Rockhounding North Carolina
North Carolina is an extraordinary state for rockhounding. A greater variety of minerals, more than 300, have been found in North Carolina than in any other state. These minerals include some of the most valuable and unique gems in the world. The largest emerald ever found in North Carolina was 1,438 carats and was found at Hiddenite, near Statesville. The ‘Carolina Emerald,’ now owned by Tiffany & Company of New York also was found at Hiddenite in 1970. When cut to 13.14 carats, the stone was valued at the time at $100,000 and became the largest and finest cut emerald on the continent. In addition, the State’s coastal plain is famous for marine fossils. North Carolina also was the site of the first documented gold discovery in the United States.
State Rocks, Gemstones, Minerals, Fossils, & Dinosaurs
Rockhounding Tip: Knowing state rocks, gemstones, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs often can be very useful information for rockhounders. Ordinarily, states with significant mineral deposits, valuable gemstones, fossils, or unusual or significant rock occurrences will designate an official state mineral, rock/stone, gemstone, fossil, or dinosaur to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc. Accordingly, such state symbols often are a valuable clue as to potential worthwhile rockhounding opportunities.
North Carolina designated granite as its official state rock in 1979. Just outside Mount Airy in Surry County is the largest open face granite quarry in the world, measuring one mile long and 1,800 feet in width. The granite from this quarry is unblemished, gleaming, and without interfering seams to mar its splendor. The high quality of this granite allows its widespread use as a building material, in both industrial and laboratory applications where super smooth surfaces are necessary.
Gemstone: Emerald (1973)
North Carolina designated emerald as its official state gemstone in 1973. Emerald is the green variety of beryl. Emerald has long been desired as a gemstone; the Egyptians were mining it over 4,000 years ago. Emeralds have been found in North Carolina associated with the green variety of spodumene, hiddenite. In North Carolina, emerald is found near Hiddenite in Alexander County and southwest of Spruce Pine in Mitchell County.
State Mineral: Gold (2011)
North Carolina designated gold as its official state mineral in 2011. North Carolina’s gold rush followed a discovery in 1799 by Conrad Reed, a twelve year old, who found a reportedly seventeen pound gold nugget in Little Meadow Creek on his family’s farm in Cabarrus County, North Carolina.
State-specific rockhounding books (including the books listed here as well as other books), regional rockhounding site guides, and other helpful rockhounding resources are identified - by category - in the Books & Gear section of Gator Girl Rocks with a link to the Gator Girl Rocks Amazon Store where you may easily browse selected resources and securely place an order. Your order will benefit Charity Rocks!
- Michael Streeter, A Rockhounding Guide To North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains (2003).
- Rick Jacquot, Rock, Gem, and Mineral Collecting Sites in Western North Carolina (2005).
- Kevin G. Stewart, Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas: A field Guide to Favorite Places from Chimney Rock to Charleston (2007).
- Floyd & Helga Oles, Eastern Gem Trails (1967).
- Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 2 - Southeastern Quadrant (1985; reprint in 2000).
- James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Mineral Adventures in the Eastern U.S. (2d ed. 2010).
- Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, North Carolina
The museum’s ‘Prehistoric North Carolina,’ exhibit focuses on prehistoric life in North Carolina and throughout the southeastern United States. The exhibits include an skeleton that is the most complete specimen of its kind on display in the world. The museum also features a rare fossilized dinosaur heart from a Thescelosaurus.Acrocanthosaurus
Colburn Earth Science Museum
Asheville, North Carolina
The Colburn Earth Science Museum exhibits minerals, gems, and fossils. The museum's gem collection includes more than 1,000 cut gemstones from around the world, including specimens from North Carolina. The Hall of Minerals features many items from the Colburn Earth Science Museum's primary collection of more than 4,500 specimens from around the world, including a examples of the more than 350 minerals found in North Carolina such as kyanite, quartz, corundum, beryl, mica, feldspar and itacolumite, the bending rock.
Aurora Fossil Museum
Aurora, North Carolina
The museum exhibits 15 to 5 million year old marine fossils from the nearby PCS Aurora Phosphate mine.
Mineral & Lapidary Museum of Henderson County
Hendersonville, North Carolina
The museum exhibits regional minerals and gemstones.
Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum
Franklin, North Carolina
The museum – located in a former jail – exhibits regional minerals and gemstones.
Museum of North Carolina Minerals
Little Switzerland, North Carolina
The Museum of North Carolina Minerals is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near one of the most famous gem and mineral deposits in America. The museum of features interactive displays about the minerals and gems found in the region as well as the historical importance of the mining industry to the local economy.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Reed Gold Mine
Midland, North Carolina
The Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States.
North Carolina Granite Corporation – Mount Airy, North Carolina
Site of the largest open-faced granite quarry in the world. Visitors can see quarry operations from the observation deck.
Sliding Rock Recreation Area
Pisgah National Forest – near Brevard, North Carolina
Sliding Rock is a naturally occurring fifty-foot waterslide with a seven-foot deep pool on Looking Glass Creek that the US Forest Service has developed into a recreation area.
Chimney Rock State Park
Southeast of Asheville, North Carolina
Chimney Rock State Park is home to ‘Chimney Rock,’ a 535-million-year-old granite monolith for which the Park is named. Chimney Rock is considered one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Little Pine Garnet Mine – Madison County, North Carolina
Commercial (fee access) business. The Little Pine Garnet Mine is a famous garnet deposit. Three mountain building stages formed the Appalachian Mountains. It is believed that the Little Pine matrix was formed during the first mountain building stage, which would make the garnet crystals in the mine around 450 million years old. The matrix is a metamorphic material made up of a chlorite/mica schist. There is some iron and quartz also in the mix. The majority of the garnet crystals in the mine are being replaced by the chlorite and mica, this makes them unsuitable for abrasive or gem material. The crystals have retained their excellent shape, which makes them much sought after by local collectors. Some of the garnets have been distorted during their growth which gives rise to some unusual shapes.
Crabtree Emerald Mine – Spruce Pine, North Carolina
Commercial (fee access) business. The Crabtree Emerald Mine is located in western North Carolina. The deposit is famous for emeralds and other minerals.
Staurolite (also known as ‘fairy crosses’)
Mason Farm Staurolite Prospect – Brasstown, North Carolina
Commercial (fee access) business. The Mason Farm Staurolite Prospect is located in western North Carolina near Hayesville and is managed by the Mountain Area Gem & Mineral Association (MAGMA). The mineral staurolite commonly forms cross shapes.