Jump to content
Nugget Shooter Forums

Prospecting for Rubies & Sapphires


Buckshot

Recommended Posts

New to this forum - I own farm in Western North Carolina - McDowell County and have found corundum, rubies & sapphires and had some cabachons made. All have been found in same area of creek on property except for one small one found recently in a small feeder branch a little ways up stream. I was wanting to see if I could find the source on land and was thinking of digging a ditch with a backhoe parallel to the area in the creek. However after reading other comments, it appears that there doesn't seem to be a locatible source that just about all are found in the stream gravels. Would like any comments or suggestions related to this.

Big Rex seems to have a lot of knowledge and worked a mine in Macon County, NC, would like some of his thoughts & suggestions on this.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Should also add comment that most of these rubies & sapphires were found while using a high banker/dredge with a screen box set up at the end of the sluice so corundum will come over the riffles in a high banker of dredge with their SG being somewhere around 4.0.

Thanks,

Link to post
Share on other sites

You can recover them with a gold wheel also. You had best be careful digging near creeks and in low lands, you can run into the CofE permit stuff.

Max

Link to post
Share on other sites

Max: Not talking about digging a ditch that close to the creek, it is a large field that adjoins the creek would dig the ditch out in the field but parallel to the creek.

thanks,

Buckshot

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

Buckshot,

Sorry, oops, :inocent: took me a month to find this one, it must have got knocked down before my eye filtered down to it. Well, I can only tell you what I know of how the occurrence seems to appear in Cowee Valley, maybe there will be some similarities with what you have found. As you probably know you can only come within 20 feet of the creek theses days, when we were mining I think it was ten. Anyway, over there the smallest stones (yet higher quality) tended to be at what was regarded as the furthest from the original source, and the tail end of the deposit. Maybe you will find similar conditions where you are, the stones were often mixed up in very well rounded gravel and clay, often red-orange or gray, or even greenish or bluish clays. We would use a track hoe to excavate to the bottom of the gravel deposit, which started a few feet below the surface. The gravel layer ran probably from four to eight feet thick and you ran into pockets where the gemstones would accumulate, much like areas where gold could settle. The majority of the stones were found at the very bottom of the deposit, so it was important to make sure the last shovel fulls were digging mud instead of gravel so you knew you had cleared the gravel bed. As for finding the source, Weaver Holbrook claimed he was getting close before he closed down his mine. They were coming up on some higher elevation terrain and getting into huge boulders alongside a mountain. However, it is my opinion that for the most part, the gems originally were in a matrix many feet higher than what we see as the present day Appalachian Mountains. They were probably hosted in a rather soft chloritic type metamorphic material that easily eroded away and formed the different color clays they are presently imbedded in. If I were to prospect for any source, I would look for larger stones at a higher elevation, as opposed to looking for rougher nuggets, which you would do with gold. The toughness of corundum makes the wear negligible from one end of any deposit of a few miles to the other end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Big Rex:

Thanks for the input, it was worth the wait since you've been there and done that !!

Most of these were found while dredging for gold and the dredger who was under told me

that he was on a quartz vein that had pockets of mica. I told him when he came up that there were small chunks of mica coming up about the time we were finding the corundum. The corundum, largest piece was about the size of a small ladies thumb, most were smaller, nearly all had what looked like a greenish mica shist around it. I marked where the vein crossed the creek and since there is a field adjoining the creek, I thought of possibly getting a backhoe to cut a ditch not close to the creek but out in the field parallel to the creek to where it would cross the line of the vein and take a look at the material. In this particular area the ground water is at 6-8 ft deep and usually bedrock is 8-10 ft deep so do you think I should go on through the water till I hit bedrock ?

