North Carolina Emerald—Gem or Joke?

By Antoinettee Matlins

In an effort to raise more money for continued excavation at the North American Emerald Mine (NAEM), CEO James (Jamie) Hill opened the site for the first time in many years to anyone willing to pay a nominal fee for the pleasure of digging.  At the first weekend “dig” that had been advertised by Hill, a very lucky couple hit pay dirt! They discovered several large, fine quality specimens that are creating a surge of excitement ... and no one could be more excited than Hill, whodiscoverd the mine has not found anything comparable at the mine in the past couple years. So along with this lucky couple, everyone is hoping that this is an indicator that this mine may become an important source of rare, beautiful, valuable emeralds ... and knowing they are made in America just adds to their allure!

Hard as it might be for most Americans to believe, it’s no joke! “Recently, two very large, gem-quality emeralds were unearthed in Hiddenite, NC, once again by Jamie Hill” says Antoinette Matlins, gemologist and author of Colored Gemstones: The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide—How to Select, Buy, Care for & Enjoy Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies and Other Colored Gems with Confidence and Knowledge (GemStone Press, Woodstock, VT). Matlins was the first gemologist on-site to evaluate the emeralds. “I think Jamie was still at the mine, calling me on his cell phone,” says Matlins. “He was so excited he could barely get out the words to tell me what he’d uncovered!”

The emeralds remain “in situ,” exactly as they were uncovered, so it is impossible to know just how large they really are. “The exposed area of the largest one appears to be about one hundred carats, and the smallest one is about forty carats,” Matlins estimates. “But depending upon how far they penetrate into the wall, they could be much larger.”

According to Matlins, however, it is not the size of these crystals that makes this find so exciting, but their overall quality. “When it comes to judging an emerald, color is the most important criteria, and these emeralds have a deep, rich green color comparable to the finest emeralds from anywhere in the world—including Colombia­— along with a notable brightness,” Matlins explains. Her initial evaluation is generating tremendous excitement within the geological and gemological communities. “After describing the color and clarity to C.R. Beesley of GemCore, a New York-based gemological research organization, and Dr. Michael Weiss of the Smithsonian, their only concerns were how quickly they could get here to see the emerald,” she laughs.

Treasure hunter Jamie Hill, unearthed two of the largest and finest emerald crystals ever found in the United States almost two years ago, but was stopped from further mining at that time by the state of North Carolina. Following publicity and the announcement by Hill of his intention to increase his mining activity, the state changed the status of the site from “prospecting” to “commercial mining,” and Hill has only recently complied with all of the state requirements to get the commercial mining permits necessary to continue.

His first step was to apply subterranean radar imaging technology to the rock dome he uncovered, hoping to spot “pockets” in which emerald crystals might be present. On January 11, the imaging showed numerous pockets. Hill and his team proceeded to open the first one at the entrance where he found these two important crystals.

When Beesley and Weiss conclude their studies, the two crystals will be removed and examined more carefully. Then they will open the “pocket” to see what it might contain. “We don’t know how many more such crystals are present in this site,” Matlins points out. “Such emeralds are extremely rare no matter what the source, but such emeralds from North Carolina may be the rarest of all … only time will tell.”

For more information on this new emerald find—and other rare American gems—contact Antoinette Matlins today!