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Emeralds are, without a doubt, the most beautiful greenish gemstones you can find in nature, and it’s no wonder this is the case as any emerald you might find today formed hundreds of millions of years ago.
To find emeralds in nature, you must look for them in gravels, mines, pegmatites, or creeks. Natural emeralds are difficult to find, so you should visit emerald mines for a guaranteed search. If you want to find emeralds in the USA, you can explore states like North Carolina or South Carolina.
Although finding a pure emerald might not be easy, you have a higher chance of finding it if you understand how it forms and where to look for it. Let’s see precisely how emerald forms in nature and what are the best U.S. states to find them!
If you want to check out the best rock and mineral identification books, you can find them here (Amazon link).
Where to Find Emeralds Near Me? (Most Common Environments)
Emeralds are a type of beryl, more specifically, their greenish variety due to the presence of chromium or vanadium, and in some instances, both. Emeralds are rare since their chemistry combines scarce elements located at different depths, resulting in few places where they form.
Pegmatite deposits or hydrothermal veins located in metamorphic environments are the primary sources of emerald formation.
In hydrothermal veins, fluids that escape from magma and contain the necessary emerald formation elements, such as beryllium, cool off in deposit veins, and emeralds begin to form.
In pegmatite deposits, hydrothermal fluids aren’t responsible for the emerald formation but rather the magma itself.
When it cools down, the emerald formation elements remain and begin the formation process. Because of this, some of the best environments to find emeralds include mines, gravels, pegmatites, or creeks.
Let’s explore some of these environments and see why emeralds are commonly found there!
The safest bet to find emeralds in nature is visiting mines, especially those specializing in finding emeralds. Mines, unlike quarries, go deeper beneath the earth where there are higher chances of encountering deposits where emeralds form, such as pegmatites or other metamorphic rocks.
As mentioned above, the elements necessary to create emeralds are rare and found at different levels beneath the earth.
When these elements meet under the right conditions, they result in the formation of emeralds. Some mines, particularly near volcanic mountains, are generally more productive in finding emerald specimens.
Gravels, Pegmatites, or Creeks
Gravels, pegmatites, creeks, or areas where metamorphic rocks are exposed, such as outcrops or road cuts, are good places to search for emeralds.
Gravels and creeks can capture emeralds that may have formed elsewhere, and many specimens end up deposited in these environments, but generally, emeralds aren’t found along riverbanks.
At the same time, pegmatites are a natural rock where emeralds form in, apart from other rocks, and as such, road cuts or other areas that expose these rocks are likely to contain emeralds as well.
Of course, it also highly depends on the region’s past volcanic history and the required elements. When searching for emeralds, you should know that they are often hidden in rocks with thin minerals known as mica schists.
TIP: Rockhounds have many mediums and environments to collect rocks, minerals, gemstones, or even fossils. Check out the differences between gravel pits, quarries, and mines in the article below:
Difference Between Gravel Pits, Quarries & Mines for Rockhounds
Where Can I Find Emerald in the USA? The Best Locations
While Colombia is responsible for about 70-90% of the world’s emerald production, it doesn’t mean you can’t find emeralds in nature if you are located elsewhere.
In the United States, there are a couple of states where emeralds are found, and one emerald discovered in 2019 in North Carolina at 310 uncut carats is among the most notable findings in the world.
The best states to start searching for them in the U.S., include North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, Maine, Connecticut, Utah, and California. Apart from these states, there are no other confirmed emerald discoveries in other U.S. states.
|North Carolina||Emerald Hollow Mine, Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, Burnsville, Crabtree Emerald Mine|
|California||San Diego County, Julian, Trinity County|
|South Carolina||Bowens River, Anderson County, Cherokee County|
Let’s explore some of these states and see exactly where you can find emeralds!
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)
North Carolina is, without a doubt, the best state in the U.S. to find emeralds. One of the most notable specimens in the world, nicknamed the Carolina Emperor, was discovered in 2009. It had 310 carats uncut but reached 64.8 carats in its cut version, which is still huge.
North Carolina is also the only U.S. state to designate emerald as its official state gemstone. This occurred in 1973. The best place to start searching for emeralds in North Carolina is its western territories, as many confirmed findings are here.
Probably one of the most famous mines in North Carolina and the U.S., in general, is the Emerald Hollow Mine. Here, you can find high-quality emerald specimens.
If you are near Hiddenite, search the area of gravel and soils to find emeralds. Apart from the gravel and soils, it would help if you also visited the Hiddenite old mines, as emeralds were also found there.
The Elijah Mountain Gem Mine is another famous North Carolina location where you are guaranteed to find beautiful emerald specimens. At the Stice Shoal Lake Dam, the area to the northeast, you can find emerald specimens as well.
Another great location is the Crabtree Emerald Mine in Emerald Village. Apart from these areas, you can also find emerald specimens at the many area mines around Burnsville.
There were also some emerald findings in Ashe and Avery counties, but you can also visit Burkey County and go to Joel Walker Beryl Prospect to see emeralds.
In Clay County, emeralds were discovered at Buck Creek, namely at the Buck Creek Mine, also known as Cullakenee Mine. In Cleveland County, you can find emeralds at Gaffney, Kings Mountain Mining District, the Turner Mine in Lawndale, or the Plantation Emerald Mine in Shelby.
In Gaston County, emerald was discovered at the Bridges Arnold Beryl prospect, and some findings were confirmed in Graham and Jackson counties. Mitchell County is another lucky spot where emeralds were unearthed at the Grassy Creek Mine and Grindstaff Mine.
