Gemstones can add sparkle to your travels
Gemstones can be found around the USA. Some states let you keep what you can find.
States throughout the U.S. have deposits of minerals, rock, and stone mined and, in places, available for people to find, keep or buy. Some designate an official state gemstone or other material to promote interest in their natural resources, history, and tourism.
Gemstones especially serve as magnets for visitors interested in appreciating, maybe purchasing, and perhaps finding something of value to wear and display when they return home. Other minerals and substances also have their fans.
An Internet search can provide information about official state gemstones and other natural treasures around the country. There may be locations close to where you live.
Quartz is the official mineral of Arkansas.
Arkansas goes all out with an official state mineral (quartz), gem (diamond), and rock (bauxite). In the 16thcentury, a Spanish explorer reported observing Native Americans chipping tools from quartz. Later, the fame of the area’s quartz crystals was spread by health seekers “taking the waters” at Hot Springs.
Pieces produced by Avant Mining are displayed at several museums, and visitors may dig for treasures at several commercial operations. Paying customers also may hunt for specimens at mines, and both public and private lands are open to “rock hounds” – amateurs who search for rocks, gemstones, and minerals as a hobby.
Thar’s gold in Maine
The dirt that the Price family searched in Maine, called tailings, was excavated from a tourmaline mine. Tourmaline (pronounced TOOR-muh-leen) has been found at more than 60 locations in the state and is a feature of the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in Bethel.
Lesser-known is that “thar’s gold in them thar hills” of Maine. One place where would-be prospectors may pan for that precious substance is Coos Canyon. a deep gorge in western Maine. Gold was discovered in the mid-1800s, but most get-rich-quick dreamers soon headed for more productive destinations.
Coos Canyon is among places where panners may try their skill, and luck and everything from equipment to instructions are available. Those who think tourmaline is terrific may sift through tailings at Dig Maine Gems in West Paris or take field trips to nearby mines.
Pearls for the picking in the south
People who live in Camden, Tennessee and near Kentucky Lake, and those who visit those states, have opportunities to learn about their official gems. Freshwater pearls are formed when a grain of sand or other small irritant enters the mollusk shell, which secrets a substance that coats the invader. The layers of the material build-up to produce what we call pearls.
Natural pearls were plucked from mussels in local streams from the 1880s to 1914. Damming of rivers and increased water toxicity brought an end to that heyday.
Visitors may admire and perhaps find the pearls today, the Gemstone Freshwater Pearl farm overlooking Kentucky Lake. They also may view them at the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum and watch a diver emerge from the water with his catch.
While smoky quartz is the state gemstone of New Hampshire, it’s known as the Granite State. Granite, formed when lava cooled and solidified, comprises much of the underlying bedrock.
Granite runs the gamut in New Hampshire.
People who travel to New Hampshire to buy a granite countertop at a discount often are surprised and pleased to learn that it’s also turned into items ranging from fence posts to fire pits, buildings to bridges. Granite outcroppings are visible in fields and along some roads. But that which is intended for commercial use is cut from underground deposits.
Arizona turquoise comes in various colors.
Turquoise, which has captivated people’s imagination for millennia, is the official gemstone of Arizona. Bracelets made of blue-green stone were found on the mummified arm of an Egyptian Queen who lived around 5500 B.C., and it has long been featured in Native American jewelry. Mines in Arizona are best-known for producing blue turquoise and yield green and blue/green specimens.
Even more costly substances also attract visitors, and buyers, to some states. Not surprisingly, given their history, gold is the official mineral of both Alaska and California, and North Carolina.
Emeralds, rubies, and sapphires also have been unearthed in North Carolina. People may look for gemstones in about a dozen locations throughout the state and keep anything they find.
A gemstone surprise in Washington State and Mississippi
There also are surprises among the honors bestowed by states on materials that lie beneath their ground. Petrified wood is the designated gemstone of Washington and is the rock/stone of Mississippi.
Trees that grew in what now is Washington millions of years ago, when the area was swampy, died, fell, and became waterlogged. They were fossilized and took on a variety of colors. The best places to view preserved specimens are the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park and Yakima Canyon.
The Mississippi Petrified Forest near Flora has been declared a National Natural Landmark. A museum displays petrified wood found in every state and another country.
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does, and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.