N.C. spelunkers find 50-carat emerald

There’s emeralds in them thar hills!

These emeralds, donated to a Raleigh museum, are not those found in Hiddenite, N.C., but are similar. The pictures stones represent one of the largest examples of Hiddenite in matrix ever found in North America. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chris Seward)

These emeralds donated to a Raleigh museum would look similar to those found by amateurs in Hiddenite, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer)

Or at least there was, until intrepid, amateur gem seekers stumbled across a treasure trove of fancy rocks in North Carolina worth tens of thousands of dollars.

ABC News reports Libby and Kevin Barrieault were the first to strike non-literal gold in a closed mine in Hiddenite, N.C. They paid mine owner Jamie Hill $25 apiece to explore his North American Emerald Mine last Friday, but are sure to get their money back after selling a 50-carat gem Kevin found under a rock.

They’ll be selling it on eBay. Starting bid: $8,000.

The next day, Hill let Terry Lofgren and her fiance John Kehoe explore his property and they too found jewels, including a 30-carat emerald and 240 more carats of loose emeralds. The Lofgren’s haul is expected to be worth $40,000.

Hill, who’s not let anyone in the family mine in 40 years, says he’s not upset to see amateurs walking away richer.

“I haven’t had a major find in a number of years,” Hill, who stars in an entertaining YouTube video, told ABC. “I figured, if you bring in a whole bunch of recreational miners in here and let them go loose, it’s a great experience for them and they may just find something. It helps me too because it leads me to new locations. So it’s win-win.”

Are more riches just laying on the ground waiting to be picked up?

There’s no telling, but it’s safe to assume there will be an ‘Emerald Rush’ of sorts and Hill’s going to start charging a lot more green to explore his no-longer abandoned mine.

14 comments Add your comment

Joe Mama

April 4th, 2012
9:25 am

This story gives new meaning to the word “mine.”

As in ‘that there emerald is MINE.’

Green with envy

April 4th, 2012
9:32 am


April 4th, 2012
9:58 am

major correction – spelunkers are cave explorers, not miners or rock collectors. Also, the mine was not opened to a few individuals, it was opened up to a gem and mineral club (Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association) – you can’t just show up there. This is pretty big news – one of the largest emeralds in this country came out of this mine (NAEM), only a handful of emerald mines in NC, been decades since any were opened up to anyone.


April 4th, 2012
10:34 am

What a great guy Hill is, letting them keep the jewels. I realize he now has a better opportunity to find more, but I think it’s nice he let them keep their treasures.


April 4th, 2012
10:57 am

Yeah, it was nice of him to not steal from the people he charged to mine his property….. ???


April 4th, 2012
12:04 pm

Just give it a day or two and the local or state government will find a way to shut him and his mine down if he does not add safety railing, a ventilation system, and other various safety equipment!! It’s just to dangerous to let people go walking around willy-nilly in a cave.


April 4th, 2012
12:20 pm

It is an open pit mine, not a shaft mine. Already under EPA regulation.


April 4th, 2012
12:32 pm

When I was in college in N.C. I rented a room from a gentleman who was an amateur archeologist. At one point, he found the largest emerald to be found in the US. Instead of keeping it in his house, he would bury it to keep it safe. He always said that N.C. has the perfect archeological make up for emeralds.


April 4th, 2012
12:34 pm

Even if it wasn’t an open pit mine, if people know the risks and the liabilities and are willing to take their chances, what business is it of the govt to prevent them from exploring the mine? When exactly did we sell our souls to the federal imperial govt in return for their precious protection from ourselves?


April 4th, 2012
2:18 pm

@ Sparks, Agreed!!

mountain man

April 5th, 2012
3:58 pm

OMG – where to start?

Spelunkers refer to people who explore CAVES, not mines. And that is what outside people call us – we refer to ourselves as CAVERS.

Jim – I am hoping this is tongue in cheek – “He always said that N.C. has the perfect archeological make up for emeralds” – did he think the Indians or early settlers mine the emeralds and leave them in their living areas? or is this a confusion of Geology with Archeology?

“It is an open pit mine, not a shaft mine. Already under EPA regulation”
EPA regulates environmental concerns, not safety. If it is a business and produces minerals for sale for a profit, it would be a mine and regulated for safety by MSHA (MIne Safety and Health Administration). If it is a tourist business (like the gold mine in Dahlonega) it is regulated for safety by OSHA.

Motocross Survivor

April 18th, 2012
2:16 pm

Jim, I think you mean your gentleman friend was a geologist.


April 24th, 2012
9:34 am

Make some money my friend & put a gem of a smile on your face!


April 28th, 2012
3:49 pm

…and the picture is actually the mineral Hiddenite (Spodumene) on matrix.