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Finding and digging for your own crystals can be an incredibly fun and satisfying process. Whether you have been gathering crystals for years or are a complete beginner, you can still indulge yourself in this sparkling hobby and add to your crystal collection by seeking out locations that cater to crystal collectors. And here are the 9 best locations to dig crystals in the US:
- Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas
- Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina
- Jade Cove, California
- Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine, North Carolina
- Herkimer Diamond Mines, New York
- Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Nevada
- Graves Mountain, Georgia
- Douglas Lake, Tennessee
- Sunstone Knoll, Utah
If you want to find and dig your own crystals, there are many options available to you. Some parks and tourist attractions specifically purvey to those who are wanting to search for precious stones. Alternatively, you can visit locations that aren’t necessarily part of a designated park but have a high likelihood of yielding crystals. To learn more about where to search, read below.
If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding tools you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
Recreational Gem Mining Locations are Great for Crystal Enthusiasts
If you don’t want to set out on your own and start sifting through rocks in unfamiliar territory, there are luckily some great options available to let you still hunt for your own crystals but in an area that already is rich with what you seek.
Recreational gem mining has been gaining in popularity, and as such, there are now a number of sites open to tourists and gem enthusiasts that let you dig for your own crystals.
Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas
As one of the few locations in the world where the public is able to search for real diamonds, Crater of Diamonds is truly a unique opportunity for anyone wanting to hunt for crystals.
The park consists of a 37-acre field that is the remnants of a volcanic crater. You can opt to bring your own digging equipment, as long as it isn’t battery-operated or motor-powered, or you can rent tools from the park.
According to Crater of Diamonds State Park, over 33,100 diamonds have been found by people visiting the park since it opened to the public in 1972.
The largest diamond found there was the 40.23-carat Uncle Sam, which was found in 1924. More recently, in 2015, a tourist found an 8.52-carat diamond, so you may still have a chance of unearthing a real treasure at this state park.
You can choose to explore the park either by simply hunting for gems on the surface, digging and sifting soil a few inches deep, or by digging deeper holes and strategically searching.
While you aren’t guaranteed to find a diamond, there are still plenty of other small crystals like quartz that you can walk away with.
The park has a small entry fee, but it also includes other amenities such as hiking trails, several camping sites, a gift shop, a seasonal water park, and a cafe.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Arkansas, check out this article.
Emerald Hollow Mine in North Carolina
Nestled in Hiddenite, North Carolina, the Emerald Hollow Mine is currently the only emerald mine in the world that is open to the public to search for gems. While the mine may have emerald in the name, it boasts more than sixty different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals, so it is a great place to start your quest for crystals.
Some of the more rare gems and minerals that are found at Emerald Hollow Mine include:
There are also loads of both smokey and clear quartz crystals. If you’re feeling lucky, you may unearth some truly rare specimens. As recently as 2009, two men found a massive 310-carat emerald that has been dubbed the Carolina Emperor.
The park is open from 8:30 am to sunset every day of the year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
You can choose your method of searching, whether it be sluicing, creeking, digging, or a combination of the three. They also have a lapidary shop on the premises that can help turn any rough stones you find into polished gems and jewelry, if you desire it.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in North Carolina, check out this article.
Jade Cove in California
Jade Cove is a unique location on this list because it is not part of a commercialized operation. You don’t need to pay an entry fee or rent any equipment. You are free to come and go as you please, but it may be a little more challenging than the previous sites mentioned.
Located as part of the stretch of the Big Sur coastline, it can be easy to miss Jade Cove. The trail to reach it is steep but fairly short, and it is known for its remarkable green cliffs.
As the name implies, Jade Cove is rich in jade. It has nephrite and jadeite, including several rare types of jade, such as botryoidal jade.
Most of the best jade is inaccessible to casual crystal hunters as it is hidden under the ocean waves, and the currents in this region are very strong, so only skilled divers can reach it.
However, waves will often wash pieces of jade onshore, and during low tide periods, it is not uncommon to find some of the stone.
If you decide to visit Jade Cove to prospect, keep in mind that there are local laws that place some restrictions on your searching.
For example, visitors are prohibited from any sort of excavating or digging, and you also are not allowed to collect anything deposited above the mean tide line.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in California, check out this article.
