Mining for gold was once the reason why a huge number of people began the treacherous journey through the west. After the initial gold rushes died out, it was thought that the scurry and hustle to dig for valuable metals was over, but that's not all people began finding in mines and rural areas. Digging for gemstones is a lesser-known occupation and while its history gets overshadowed by the real money-makers, it's no less worthy.
Throughout the country, various mines and caves give way to rough stones that are just waiting to be discovered, from diamonds to sapphires and everything in between. A day excursion to one of these mines might seem like a fruitless endeavor - until you speak to someone who struck gold, theoretically, during their own day trip. If you're a gemstone connoisseur and would rather hunt for them by your own volition, plan your next trip to one (or all) of these gemstone hunting destinations.
Updated by Lauren Feather, January 8th, 2022: There's nothing quite as liberating as a road trip or a day out away from the stresses of modern life, especially an excursion from which one can bring back souvenirs or something incredible to show for it. With the growing interest in real life diamond and precious stone hunting, aspiring prospectors are making their gem-finding dreams a reality at many a treasure trove - and even more gem-rich sites ripe for exploration, spelunking, and prospecting have been added to this list to inspire modern day pirate wannabees as a result.
Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Virgin Valley, Nevada
It's treasure trove galore at the Rainbow ridge Opal Mine, where eye-catching gems in all their beautiful and unusual colors can be sought. Opal in particular is said to be rife here, and visitors to the mine can collect their very own (with some effort involved of course).
Open from May to September, this mine has produced many a valuable stone - some even having been valued at over 50,000 USD. So grab tools, buckets, spades, and snacks, because only those that put in the hard work (with a sprinkling of luck too) have their efforts paid off ten fold in the form of beautiful and valuable gems.
Crater Of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas
As the name implies, visitors to the Crater of Diamonds State Park will be treated to the gemstone hunt of a lifetime. Make your way down to Murfreesboro, Arkansas, where you'll be able to rent tools or bring your own in order to dig for diamonds.
More often than not, those digging will find other exciting gems or minerals in addition to diamonds. According to TripSavvy, at least 40 different types of rocks have been found in the park's volcanic ground. So, even if you're not able to find that one diamond in the rough, you're sure to leave with some more interesting things than when you started.
Crystal Grove Diamond Mine, St. Johnsville, New York
Who would've thought that a mere stone's throw from the concrete jungle of New York is home to a superb mine prolific for gemstone hunting? And that mine is Crystal Grove Diamond Mine - the one and only place in New York state to hunt for Herkimer diamonds and lavish quartz crystals on a fun day out prospecting. These crystals were in fact first discovered in New York, and they're actually a kind of quartz - a popular and sought-after reward amongst the gem hunting community thanks to its unique clarity.
Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina
Appropriately located in Hiddenite, North Carolina, Emerald Hollow Mine is known as the only place that visitors can actually find emeralds in the U.S. With it being the only public mine, this destination is pretty lusted after by those who are keen on finding the most precious gems they can.
Upon entering the mine, visitors will be given buckets in which they can store whatever they find. They'll be directed down one of three sluiceways, all three of which could potentially give way to more than just emeralds. People have found topaz gems, aquamarines, and even amethysts within its walls. While visitors won't be mining diamonds, Emerald Hollow Mine is highly touted as one of the most unique gemstone mining locations in the country.
Cherokee Ruby And Sapphire Mine, North Carolina
The Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine is located in Franklin County, and this is a great place to start for those who are new to gemstone mining and digging. Here, visitors have the chance to find their own rubies, garnets, moonstones, sapphires, and more gems native to the area, depending on how hard they want to work to find them.
The mine is open from May to October and it's said that the gems found in this area, mainly rubies and sapphires, are some of the most precious stones in the entire world. With that being said, it's truly a gem of a mine to go digging in - pun intended.
Gem Mountain, Spruce Pine, North Carolina
Aquamarine aficionados need look no further than Spruce Pine’s Gem Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are the perfect place to pick apart the terrain for these beaming blue precious stones, as well as moonstones and rubies. Gemologists working on site are there to inspect gem-hunters' hauls to determine if they're genuine, while lapidaries turn visitors' finds into beautiful jewelry pieces before going home.
Gem Mountain, Montana
In Philipsburg, Montana, visitors will likely find far more than they'd expect at Gem Mountain. While the area is definitely off the beaten path, it's a trip that gemstone lovers will take if they want to have the chance to find sapphires and other precious gemstones and minerals.
This region offers a wealth of dig-worthy discoveries and the best part is that you won't need to bring your own tools - the price of admission covers everything you'll need to get started. Additionally, the staff will help visitors screen their buckets to determine what's worth keeping and what's not, as gravel is priced by the bucket.
Gold Prospecting Adventures, California
Jamestown, CA, (not to be confused with Jamestown VA, the home of America's first historic settlement), is one destination that precious stone lovers can go to and feel as though they're in the middle of their very own gold rush. Gold Prospecting Adventures turns the art of hunting for gold into a full-on experience, complete with sluice boxes and a brief education on gold hunting.
Visitors have been known to find larger, impressive pieces of gold as well as gold flakes and nuggets. It's a great way to get started hunting for valuable gems and rocks, even if mining for gold isn't exactly what you're looking for. Then again, who wouldn't want the chance to exclaim that they've 'struck gold?'
Morefield Mine, Virginia
Venturing just short of an hour from Richmond sees treasure hunters arrive at Morefield Mine in Amelia County, which is famous for its copious quantities of amazonite. Sieving and prospecting visitors here might also find amethyst, beryl, topaz, garnet, and many other magnificent minerals often plucked here.
Perfect for both beginners and seasoned gem finders, mining here is suitable for all skill and experience levels, and, interestingly, the Morefield Mine itself even showcases its very own exhibit of stunning stones right on site, so aspiring prospectors can get inspiration for what they may find.