Hiddenite Gems - Emerald Hollow Mine

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Sluicing Through the Mud

These people are sluicing for gems at the Emerald Hollow Mine.
This Is How You Find Gems Sluicing is where water runs through a trough, to rinse away dirt from mine 'rough'. These people are sluicing for gems at the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Not-So-Hidden Treasures in Hiddenite

The Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC is the only emerald mine in the United States open to the public for prospecting. I went to North Carolina to check the mine out for myself. Can you find emeralds? Yes! And rubies, sapphires, amethyst, citrine, the rare gemstone hiddenite, and much more.

Note to self: Don't wear a white shirt sluicing. On the other hand, if you have a white shirt and want to color it orange from the reddish dirt, by all means take that mining with you. Seriously, you will get dirty (but it's fun).

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Sluicing at Emerald Hollow Mine

Another view of sluicing at the Emerald Hollow Mine.
Another view of sluicing at the Emerald Hollow Mine. Anne Helmenstine

The sluice is shaded, but I'd recommend bringing sunscreen if you plan on making a day of it. Bring something to drink, too. There are picnic tables so you can enjoy a nice lunch. When the weather is warm, the mine is open until sunset.

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Creeking for Gems

Creekin' at the Emerald Hollow Mine in North Carolina.
How To Look for Gemstones in Water Creekin' is panning a creek or stream for gems or precious metals. These people are creekin' for emeralds and other treasures at the Emerald Hollow Mine in North Carolina. Anne Helmenstine

Creekin' is tons of fun. The rocks (surprisingly) were not slippery, nor were they coated with green slime. The water was icy (it was March after all), but clear so it was easy to look for sparklies or the shapes and colors that could indicate valuable crystals.

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Hiddenite Mineral Sample

Hiddenite from Hiddenite, NC.
Hiddenite from the Place Where It Got Its Name The gemstone hiddenite was discovered in North Carolina. Anne Helmenstine

Hiddenite ranges from a yellow-green to emerald-green. This crystal was found in the stream near the Emerald Hollow Mine. Hiddenite is a green form of spodumene [LiAl(SiO3)2].

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Ruby Specimen

Ruby from Hiddenite, NC.
Ruby from the Creek My son found this pretty ruby in the creek at the Emerald Hollow Mine. Anne Helmenstine

Most rubies aren't so obvious. However, we did see several rubies which had cleaved to reveal flat faces like this.

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Amethyst Specimen

Amethyst from Hiddenite, NC.
Pretty Purple Gemstone Amethyst is a purple form of quartz (crystal silicon dioxide). At one time, the purple color was attributed to the presence of manganese, but it is now believed the color derives from an interaction between iron and aluminum. Anne Helmenstine

Amethyst points are common at the Emerald Hollow Mine. Much of the amethyst had interesting bands and patterns and was the highly-desirable deep purple color. This piece of amethyst was found in the creek.

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Green Gem from North Carolina

Representative pretty green gem from the Emerald Hollow Mine.
Many of the minerals at the mine can be green, but three are more common than the others. There is aventurine, which is a green quartz. There is hiddenite, which tends to be brighter and lighter green than most emeralds, and then are emeralds. Anne Helmenstine

We found a few specimens like this, where you could see small green crystals in the rock with close inspection or magnification. In the photo, this looks a lot like the aventurine (green quartz) that you can find at the mine, but the crystals and color are more like emerald. The stones used in the driveway are a mix of blue and green and red from all the different rocks and minerals... jasper, agate, quartz, corundum, beryl... beautiful.

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Sodalite from Emerald Hollow

Sodalite is a beautiful blue stone.
Gem Probably Seeded into a Bucket The sodalite mineral group includes blue specimens such as lazurite and sodalite. This specimen comes from the creek running through the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

I could be mis-identifying this specimen since I didn't see it listed in the geological database for the area, but it looks like sodalite to me (not lapis, azurite, or lazurite). We found several good-sized pieces of this bright blue material.

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Gemstone Point from North Carolina

Gemstone point from Hiddenite, NC.
This gemstone point from the Emerald Hollow Mine is green with red veins. Anne Helmenstine

 This is an example of a gemstone point found at the Emerald Hollow Mine.