For a short time we dredged upstream and didn't find any corundum. We didn't do as much dredging up there as we did where we found these. The only other place I found any was one small one on a small feeder branch above where I found these. This area of had been tested back in the eighties for gold & gravel and they roughly plotted the test holes and indicated amount of top soil, sand, gravel, blue clay, etc and in some cases depth of bedrock. There was one hole in a field about 1/8th mile downstream where it was like 2 ft. soil and 6 ft. or so of gravel. I'm also considering using backhoe or trackhoe and digging this up and running through a highbanker with a 1/4" screen box in which I catch small stones and go through them. That is the method I've used to find the others.

However my thinking is that more than likely the corundum has probably washed into the gravel and this will still not help me find the source, whereas possibly the ditch across the vein might.

A little trivia here, my Great Grandmother was a Holbrook from Macon county. My Grandfather her son lived in his younger days prior to age 50-60 in Ellijay community in Macon County. My Grandfather lived his latter days which was about 32 years on this property where I'm finding the corundum a little ironic isn't it.

Thanks again and any other comments will be appreciated.

I'm a greenhorn at this, I'm just trying to learn as I go, some by reading, listening to others, and some by trial & error.

Buckshot

Link to post
Share on other sites

Big Rex:

Thanks for the input, it was worth the wait since you've been there and done that !!

Most of these were found while dredging for gold and the dredger who was under told me

that he was on a quartz vein that had pockets of mica. I told him when he came up that there were small chunks of mica coming up about the time we were finding the corundum. The corundum, largest piece was about the size of a small ladies thumb, most were smaller, nearly all had what looked like a greenish mica shist around it. I marked where the vein crossed the creek and since there is a field adjoining the creek, I thought of possibly getting a backhoe to cut a ditch not close to the creek but out in the field parallel to the creek to where it would cross the line of the vein and take a look at the material. In this particular area the ground water is at 6-8 ft deep and usually bedrock is 8-10 ft deep so do you think I should go on through the water till I hit bedrock ?

For a short time we dredged upstream and didn't find any corundum. We didn't do as much dredging up there as we did where we found these. The only other place I found any was one small one on a small feeder branch above where I found these. This area of had been tested back in the eighties for gold & gravel and they roughly plotted the test holes and indicated amount of top soil, sand, gravel, blue clay, etc and in some cases depth of bedrock. There was one hole in a field about 1/8th mile downstream where it was like 2 ft. soil and 6 ft. or so of gravel. I'm also considering using backhoe or trackhoe and digging this up and running through a highbanker with a 1/4" screen box in which I catch small stones and go through them. That is the method I've used to find the others.

However my thinking is that more than likely the corundum has probably washed into the gravel and this will still not help me find the source, whereas possibly the ditch across the vein might.

A little trivia here, my Great Grandmother was a Holbrook from Macon county. My Grandfather her son lived in his younger days prior to age 50-60 in Ellijay community in Macon County. My Grandfather lived his latter days which was about 32 years on this property where I'm finding the corundum a little ironic isn't it.

Thanks again and any other comments will be appreciated.

I'm a greenhorn at this, I'm just trying to learn as I go, some by reading, listening to others, and some by trial & error.

Buckshot

Hi Buckshot,

Sounds like you may have the source nailed already. Chlorite is basically often a greenish shaded mica schist like what you are describing. I know on Corundum Hill the host rock was a similar material and it also came in veins associated with olivine, but I think the olivine is probably a more unusual feature most likely confined only to Corundum Hill. I'm not sure what you would do when you got down to the bedrock or host rock. I guess if there is ground water involved, you may have to pump out the hole if it is left open for any length of time. At the ruby mine we also had to fill the hole right back up when the gravel was extracted since it would fill up with water. I know they used explosives on Corundum Hill. They didn't care if the crystals came up cracked since it was essentially an aluminum oxide sandpaper operation. I guess there are products that will expand in drilled holes to cause cracking, but with all the water I don't know if that would be practical. It would be nice to confirm that is the source, but it may still be more economical to find most of your stones in the gravel where they have been freed from the matrix and potentially concentrated in the gravel. The area you mention with a gravel bed at shallow depth sounds like a good place for easy access.