TIP: Jade is the most valuable gemstone in Asian culture. The combination of jade’s history and magnificent appearance makes the stone so valuable and popular. Find out more in the article below:
6 Factors Why Jade is Valuable (+ Prices for Colors & More)
Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine in North Carolina
Located in the Cowee Valley gemstone region of Western North Carolina, the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine are listed by the International Gem Society as one of the “Top Places to Mine in the United States.”
The mine is particularly notable for having a very rare type of ruby known as a pigeon-blood ruby, which is only otherwise found in Burma. Other stones that can be found at the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine include:
- Star rubies
- Star sapphires
- Star garnets
- Rhodolite garnets
- Pyrope garnets
- Clear quartz
- Smokey quartz
At this mine, you will sluice through the rocks and soil with a sieve to find your treasures. The admission fee is fairly low, and the set-up encourages family or group prospecting. You search through buckets of soil rather than searching along the ground itself.
In addition, the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire mine doesn’t “salt” the soil like some other mines. “Salting” refers to the practice of stocking the soil with outside gems to be more appealing to visitors.
Instead, the soil is completely natural, and whatever you find truly came from the region and isn’t an artificial discovery.
Herkimer Diamond Mines in New York
Tucked away in St. Johnsville, the Herkimer Diamond Mines are a great place to hunt for crystals. It is specifically known for its abundance of Herkimer diamonds, which despite the name, are not actually diamonds but instead a type of quartz.
However, the crystal-clear clarity of the stones makes them reminiscent of diamonds, and they are still a very popular find among crystal enthusiasts.
The mines are above surface mines, meaning you can easily search along the surface of the ground if you like, or you can dig deeper if desired. Often, it is handy to have a hammer or chisel because many of the crystals are found by breaking open larger rocks.
You can keep everything you find, and the Herkimer Diamond Mines also has a “Build and Wear, Build to Share” activity center where you can transform your crystal finds into jewelry.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in New York, check out this article.
Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine in Nevada
Located in Virgin Valley, Nevada, the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine has been family-owned and operated since 1949. It specializes in opals, and the colors can vary from completely colorless to black. The Roebling Opal, which is currently in a collection at the Smithsonian Institution, was found at the Rainbow Ridge Mine in 1918.
The opals most commonly found in this region are referred to as “specimen only,” meaning that they aren’t really suitable for being cut into jewelry and are instead left uncut. These opals can make a fine addition to any crystal collection, however, and their color variations are unique and beautiful.
Opals have an underlying body color but then have a varying level of transparency, which results in the stones being able to play with light and display shifts in color. It gives the stones a shimmering quality and an opalescence.
Take note: if you are specifically a fan of fire opals, then the Bonanza Opal Mines in Denio, Nevada, is another great place to search.
Graves Mountain in Georgia
Now, you can visit the mountain to search for your own crystal collection, but you need to have an appointment in order to visit. Also, only members of the Georgia Mineral Society are allowed to dig year-round. Those who aren’t members may only dig on a few select days in the year, but it is a free event.
The wait may be worth it, however, since the mountain is known to be rich in desirable minerals. Some gems that have been found there include:
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Georgia, check out this article.
Douglas Lake in Tennessee
While there is a zinc vein in middle Tennessee that makes crystal hunting between Carthage and Nashville highly satisfying, you might consider a winter trip to Douglas Lake in eastern Tennessee for your rockhounding expedition.
The water level in the man-made reservoir drops during the colder season to improve your chances of finding “Douglas Diamonds.”
These are not real diamonds, though. They are quartz crystals similar in clarity and quality to the Herkimer Diamonds of New York (see above).
Your best chance of finding them is to walk the lake bed looking for floats of red clay. There’s actually an app from the Tennessee Valley Authority for rockhounds who want to know when the lake levels are low enough to hunt.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Tennessee, check out this article.
Sunstone Knoll in Utah
Located in Millard Country, Utah, Sunstone Knoll is home to, as the name suggests, sunstones. Though small, you can easily gather a handful of these glittery, transparent, golden-toned crystals just walking along with the land.
For larger crystal finds, you are allowed to bring your rock hammer (and protective eyewear, of course) to search through the cavities of volcanic rock.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in Utah, check out this article.
State Mining and Mineral Departments Can Be a Good Resource
If you’re looking to search for crystals and you still aren’t sure where to start, take advantage of the resources available from state mining and mineral departments.
