About Emeralds and Where to Find Them in North America

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About rough emeralds, their composition and where to prospect for them in North America.

The history of emeralds: Emerald is the gemstone that has mesmerized and enchanted mankind for millennia. From Cleopatra to Montezuma, from the old world to the new world, many have sacrificed their lives to protect its source. Without a doubt the best quality and largest emeralds come from Central Colombia, the Muzo and Chivor mines. It was the Incas who originally excavated these mines, and when the Spanish conquistadors arrived it was only a matter of time before they themselves discovered the mine at Muzo. The mine at Chivor somehow evaded discovery until the 19th century.

The Spanish plundered South and Central America in search of ancient treasures of the Incas and Aztecs. To this day it is said that many Spanish galleons lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, which could have emeralds the size of stones in their wreckage.

The composition of emeralds

The emerald owes its amazing color to the rare and unlikely combination of chromium oxide and beryllium. Chromium in particular and the amount in any emerald dictate the shade of green, which can be from a light green to a deep leaf or pine green. Almost all emeralds have some flaws or inclusions which are caused by their own inner stress. This occurrence is popularly known as garden or jardin. It is considered normal, and in fact experts will often look for them to verify that the stone is genuine. A stone that appears to be perfect is most likely a fake, of which there are so many in the market. These flaws only add to the emeralds value, and make genuine perfect emeralds over four carats more valuable than diamonds.

 North Carolina emeralds

Apart from Colombia, Emeralds are also mined in Zambia, Pakistan and North Eastern Brazil. In the USA they can be mined in North Carolina. Emeralds from North Carolina are distinctive because of their light green color and their inclusions which are quartz crystal. The only emerald mine open to the public in North Carolina is the Emerald Hollow Mine near the town of Hiddenite in the Bushy Mountains. There one can prospect for emeralds in three different ways. By sluicing ready filled buckets: panning in a creek or by digging. One can also pan for gold. This mine also has the lowest mining rates of any gemstone mine in the USA, and is open year round.

Rough emeralds from North Carolina

For many years it was believed that that the Hiddenite district emerald supply had been tapped out. Then in 1998 a down on his luck prospector called James Hill discovered a number of large emeralds at the North American Emerald Mine. The largest of which was more than 100 carats. The largest emerald was cut into two smaller emeralds, one of which became known as the Carolina Prince at 7.85 cts. It sold at auction for half a million dollars. Another is known as the Carolina Queen at 18.8 cts, it is valued at over 2 million dollars. Since then James Hill, who became the owner of the mine has discovered even larger more valuable emeralds. One of which is a cylindrical shape that is ten inches long, dicovered in 2006. 

The Hiddenite mine attracts thousands of visitors from families to serious prospectors. 

Emerald Hollow Mine:  www.hiddenitegems.com

Other useful website: www.gem-collector.com/gemmines.shtml

Photo's from photobucket.com and commons.wikimedia.com


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