I guess you're familiar with the Holbrook house with rubies and sapphires in the foundation, I think they just mixed gravel into the cement. I only met Weaver Holbrook a few times before he passed away. He helped us check another piece of property before we purchased the Jacobs Mine. His recommendation was that there was not enough gravel on the other piece to support a tourist mine. So I guess your corundum find is a new one and your grandfather was not even aware of it at the time? Ellijay? I think they used to have a mine there where bronze colored star sapphires were supposed to have been found.

Rex

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Buckshot,

Sounds like you may have the source nailed already. Chlorite is basically often a greenish shaded mica schist like what you are describing. I know on Corundum Hill the host rock was a similar material and it also came in veins associated with olivine, but I think the olivine is probably a more unusual feature most likely confined only to Corundum Hill. I'm not sure what you would do when you got down to the bedrock or host rock. I guess if there is ground water involved, you may have to pump out the hole if it is left open for any length of time. At the ruby mine we also had to fill the hole right back up when the gravel was extracted since it would fill up with water. I know they used explosives on Corundum Hill. They didn't care if the crystals came up cracked since it was essentially an aluminum oxide sandpaper operation. I guess there are products that will expand in drilled holes to cause cracking, but with all the water I don't know if that would be practical. It would be nice to confirm that is the source, but it may still be more economical to find most of your stones in the gravel where they have been freed from the matrix and potentially concentrated in the gravel. The area you mention with a gravel bed at shallow depth sounds like a good place for easy access.

I guess you're familiar with the Holbrook house with rubies and sapphires in the foundation, I think they just mixed gravel into the cement. I only met Weaver Holbrook a few times before he passed away. He helped us check another piece of property before we purchased the Jacobs Mine. His recommendation was that there was not enough gravel on the other piece to support a tourist mine. So I guess your corundum find is a new one and your grandfather was not even aware of it at the time? Ellijay? I think they used to have a mine there where bronze colored star sapphires were supposed to have been found.

Rex

Link to post
Share on other sites

Big Rex: Failed to mention it earlier but there is also olivine in this area. What was the soil like where rubies were found in Macon county, ie, red clay, black soil, etc. would be curious to know since all I've found have been in the streams.

Thanks again,

Buckshot

Link to post
Share on other sites

Buckshot,

The soil was various colors of clay, predominantly red, but also shades of gray, green, and blue. We seemed to find more lavender and blue sapphires in the gravel that was not stained with iron, but that could have been just because all of the stones in the iron-stained gravel looked duller in color until we soaked them in muriatic acid.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I hope I've figured out how to attach a picture, if so this is a picture of some of the larger pieces of corundum that I've found on the farm. The coin is a quarter.

post-23981-0-51313400-1295754726_thumb.j

Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope I've figured out how to attach a picture, if so this is a picture of some of the larger pieces of corundum that I've found on the farm. The coin is a quarter.

Pretty good looking, they look like fairly dark rubies to me, do they all come in a similar shade or is there an assortment of colors in some of the smaller stones? I would guess the center stone the furthest back is between 50 and 70 carats? Are they also similar as to opacity? It almost seems like the one directly to the left of the quarter with the redder appearance is broken in a way that reveals a kind of semi-glassy appearance to it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Big Rex: Most of the rubies are the same shade, I'm attaching another picture, not sure about the black looking stone, could be sapphire, not as good recognizing them as I am rubies. I'd say you're pretty close on the size, I had cut my wife a 7+ carat ruby or pink sapphire, depends on who you ask and the large ones in the picture are at least 10 times that size. Cutter indicated that these stones were not quality enough to do anything with, fracured, twined, etc. so I'm just keeping them as specimens. Should I try to clean them anymore or leave as is ?

post-23981-0-24259100-1295887490_thumb.j

Link to post
Share on other sites

Buckshot,

Nice collection forming there, you may have a good amount of sapphires if you're not trained at ID'ing them yet. On most water worn NC corundum, you can hold them up to the light and move them around, rotating to look for what I call "stairstep" surfaces, they are very small, shiny, flat surfaces that reflect light even on a rounded stone.