In general, if you live or decide to visit North Carolina hoping to find an emerald, focus on the western and central parts of the state, don’t skip the mines, and always check the rockhounding laws if allowed to collect or need a permit.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in North Carolina, check out this article.
South Carolina isn’t as famous for its emerald locations as North Carolina, but there are some places that you can visit to try your chances. For example, Anderson County and Cherokee County are famous places where emeralds were discovered.
In the northwestern parts of South Carolina, you can visit the Bowens River to find emeralds, but don’t neglect its tributaries.
Search for emeralds in the gravels and slate exposures. You might also find sapphire, quartz crystals, topaz, zircon, and amethyst, among many other things.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in South Carolina, check out this article.
California is another famous state for emeralds, but nowhere near the same level as North Carolina. In San Diego County, you can find emeralds in the Julian Mining District, at Julian. It is among Southern California’s most recent emerald localities (2020).
Apart from these areas, there is also Trinity County. In Trinity County, emeralds were discovered in the Klamath Mountains, especially in the Coffee Mining District (Coffee Creek Mining District) or J. Carr’s Mine.
Though these areas might not permit collectors to perform their activities, it’s always worth trying and asking if there is any possibility of searching for emeralds in the region.
TIP: For a complete rockhounding guide in California, check out this article.
Other Notable Emerald State Mentions
You could find emeralds in Maine in Sagadahoc County at Topsham for an extended period. Sadly, this is no longer the case, but the area is still worth checking out.
In Montana, you might find emeralds in Mineral County, at the Coffee Pot Lode Occurrence, or in the general region since other emerald occurrences were reported.
In Nevada, you can find emeralds in Pershing County. Here, go to Rye Patch Mining District at the Oreana Tungsten Mine, also known as the Little Tungsten Mine. New Mexico is also worth considering when it comes to finding emeralds.
In New Mexico, many emeralds were discovered in Taos County. In the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is the Makarah Outcrop, where various emeralds were unearthed.
If you live in Massachusetts or plan on visiting it, you might be able to find emeralds as well in Hampshire County. Here, visit Lily Pond and search the pegmatite dike to the north.
Generally, emeralds aren’t easy to find, and many areas aren’t necessarily reported to the public. Because of this, there might be emerald locations even in your state, regardless if it was mentioned here or not.
The best way to find out is to go gem hunting in the above environments and try your luck or join a rockhounding club. Rockhounding clubs have an excellent advantage for enthusiasts.
Their members usually have various gem-finding areas to which you might also be entitled if you join the club. You never know what you might discover about your state and its valuable hidden rock-hounding locations until you ask!
TIP: Emerald is a vivid green variety of beryl. Do you know the main differences between emerald and beryl? Find out the answer in the article below:
Beryl vs. Emerald: 7 Key Differences (Are They The Same?)
FAQ About Finding Emerald
Still did not find the answer to your questions about finding emeralds? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
Where Can Emerald be Found Naturally?
Emeralds can be discovered in creeks or gravels as they might have been deposited there in time. Mines are undoubtedly the best option to find emeralds in nature as they reach deep within the earth where emeralds form.
Metamorphic rocks like pegmatites are also worth checking out for emeralds. Search for them in road cuts or outcrops as well.
What is the Easiest Way to Find Emeralds?
The easiest way to find emeralds is by visiting local mines that produce them and allowing collectors to search.
Apart from this, you can always check out the natural environments where emeralds form or consider joining a rockhounding club to find locations that might not be publicly available.
How Deep Do You Have to Dig to Find Emerald?
Emeralds form deep within the earth, but in open pit mines or terrace mining, they are unearthed at about 12 meters deep / 39 feet. Water often reveals mineral-bearing rocks as emeralds are embedded within them.
Where is the Best Place to Dig for Emeralds?
The Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, North Carolina, is the only emerald mine open to the public for prospecting and searching. Here, enthusiasts can even use dilling and excavation to find emeralds or other mineral specimens.
Are There Emerald Mines in the USA?
Emerald mines are just as rare as emeralds themselves. Although the U.S. doesn’t come near its emerald mines like Colombia, a few emeralds mines are still active.
Probably the most famous emerald mines in the U.S. are the ones located in North Carolina, namely the Emerald Hollow Mine, Crabtree Emerald Mine, Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, Addams Hiddenite and Emerald Mine, Emerald Valley Mine, or the Plantation Emerald Mine, also known as the Old Plantation Mine, or Turner Mine.
There are several other mines in the United States where emeralds are produced. However, those mines aren’t solely focused on emeralds but on minerals and gemstones. Nonetheless, the United States emerald production isn’t making the world’s top lists.
BTW: If you are looking for the best UV light for rockhounding, find out my picks below (Amazon links):
- BEST OPTION: Convoy 8+ 365nm UV LED Flashlight with Patented Glass Filter
- BUDGET OPTION: Karrong Rechargeable 1200 Lumen 395nm UV Flashlight
- OPTION FOR INDOOR USAGE: Prime Upgraded Big Chip 396nm UV
Finding emeralds in nature is equivalent to finding diamonds due to their rarity, and nothing compares to the joy and satisfaction of finding one with your hands.
Consider the tips and locations mentioned above if you want to find emeralds in the U.S., and don’t give up easily because you never know what you might find. Good luck gem hunting!
TIP: Rocks are one of the most popular items that people will pick up or purchase from places across the globe. Check out the rules on fighting with your rocks in the article below:
Are You Able To Bring Rocks On An Airplane? You Can But…