We have, in the past, shown you places where you can still pan for gold. But if you know where to look, you’ll be surprised what other valuable gems you can discover for yourself.
We are talking about precious gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, garnets, moonstones, emeralds and more.
For instance, at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, 12-year-old Michael Dettlaff recently found a 5 carat diamond, which with an estimated value of $15,000 was far better than any of the souvenirs in the visitor center. In fact, they figure that visitors have found more than 75,000 diamonds of various sizes in the former volcanic crater over the years.
Not many finds rank with Michael’s, but there are several places around the United States where you can search for valuable “rocks” and diamonds, and you get to keep what you find!
The best ones are family-friendly, with low admission fees, equipment rental, and even cabins to rent. The staff will be able to explain what to look for, and take you on tours. When you find your gem, they may even be able to mount it and explain the geology and history of its formation.
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To get you started, here are seven places that you can search for and find diamonds, gold and other gemstones:
1. Gold Prospecting Adventures – Jamestown, California
This is located about 70 miles west of Yosemite, and is a small mining camp established in 1849, during the period of the great gold rush. It has all the character of the era, complete with a saloon and mining tents, and staff dressed up in period costumes.
The town has a family admission, where for $60 two adults and up to three children can pan for gem for an hour; or for $105 you get to pan for three hours.
If you want to sluice-and-pan, this is available for $135 for two hours. It’s only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
2. Herkimer Diamond Mines – Herkimer, New York
While what you can find here are not actually diamonds, but brilliant quartz crystals, there are plenty of them. Reputed to be as much as 500 million years old, they are hexagonal with points on each end. To the untrained eye, they might look like real diamonds, which is how the name came about. You can break them out with a hammer and chisel, or find them simply looking around.
Admission is $10 for adults, and children are $8.
3. Emerald Hollow Mine – Hiddenite, North Carolina
This is the only emerald mine in the States which is open to the public. There are three sluice ways, and you get a bucketful of potential gems included with your entrance fee of $5.
The mine has many different types of gems, including sapphires, garnets, amethysts, topaz, and aquamarines, as well as the emeralds that it is named after.
If you are inspired to search for longer, you can pay for additional buckets.
4. Gem Mountain – Philipsburg, Montana
Gem Mountain is off the beaten track, but promises great rewards (like sapphires) if you make the effort to get there.
Staff are happy to dig up the dirt, removing the larger stones, and providing you with the tools and equipment to go through the gravel and see if you can spot rough sapphires.
You pay by the bucket full of gravel. Staff will also help you spot the stones that are worth further cleaning and treating.
Wear your old clothes, as it is a dirty experience.
5. Crater of Diamonds State Park – Murfreesboro, Arkansas
As mentioned in the introduction, many people have found diamonds in this location. It’s the only place in the world that the public is allowed to search for diamonds.
Though diamond finds are quite rare, there are 40 other rocks and minerals in the area, so you can usually pick up a unique souvenir.
The admission is $7 for adults, and children are $4.
6. Royal Peacock Mine – Virgin Valley, Nevada
This mine, situated in northern Nevada in the Virgin Valley, is the place to come for opals.
It is expensive, at $180 per person per day to dig in the banks, but you can expect to find many opals.
You can also dig through the mine tailings, the rock that has been taken out of the mine, for just $75 per day.
7. Cherokee Ruby Mine – Franklin, North Carolina
At the Cherokee Ruby Mine, the emphasis is on family fun. It’s just $7 for adults and $4 for children, and for that you’re provided with a seat cushion and a screen box.
They show you what to look for (as rough gems are very different from the polished examples you are used to), then you go to the flume line, where you can fill your box and begin searching.
Exploring for Natural Beauty
In a world of artificial amusements and pastimes, it’s refreshing to find that you can take time out to see what the earth has hidden just beneath the surface. When you search for diamonds and gold, you learn about the geology of the area and how the rocks and gems came about, and you discover how to appreciate the beauty hidden just underneath your feet.
And best of all, if you get lucky, you can perhaps find a nice diamond or other gems that could be worth a lot of money!