Gem and Gold Mining in North Carolina
Did you know that North Carolina is one of the most noteworthy states in the country for its sources of precious gemstones? Our state has provided a wide variety of gemstones such as emeralds, rubies, garnets, and sapphires. The first discovery of gold in the United States was actually made right here in North Carolina! While the majority of the mines that used to extract these gemstones commercially have been closed down, people like you and I can still tour their facilities and even try to find our own hidden treasures.
Back in 1933 a scientist named Joseph Hyde Pratt produced an article in the American Mineralogist entitled “Gems and Gem Minerals of North Carolina,” that provides a detailed summary of the variety of gemstone types that are present throughout the state.
A wide variety of stones have been found, but the most common family of gemstones were the corundum gems, called a ruby if red and a sapphire for its other colors. Another mineral that has been mined in North Carolina is beryl, most notably forming into green crystals more commonly known as emeralds. Other gemstones that have been found in North Carolina include garnet, quartz, feldspars, opal, diamonds, aquamarine, and hiddenite.
North Carolina has been one of the only sources of emeralds in the United States, with only two main locations where such minerals have been found: The Crabtree Emerald Mine near Little Switzerland, NC, and North American Mineral Mines near Hiddenite, NC. At the Crabtree mine, emeralds were found along the edges of a pegmatite dike that extended along the ground surface and the underground several hundred feet. Emeralds at the North American Mineral Mines location were found within hydrothermal veins and pockets within a limestone formation. One of the largest crystals found at this mine was approximately 8.5 inches in length weighing nearly 9 ounces. While both of these mines are no longer operating as full commercial facilities, the areas can be visited by tourists looking to prospect on their own (reference: http://geology.com/gemstones/states/north-carolina.shtml).
You may not be aware that the first discovery of gold in the United States was right here in North Carolina! In 1799, a 12-year old boy named Conrad Reed found a 17-pound yellow colored stone in a creek in Cabarrus County that he thought looked useful, and brought it home to his father to use as a door stop for the next few years. In 1802 Mr. Reed had a jeweler take a look at the rock, who then purchased it from him for $3.50. Soon after that, John Reed (property owner) and Conrad’s father decided to set up a partnership with some of their neighbors and turn the location into a gold mine. Over $100,000 in gold was recovered from 1803 until 1924, which would be worth significantly more today!
North Carolina was actually the nation’s leading gold producer until the California Gold Rush began in 1848. Today, most of the mines have closed, but similar to the gemstone mines, you can still visit the locations and even pan for gold yourself.
If you are feeling lucky, or simply think it would be fun, a significant number of pay-to-dig mining sites are present throughout the state. A link to some of these sites can be found here. The odds are against you, but people have found emeralds, rubies, sapphires and gold by simply stopping by one of these sites on their day off!
The Carolinas Section of AEG – Field Trip to Reed’s Gold Mine
Appropriately timed with the above article, we wanted to let you know that the Carolinas Section of the Association of Engineering Geologists (AEG) is sponsoring a field trip to Reed’s Gold Mine next month on Saturday, April 11, from 9:45AM – 3:00PM. The cost is $20 per person and FREE for students and children under 8 years old. This field trip is a great way to see on of North Carolina’s historic geologic sites and receive a guided tour by a true geologist! The Carolinas Section of AEG is also one of the most active professional organizations in the state for geologists and engineers, and attending their functions is a great way to meet other professionals and network!
If you are interested in attending the field trip, a link to more information can be found here:
Pyramid will be attending the following conferences. Stop by and see us!
SAGEEP 2015 – Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems. Austin, TX – March 22-26
Environment Virginia Symposium -Virginia Military Institute Environmental Conference. Lexington VA – March 31 – April 2
NCDOT Geo3T2 – Geotechnical, Geophysical, and GeoEnvironmental Conference. Raleigh, NC – April 9-10