Gem Mining in the Upstate

Looking for a fun, family-friendly activity? One that involves getting a little dirty and requires tools and gloves? Well bring out your inner prospector, grab your shovel and pick, and start mining for gems in the Upstate.

While the Upstate doesn’t have quite as many options as our neighbors to the north where Franklin, NC is touted as the gem mining capital of the world, we do have a couple of options for budding rock hounds.

Diamond Hill Mine in Abbeville County is pretty much the only option in the Upstate for those looking for a “real” gem mining experience. The 6-acre area has a pit area along with dirt and dump piles that have come directly from the mine and guests can dig to their hearts’ content. Piles are not salted—meaning gems are obtained elsewhere and strategically placed into the piles of dirt—all gems found here come directly from the mine.

Quartz, amethyst, and aquamarine are the most commonly found gems at the mine. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and bring gloves, shovels, a long screwdriver, and any other tools you may need. Also be sure to bring boxes to carry your finds in to take home and plan ahead—there is no food or drinks and only an outhouse on the property.

The mine is open 365 days a year and sign-in is from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.; guests may dig until dark at 100 Diamond Mine Road, Antreville, SC. Cost is $20 per adult, $10 for seniors and ages 13–17, $5 ages 7–12, and ages 6 and under are free. Camping is allowed.

City dwellers can also partake in gem mining in downtown Greenville. Greenville Gemstone Mine is open seven days a week and offers flumes with salted buckets priced from $8 to $50. The store also sells gems, minerals, fossils, petrified wood, and even dinosaur dung.

Options in North Carolina are plentiful. Thermal City Gold Mine on Highway 221 at the Rutherford/McDowell County line offers panning in flumes as well as an onsite rock shop and mineral museum. Cherokee Ruby Mine and Sapphire Mine near Franklin have both produced world-class gems from their mines and all gemstones come from the onsite mines. Emerald Village in Little Switzerland is home to 12 mines and offers both gold and gem mining and has an onsite a museum.

Of course, you could always prospect the old-fashioned way—by panning for gold and gemstones in one of the Upstate’s numerous creeks. According to Big Ten, a company that produces prospecting maps, there are more than 130 gold mines and prospecting and panning locations from official geological records of the State of South Carolina and the federal government.


Sherry Jackson is a Greenville-based writer covering travel, technology, real estate, business and many other topics. For examples of some of her work, visit