opal, and petrified wood, that can be found at many of the pay-to-dig mine sites.
One state over in Nevada, gemstone hunters can dig for fire opals and turquoise. Nevada opal is some of the finest in the world, only second to Australian opals, and can command prices in the thousands of dollars for a quality specimen. There are a number of pay-to-dig mines operating in the Virgin Valley area where these gemstones can be found.
California may be best known for its tourmaline and turquoise, both of which are found primarily in the Riverdale and San Diego counties, however, panning for gold is still a favorite past time in much of the state. One of the best places to pan for gold is at the Tahoe National Forest in the South Yuba.
Oregon is home of world class feldspar. Red labradorite, more commonly known as sunstone or heliolite, can be found in abundance. Agates, jaspers, and obsidians are common, as well as Oregon’s famed “thundereggs,” better known as geodes. Like California, Oregon also offers excellent gold panning opportunities.
Agate (including Moss Agate), Jade, Ruby, Bloodstone and Star Sapphire have all been found in Wyoming. The best known of Wyoming’s gemstones is nephrite jade, or “Wyoming Jade,” the Wyoming State Gemstone. Wyoming also hosts diamonds, opal, peridot, iolite (gem-quality cordierite), petrified wood, and quartz crystals.
Arkansas’s Garland and Hot Springs counties offer superb quartz crystal digging. Arkansas quartz can be found in electronic devices the world over, and is a favorite among the metaphysical community, with large specimens fetching hundreds of dollars. The potential for even higher earnings can be found farther south where gem hunters can pay a nominal fee and dig at Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only public diamond mine in the United States.
Eastern United States Offers Gold and Gemstones
Although the Eastern U.S. may not seem to have as many locations as the west, the sites available are very good. Alabama produces gold, beryl, and quartz for avid gem collectors, while north Georgia offers gold panning, euhedral, rutile, and amethyst digging.
North Carolina is touted as the gemstone mining capital of the world, with potentially the largest gemstone variety that can be mined in one location. Here emeralds, ruby, gold, garnets, quartz, citrine, amethyst, topaz and more can be found. Neighboring South Carolina offers equal opportunities for gem seekers.
What to Expect From Pay-to-Dig Mines
Before selecting a location to visit, contact the mine for current conditions or closures, fees, needed equipment, if any, nearby lodging, and directions to the mine. It is perfectly acceptable to inquire if the gemstones to be mined will be natural, “seeded”, or both. Be aware that some mines allow digging at the mine site, while others only sell patrons dirt by the bucket and allow use of their flume to sift through the leavings. Always call ahead.
On a final note, when planning a gem-digging vacation, pick a location that’s always been on the list of places to visit that offers more than just gem collecting. Then, in case of inclement weather, mine closure or just the need to explore something different, there’s always more activities to indulge in.
Where To Dig For Gemstones