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Blue Gem from North Carolina

Blue rock from Hiddenite, NC.
Seeded Stone from the Mine This specimen weighs a couple of pounds. It's heavy and dark like the corundum we found, but it flashes iridescent blue, so I'd guess it is the feldspar labradorite or spectrolite. Anne Helmenstine

The price of admission when I visited was $5, which included a bucket of material from the mine for sluicing. I told my family members that I picked the 'lucky bucket' and they laughed. Absolutely everyone pulled something pretty out of their bucket, so I think the mine tosses inexpensive yet attractive stones into each bucket. We got amethyst, quartz, citrine, garnet, and aventurine from these buckets. My advice: if you have a rock in your bucket, keep it even if it looks like nothing and examine it later. My 'lucky bucket' yielded this rock, which is a vivid blue when struck by light.

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Quartz with Rutile from North Carolina

Quartz containing rutile inclusions, from the Emerald Hollow Mine, NC.
Golden Filaments in a Crystal This quartz crystal contains needles of the mineral rutile, which is titanium dioxide. The filaments look like strands of gold - very pretty. Anne Helmenstine

My favorite gem is this one... a quartz point threaded with rutile.

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Rough Ruby from North Carolina

Ruby from Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddeninte, NC.
Example of a Freshly Mined Ruby This is a ruby from the stream near the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

If you saw this on the ground or in a stream, would you recognize it as a ruby or sapphire? The shape is a giveaway, plus it's a very heavy stone for its size. You can see that it is red if you turn it in bright light. It's easy to pass over a potentially valuable stone if you don't know what you're looking for. This ruby was given to me by a nice guy from Oklahoma... thank you!

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Sapphire from North Carolina

Sapphire from Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, North Carolina.
Not Much To Look at in Rough Form Sapphire from Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, North Carolina. Anne Helmenstine

Some sapphires look like rough rubies... like coated many-sided dice. Most of the sapphire that I saw at the mine was more like this. It is midnight blue and heavy. I suppose you would call it corundum and leave the name 'sapphire' for gemstone-grade material.

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Garnet from Emerald Hollow Mine

Garnet from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina.
Beautiful Wine Red Stone Garnet from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina. Anne Helmenstine

This came from the parking lot of the Emerald Hollow Mine. One of my sons saw it while we were in line to pay admission. We found several small gems on the ground. The garnets we found ranged in color from purplish wine-red to brownish-red.

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Ruby from the Emerald Hollow Mine

Ruby from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Treasure from the Parking Lot Ruby from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

This small ruby is another 'parking lot gem'. It isn't very large, but it is transparent, with beautiful color.

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Monazite from Emerald Hollow Mine

Monazite from the Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, NC.
Rare Radioactive Mineral Monazite from the Emerald Hollow Mine, Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Monazite is a rather startling orange crystal. It is a reddish-brown phosphate that contains rare earth metals, such as cerium, lanthanum, praseodymium, neodymium and thorium. You may have been told you shouldn't lick minerals to check their color. Monazite is an example of a mineral you don't want to taste. If it contains thorium, it could be radioactive. Alpha decay of uranium and thorium can produce helium, which may be extracted from monazite by heating it.

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Mica from Emerald Hollow Mine

Mica from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Shiny Natural Mineral Mica from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Mica is a group of sheet silicate minerals which exhibit perfect basal cleavage. It was common at the mine, plus you could see tiny flakes of it in many of the rocks. Glitter!

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Jasper from Emerald Hollow Mine

Jasper from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Red Specimen of Jasper Jasper from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Jasper is an opaque silicate, mainly seen at this mine in shades of red from iron(III) impurities. As a gemstone, it takes a high polish and can be used to make jewelry as well as boxes and jars.

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Emerald Crystals from Emerald Hollow Mine

Emerald crystals from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
This is Why the Mine Is Called Emerald Hollow Emerald crystals from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

These emerald crystals are typical of what you will find at the mine.

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Small Emeralds from Emerald Hollow Mine

Embedded emeralds from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Emeralds Embedded in Matric Embedded emeralds from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Specimens like this were also common. Look at the color and clarity of these emeralds! Now if I could just find some a bit larger...

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Bunch of Beryls from North Carolina

Beryls (emeralds) from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Emeralds in the Rough Beryls (emeralds) from the Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC. Anne Helmenstine

Here's a look at some of the beryls (emeralds) that we brought home. For the most part, these will become pretty aquarium rocks, but some of them would yield gems that could be cut and polished for jewelry.