South Carolina has a remarkable amount of gemstones available, spread throughout the state. Paid digs are scarce, and it can be hard to figure out the legality of collecting in some areas, but the determined rockhound can find some incredible opportunities. While not an exhaustive list, we’ve put together a list of some of the best places to go gem mining in South Carolina.
So, let’s get to it with some excellent starting points for intrepid rockhounds in the Palmetto State.
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1. Diamond Hill Mine – Excellent Paid Dig
The Diamond Hill Mine is a paid dig in South Carolina, and it’s a great place to find gemstones. It would be my first option if I planned to head through the state and stop for rockhounding since paid digs neatly cut through the legal issues surrounding mineral collection by putting you in a good spot that you know is legal to collect from.
The main finds here are various types of quartz, mainly clear quartz and smoky quartz with some amethyst sprinkled in. The property itself is open to you once you’ve paid your fee, including about 6 acres of mine tailings. This is where most people head, trying to find the crystals that have been missed when the soil was upturned with heavy equipment.
You’re also free to try and find veins on the property if actual mining is your jam. While quartz is the main variety of stone found, there’s also been some finds of others including beryl and epidote. These are much rarer and not guaranteed finds.
As a tourist, your best bet is to head here and check it out. It’s straightforward and uncomplicated. There are also far fewer rules than you’d find at most paid digs. It’s a cool spot, and well worth the visit if you happen to be in the state for a short time.
2. Greenville Gemstone Mine – A Unique Tourist Attraction
While those in need of a more authentic experience will probably want to skip it, the Greenville Gemstone Mine is an accessible way to find a variety of gemstones. This one is a bit different from the average paid dig, however.
At its most basic, the Greenville Gemstone Mine is a bit of a tourist attraction. They set you up for flume mining on their property for a fee, and then you take the dirt you’re given and get to it! There’s a large variety of gemstones found in this dirt, but it is “salted” which can take away from the experience for some. They appear to do their best to gather the stones from the local area, but they admit that’s not always possible.
They claim to have a variety of more than 40 gemstones. I’m a bit skeptical, as their FAQ also lists granite and mica among the gem materials, but there are definitely varieties of beryl and corundum in there for those with an interest.
While not quite as awesome as pulling stones from the earth yourself, this location is great for kids or those who don’t have the physical stamina to get out in the field in a more active way. It’s worth a closer look, check out their website.
3. Spartanburg County – Tourmaline and More
Among the regions in South Carolina, Spartanburg County is renowned for it’s tourmaline. Other gemstones appear in the region as well for those interested, and there are a ton of quarries in the county that make it a bit easier for the prospective rockhound.
There are quite a few private claims in this part of the state, a quick look reveals that the majority of good hunting locations are going to be on private property. That said, the streams and rivers that run through the area inevitably cut through public land and are a great place to start.
There’s enough tourmaline in the region that commercial mining has taken place, leading to the wealth of claims and private land where minerals have been found. Start with finding public access land and work from there. There are quite a few active clubs in the state, you can check on this list.. As always, clubs can be a huge help in local areas but they’re really only applicable if you’re a native to the state.
Spartanburg County is replete with areas to look at if you can navigate the public versus private land issues that plague rockhounds. Most trails in the area for hiking are also near spots where stones can be found if you fancy a bit of adventure with just a side of rockhounding.
4. Anderson County- Beryl var. Aquamarine
Andersen County is another great area to take a look for gems. The most prized stones in this area are light blue beryl, otherwise known as aquamarine. The gemstones appear to be scattered around the county a bit, and information can be a bit scarce.
The tiny town of Pelzer is a good place to get started. Since gems have never really been mined commercially in South Carolina, you’re more likely to find them in river beds or other places where water has cut through stone.
The beryl in this area usually shows up as pegmatites. When you’re out digging you want to look for these rounded nodules. Breaking them apart carefully can reveal the gems you’re looking for. The stones in this area also occur in schist, limestone, and most of the other bedrocks.
There are no guarantees, but if you’re in the area then public land is worth looking for. Doubly if it has access to a river. It’s just a matter of learning where the good spots are, especially since the gemstones can occur in a wide variety of stones in the area.
5. Tigerville Prospect, Greenville County – Zircon
Zircon crystals, like corundum and beryl, are found in small quantities across the state. That said, in Greenville County, there’s a better chance of finding them. Of particular interest to rockhounds is the Tigerville Prospect which is located just east of the town of Tigerville.
The area is famous for producing some great brown and yellow zircon. The actual prospect may not be able to be accessed, information is scarce and it appears there’s a high possibility that it’s on private land. That said, you’re not out of luck.
Instead, you should be able to access the banks of one of the nearby streams or creeks to find some. Your chances aren’t as good as the prospect proper, but bodies of water usually carry most stones from the area in one form or another.
While not the best spot on the list, it remains an option for those who are local. Just make sure that you’re aware of any zoning problems you may encounter on your way out, but careful searching of the nearby Barton Creek or Tyger River has a chance to yield some samples of highly sought-after zircon.
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