Our very first "Gemstone Mining" expedition was to the Herkimer Diamond Mines, located a stone’s throw away from our home. Our grandson Harrison accompanied us on one of our trips, expecting to find enough "diamonds" to buy himself some things he had been wishing for. We were able to capture some of these world famous diamonds, although none were of a quality suitable for jewelry-making!
Bill and Harrison at the Herkimer Diamond Mines
It’s hard work digging in the dirty, dusty mines. Proper clothing and utensils are available for rental, but Bill and I purchased some of our own. Basically, you just need a good sturdy trowel, a spray bottle of water and a sifting pan - which can be made out of window screening. Oh, and you need lots of patience as it is not an easy process getting the diamonds out of the rock. The water is used to wet the rock in order to see the diamonds, and the sifting pan captures the smaller stones as you dig out clumps of the dirt in which they reside.
Our Herkimer Diamond finds
Our favorite trip was to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, where you will find mines which have rubies and emeralds! You can purchase a bucket of fill and sit at a trough while sifting the fill through running water to see if you have found a ruby. Bill actually found a "squeaker", which is the gem mining term for a modestly sized but small ruby find, and he made it into a pendant for me. I was amazed to learn that rubies are actually pink, not the deep red color you often see in finished ruby jewelry!
Bill looking through the stash of gems we found in North Carolina
You can also pan streams that are artificially stocked by the owners, with gemstones such as amethyst and rose quartz. This gives you the experience of what its like to search for and find gems, but the stones are not native to that part of North Carolina. We did try it though, and brought home a wealth of gemstones which we have since made into jewelry.
I would love to go back again!