These departments can provide a trove of useful information and can help guide you in your search. Most states will have these divisions, and they will have details about what gems and minerals are currently being mined in your region.
Sometimes, these departments will have maps of current as well as abandoned mining operations. If the mine is inactive, you are usually free to explore the terrain and claim any crystals you may find.
Mining operations typically unearth large amounts of crystals, and since the mining is usually in pursuit of a particular mineral or metal, these crystals are discarded and ignored. If you visit these old mining sites, you may find some substantial crystals located in piles throughout the mine.
Keep in mind, however, that if you visit these sites, you should not attempt to go into any mining tunnels. These can be extremely dangerous, and you should not venture into them as you have no way of knowing whether they are safe or not.
Even if your region doesn’t have any abandoned mining sites, you can still utilize the information provided by state mineral departments to try to determine the best places to look for crystals.
Mineral departments will often provide geological maps of the state, and you can identify locations that contain rocks such as granite or pegmatite that are more likely to yield crystals.
TIP: Alluvial deposits along rivers and creeks are brilliant places to go rockhounding. Check out the best rockhounding tips for finding rocks near rivers and creeks in the article below:
8 Tips On Finding Gemstones In Nature (Rivers & Creeks)
Certain Gems and Crystals are Commonly Found Around Hot Springs
Another location that often yields crystals is around hot springs and hydrothermal springs. The hydrothermal activity in these locations can form a number of different types of crystals and minerals. As the hot water pushes its way to the surface, it often brings along a variety of crystals.
If you are visiting a hot springs area, look for crystals such as opal, agate, and amethyst, as these are usually more common in these regions. Other gemstones that may be found around hydrothermal deposits may include emerald, tourmaline, and beryl.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
Areas With Volcanic Activity May Have Crystals
Volcanic activity can result in crystal formation, both directly and indirectly. So, if you have access to a region that has some amount of volcanic activity, you may be able to find some crystals in the area.
A specific type of magma called Kimberlite is rich in minerals, including some valuable crystals, and can deposit this rich igneous rock on the surface.
Kimberlite has been known to include olivine, apatite, chromite, garnet, and even diamond. In fact, Kimberlite takes its name from Kimberley, South Africa, a region rich in diamonds.
Any region that has seen molten magma most likely will also have obsidian present. Obsidian is a natural volcanic glass, and it is known for its shiny black color.
While it technically isn’t a crystal (in fact, it actually contains minimal crystal growth), it’s appearance often makes it appealing to crystal collectors. It has a glossy sheen, and its color can range from deep black to red, brown, green, purple, and even rainbow varieties.
Other gems that may be found in areas with volcanic activity include zircon, topaz, and ruby. Pegmatite deposits in the area often yield large, good-quality crystals.
TIP: Obsidian is among the most prized rocks that all rockhounds want to have in their collections. But where to find obsidian? Check out the locations in the USA in the article below:
Finding Obsidian: 6 Best Locations Near Me (United States)
How Do You Know Where to Dig for Crystals?
We have dug into (no pun intended) a few specific places to mine for crystals and suggestions to find areas with potential.
But, let’s take a moment to talk specifically about how you determine where to search for crystals once you’ve gotten to the mining location. Why are some areas richer in gems than other areas? What makes for a good crystal digging location?
Certain crystals will occur naturally in a much greater abundance than other crystals, especially if you look in the right areas. For example, quartz crystal is the second most common mineral on Earth, so it is easy to come across it in your search.
However, finding it in large, good-quality specimens is a little more challenging. If you take the time to search in certain areas, you will have a better chance of finding ideal crystals.
One place to dig for crystals like quartz is in rock veins. Veins are deposits of minerals that course through a rock, filling cracks and fissures in a way that makes the minerals look like veins running through the host rock.
If you find a few crystals on the ground, look to nearby rock formations to see if there are any veins present. Crystals can be carried a fair distance thanks to forces of nature, and so the original vein might be far from where the crystals are found.
Generally speaking, a location in which there are a fair amount of crystals present on the surface of the soil is a good place to start looking.
The larger the crystals on the surface are, the more likely you are to find more crystals with a little digging. Sometimes, though, the crystals won’t be readily visible on the surface. In this case, it can be helpful to dig a few test holes to see if there is a layer of crystals lying beneath the topsoil.
