The thought of stumbling across a valuable gemstone must have crossed through most people's minds from time to time. The thing is, there are places that you can go to and, for a small fee, look for gemstones and even get to keep them. The United States has many such places. It's just a case of knowing where to go and what the conditions are. Here are a few locations and tips.
Did you know that the United States is the only country in the world where you can dig up a diamond and get to keep it? It's true, and it all happens down in Arkansas. Diamonds are found in extinct volcanic pipes where they were formed over billions of years in a rock called kimberlite. In the southwest of Arkansas is the Crater of Diamonds State Park (craterofdiamondsstatepark.com) where there are nearly 40 acres where you can dig for diamonds and keep what you find. In 1924 the Uncle Sam Diamond weighing more than 40 carats was found there.
Rubies, emeralds and sapphires are the three most precious gems after diamonds, and all three can be found in North Carolina. The Emerald Hollow Mine (hiddenit.ipower.com) in Hiddenite NC is the only emerald mine open to public prospecting in the world. You can also dig for rubies and sapphires at Sheffield Mine (sheffieldmine.com) in Franklin NC. Rubies can also be found in Idaho and Wyoming. Generally speaking, wherever you can find rubies you can also find sapphires, for they are both of the same chemical constitution, the colour difference coming from impurities; in the case of rubies, the red colour is caused by the presence of Chromium.
Opals and turquoise can be found in Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and California, and there are two mines where you can dig in Nevada's Virgin Valley; these are the Royal Peacock Opal Mine (royalpeacock.com) and Bonanza Opal Mines (bonanzaopals.com). Agates, Garnets and Jasper are found in Idaho, Oregon and Arizona. The Gem & Mineral Exploration Company (gemandmineral.com) in Cypress, California, organises Garnet digs at a location in the Inyo Mountains of California. Western Maine Mineral Adventures (diggems.com) have digs for beryl, garnet, tourmaline and a number of other semi-precious stones.
Before committing yourself to a particular mine to dig, do take the time to contact the mine. There are several reasons for this. You'll need to know whether you have to take any equipment with you; many of the mines will loan or rent you equipment, but some insist you bring your own. If you intend to spend several days digging, you can ask about local accommodation and about other activities in the region in case of inclement weather. It is quite customary to ask whether the mine is seeded or natural. Understand that at some mines you will just be purchasing a bucket of dirt to work through in their flume.