The Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina is a public place where visitors can mine for gemstones. It is located 17 miles north west of Statesville and 38 miles north east of Hickory. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also less than an hour away. The mine is open from 8:30 am to sunset every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Day.
Although the mine has been featured on the Discovery, Travel, and National Geographic channels there have been reports disputing the authenticity of the mine. This includes suspicions about the true origin of the gems found. Many believe the gems to be brought in and placed in the buckets, creek, digging area etc. With a guarantee to find a gem in every bucket it would seem highly unlikely that they all occur naturally. Evidence of this can be found in the shape of the stone. A recently broken rock, one that would have been broken from a larger piece, would be sharp and angular. Rocks that are likely to be found naturally would be weather-worn, more rounded. A reviewer on TripAdvisor reported an employee admitted to stocking the creek with gems at least twice a day.
There are sixty-three different kinds of gems located in the mine. It is not uncommon for visitors to find smoky and clear crystal quartz but more rare gemstones are also occasionally found. Emerald, sapphire and amethyst are some of the more rare gems that have been found. Finds of over a few thousand dollars have occurred and one find was found to be worth over a million dollars.
Most mining is not done by the visitors. Ore is brought up in buckets, which visitors wash in a sluiceway. There is plenty of space with three large sluiceways available. Another option for gem searching involves creek mining and searching for gems in designated digging areas. There are seventy acres on which to dig and over a half mile of creek to search.
Visitors who will be sluicing must pay a $5 admission fee to sit at a sluice. The first bucket of ore is free but additional buckets cost extra. Additional buckets cost between $2 and $100. The most popular bucket is a five gallon bucket of ore costing $10. A $100 bucket is guaranteed to contain high grade gemstones (further evidence of gem planting).
Permits are required for both creeking and digging. Creeking costs $8, which includes the $5 admission fee. Equipment can be rented for $1 plus a $5 refundable deposit. Digging requires the purchase of a $15 permit and includes access to the surface, controlled areas of the mine, sluiceways, and creeks. Equipment for digging can be rented for $2 with a $10 refundable deposit. Diggers can bring their own heavy duty equipment, which includes anything beyond a bucket, shovel and rock pick for $45 instead of $15. Those tools, however, must be approved according to OSHA and EPA guidelines.
When a gem is found and identified by mine experts it can be taken to the lapidary shop. There it can be cut into jewelry. Experts cut them into the chosen shape and put them into a setting. Gold and silver settings are available. Premade settings are available but molds are available to have one custom created. The gem placed in the setting and sold to the prospector is guaranteed to be the same stone found by the person who brought it in.
The lapidary also sells premade jewelry and lapidary tools to cut stones at home. The machine comes with a free lesson on how to cut gems and facet them. The lapidary also has a jewelry repair service, whether or not the stone is provided. The gift shop contains jewelry pieces, rock and mineral pieces, and raw mine ore.
To further accommodate guests the mine also has restrooms, a picnic area, gift shop, and lapidary. School field trips are available and include an earth science lesson, sluicing, creeking and surface collecting.
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