Last week the highlighted treasure was the exceptional group of star rubies from Western NC. Motoring through North Carolina, on a gem treasure hunt tour I encouraged you to stop at the Gem and Mineral museum just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Spruce Pine. While in Spruce Pine, head north on 226 and visit Rio Doce Gem Mine. You can pan for gems, or just stop in to admire the extremely talented lapidary work of Mr. Jerry Call and his family.
Another gem land mark is The Crabtree Emerald mine. One of the most famous emerald mines in North Carolina, also located in Spruce Pine off of Hwy US 19 north.
From Spruce Pine head South and hop onto Interstate 40 and head East toward NC16 and turn North to Hiddenite. Hiddenite was named for mineralogist William Earl Hidden (1853-1918). He was sent to the area by Thomas Edison to hunt for platinum. He did not find platinum but he did find a new gem, later named Hiddenite. It is the green variety of the gem spodumene, and is one of the only gems that as yet cannot be synthesized, (man made). Although other deposits of this gem mineral have been found in Afghanistan and Brazil, they are not as chromium rich and therefore more pale green in color. The color, like the pink spodumene variety, Kunzite, can fade if left exposed to sunlight. If you are a gem collector, be aware that lesser intense colors of Hiddenite specimans are being irradiated to enhance the color.
William Hidden also found Emeralds and garnets. The garnets he and a fellow mineralogist J.H. Platt found were a rosy color. The Greek word for rose is 'rhodon' and they named their pinkish, purple garnet find 'rhodolite'. It has been widely speculated
that the gem was named for the rhododendron bush found in the mountains in the spring, but that has never been confirmed
In the Hiddenite area in 1882, an emerald crystal of 1,276 carats (9 Oz. = more then half of a pound) was discovered. At the time, it was largest emerald crystal ever found in North America. However, it was stolen from the American Museum of Natural History, NY, in 1950 and never recovered. (Wikipedia). Where is Indiana Jones when you need him?
Alexander County, in the Piedmont area of North Carolina is home to several gem mines. Emerald Hollow Mine in Alexander is open to the public, North American Emerald Mine, is private and owned by James Hill. Mr. Hill's mine has produced the largest emerald crystals found in America. Also located in the hills of Hiddenite are the Adams mine, formerly known as the Warren mine, the Emerald & Hiddenite mine, the Turner mine, and the Hiddenite mine. All of these mines are private and not open to the public.
When Mr. Hill did briefly open his mine to members of a Mineral Club, several lucky miners found a handful of large and valuable crystals. It worked out well for all parties. Mr. Hill closed the mine again and worked the area where the club members had located a previously unknown pocket of emeralds.
In the Spring, the Blue Ridge Mountains are vibrant in every green hue with all of the trees, bushes and flowers in full foliage. Underneath that lush green canopy are gem riches yet to be unearthed with more emerald and hiddenite crystals yet to be found.
In the next Gem blog we will continue the North Carolina treasure hunt through the Piedmont area of the state. Can you guess what other riches we will be locating? Here's a hint, North Carolina had the first rush for this.