North Carolina Rock and Minerals

North Carolina is a great for rockhounding, because of its many Pay for Dig sites.

The eastern half, covering about 45% of North Carolina, is the low-lying coastal plain extending to the fall line, which divides it from the Piedmont plateau, a somewhat elevated but mostly flat region containing the principal cities of the state. The Carolina Slate Belt reveals evidence of ancient volcanic activity. Gneiss, schist, lithium, clay, sand, gravel, and building stone can be found throughout the Piedmont Plateau, and gold was once mined there in abundance. Gold was designated as the official state mineral in 2011. In fact, the first gold discovery in the United States was made in North Carolina in 1799 and it remained the leading producer of gold until the California gold rush in began in 1848. There are still some Pay to Dig sites where you can try your luck to find gold.

The coastal plain was formed from the eroded sedimentary remnants of mountains and is rich with sand (used in glassmaking) and clay; and limestone and phosphate (North Carolina's most important mineral resource) are also mined in quantities.

In the western part of the state the Blue Ridge Mountain range rises abruptly to define the Appalachian Mountains, which in North Carolina form the greatest mountain mass in the eastern United States. Among the Blue Ridge Mountains are deposits of feldspar, mica, and other raw materials mined for industrial purposes. In the varied rocks of these mountains are found most of the gem grade rocks and minerals in the state.

North Carolina is a world-leading producer of feldspar. The best area in North Carolina would be in the Spruce Pine Mining District. This area produces a ton of feldspar in addition to mica, kaolin, and high-quality quartz. In Spruce Pine, North Carolina is the Emerald Village where there is an opportunity to prospect and dig for emeralds in the dumps at the Crabtree Emerald Mine. This mine produced emeralds from 1895 (including for the Tiffany Company of New York) until the mine closed in the 1990s. The actual mine shaft went underground several hundred feet and lies flooded under a small pond, but you can Pay to Dig in its extensive dump sites.

Emerald was named the state gemstone in 1973. North Carolina also as a Pay to Dig emerald mine, Emerald Hollow Mine. The Emerald Hollow Mine is in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains located in Hiddenite, North Carolina. They claim to have 60 different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals, including emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, topaz, amethyst, citrine, rutile, tourmaline, smoky quartz and clear quartz. Hiddenite being the 4th rarest gemstone in the world, was first found in the small town of Hiddenite, North Carolina.

Garnets are also found in North Carolina, and the state host several Pay to Dig sites for them as well.

Before venturing out-do some research on where and what you can collect. Remember you must have permission to collect on private property.

See my page on Rockhounding Rules for general information on the rules of collecting rocks on various lands.