If you see areas containing rocks with flat sides, this may indicate that crystals have formed there. Certain types of rocks are also more likely to yield crystals, so if you find areas containing these rocks, there is a better chance that you’ll walk away with some crystals:
TIP: Geodes are not simple crystals; they are small geological models – a tiny cave in your hands. Check out the most common crystals you can find in geodes in the article below:
16 Most Common Types of Crystals You Can Find in Geodes
Look for Rocks That Commonly Form Crystals
Certain types of rocks are more likely to yield crystals, so if you can locate areas with large deposits of these types of rocks, you will have a better chance of finding quality crystals.
For those not wanting to visit specific mining sites, this can be a great way to determine your own location to start your search for crystals.
Granite rocks are often a good bet for crystal hunters. Granite is an igneous rock and tends to be light in color, with a coarse, grainy appearance. They have a high silica content and a mixed mineral composition, which often gives the rock a speckled color.
Granite is the most common igneous rock found at the Earth’s surface, so no matter where you live, it is likely that you’ve seen granite at some point in your life. It is also commonly used in buildings and monuments.
Most granite has very small crystals present, but there are from time to time pockets of larger crystal deposits in which you can find some quality crystals. The crystals you are most likely to find in granite are:
- Plagioclase feldspars
- Potassium feldspars
- Muscovite micas
- Biotite micas
- Lepidolite micas
In addition, you may be lucky to find rarer gemstones in granite such as:
However, these gemstones are much less commonly found, and it is unlikely you will find them if you are only occasionally hunting for crystals or if you don’t have the proper amount of skill and expertise to locate them.
Pegmatite is another coarse, grainy igneous rock. Pegmatite is known as an extreme igneous rock due to the fact it contains especially large crystals, including fairly rare minerals.
To be called pegmatite, a rock must be mostly composed of crystals at least one centimeter in diameter. The actual mineral composition of the rock is not important for classification.
While you probably won’t stumble upon a crystal this large in your searching, you’re still highly likely to find some substantial crystals.
Pegmatite is often rich in crystals such as quartz, feldspar, and mica. They also can be sources of desirable gemstones such as:
Another igneous rock, gabbro is dark and grainy, usually black or dark green in color. The crystals present in gabbro tend to be granular in size, but are larger than the crystals present in basalt and tend to be over 1mm in size.
Unlike granite and pegmatite, gabbro rarely includes deposits of quartz. Most commonly, gabbro has a high percentage of plagioclase feldspar crystals. Gabbo can also contain pyroxene, olivine, and amphibole.
TIP: You may be wondering where your gemstone was originally found. The most inorganic gemstones form in the Earth’s crust (the outermost layer) just like gabbro. Find out more in the article below:
Which Gemstones Come From The Ocean? Corals, Pearls & more!
Diorite is an igneous rock that has a composition that falls somewhere between granite and basalt. It is often found in locations where the edge of an oceanic plate is forced beneath the adjacent edge of a continental plate.
It commonly has a “salt and pepper” appearance, with a mix of black and white mineral components.
Like gabbro, diorite rarely includes quartz crystals. However, it usually has a fair amount of the following crystals:
Diorite is sometimes polished and used as a gemstone itself. In Australia, a specific diorite with pink feldspar phenocrysts is frequently cut into cabochons and sold as “pink marshmallow stone.”
Peridotite refers to a group of dark-colored igneous rocks that typically contain olivine as the main mineral composition. They have a relatively low silica content, so it is rare to find quartz crystals within them, but they are prized for containing other rarer elements.
In addition to particular crystals, peridotites are considered valuable due to the fact they often contain chromite. Chromite is the only mineable source of chromium, an extremely useful element used in metal and many chemicals and manufactured products.
As far as crystals, peridotite often has fair amounts of the following:
Perhaps most notably, however, is the fact that peridotite has often been known to contain diamonds. If you’re lucky, your search for crystals may just end with you finding a literal diamond in the rough!
Whether you are a dedicated rockhound or just a casual prospector looking to add a few crystals to your collection, there are a number of options for you to find your own crystals.
Finding and digging your own crystals can be incredibly satisfying and rewarding, and who knows: if you’re really lucky, you might uncover some very valuable and rare gems.
TIP: It is always good to know if t is allowed to dig for rocks in a given place. Because it is illegal sometimes. Find out more about this important topic in this article:
Is it illegal to take rocks from nature? You Should Know This