Yep, one man's pink sapphire is another man's ruby, pretty much depends on what they want to call it when it comes to where to draw the line. I wouldn't do any more cleaning than using a fine wire brush with soap and/or cleanser. On the rubies acid seems to noticeably dull the red shades and leave them more pink. We would never put rubies in muriatic acid although it worked fine on the sapphires.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Just found my first ruby yesterday in the host rock on my farm, so needless to say I'm a happy camper or should I say rockhound today. It was found in a small palm size light green rock with a silver sheen on it similar to mica. Almost threw it away but it had a little green on one side and the other side was covered with iron. Took it home and soaked it in Iron Out over night and checked it today all iron was gone and began to see rubies, two easily seen and as I looked closer probably at least 4 or 5 small ones. Found it in a small slow moving stream where I've found the green sand (see earlier post on green sands). Also found another piece or two of corundum. This location is approximately 60 ft. upstream from where I've found a lot of corundum, so maybe I'm getting closer to the source. Will keep posting on any future finds. Do you think the green rock is dunite it is pretty thin ??

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just found my first ruby yesterday in the host rock on my farm, so needless to say I'm a happy camper or should I say rockhound today. It was found in a small palm size light green rock with a silver sheen on it similar to mica. Almost threw it away but it had a little green on one side and the other side was covered with iron. Took it home and soaked it in Iron Out over night and checked it today all iron was gone and began to see rubies, two easily seen and as I looked closer probably at least 4 or 5 small ones. Found it in a small slow moving stream where I've found the green sand (see earlier post on green sands). Also found another piece or two of corundum. This location is approximately 60 ft. upstream from where I've found a lot of corundum, so maybe I'm getting closer to the source. Will keep posting on any future finds. Do you think the green rock is dunite it is pretty thin ??

Congratulations on your find. :thumbsupanim Hope you have more success. :thumbsupanim Wish I could find my very own rubies near where I live... :hmmmmm:

Steve

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rex-

Any idea why there's quite a bit of gem grade emeralds being found in NC? :hmmmmm: No disrespect to anyone that finds rubies or other gemstones etc but they are very rarely gem grade. At least that's my impression.

http://www.northcarolinaemeralds.info/HiddeniteDistrict/NAEMMine/NAEM.htm

Hoping you could shed some light on this.

Steve

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just found my first ruby yesterday in the host rock on my farm, so needless to say I'm a happy camper or should I say rockhound today. It was found in a small palm size light green rock with a silver sheen on it similar to mica. Almost threw it away but it had a little green on one side and the other side was covered with iron. Took it home and soaked it in Iron Out over night and checked it today all iron was gone and began to see rubies, two easily seen and as I looked closer probably at least 4 or 5 small ones. Found it in a small slow moving stream where I've found the green sand (see earlier post on green sands). Also found another piece or two of corundum. This location is approximately 60 ft. upstream from where I've found a lot of corundum, so maybe I'm getting closer to the source. Will keep posting on any future finds. Do you think the green rock is dunite it is pretty thin ??

Hi Buckshot,

Dunite is pretty much composed of olivine from what I've read, maybe that could be a source of the green sands. However, if the host rock looks like it has a micaceous sheen, it may be something like fuschite or possibly chlorite, which are varieties of mica schist. I inserted links for images of those three minerals. I know there was a lot of what I was told was olivine on Corundum Hill, and it did have the granular appearance of dunite. Some Indian corundum specimens have fuschite as the host rock and even though there is apparently much dunite on Corundum Hill I was shown specimens from the area with a chlorite crust coating them. Congratulations on finding the specimens in host rock, which I would say is a pretty good feat for most locations in North Carolina considering the age of the Appalachian geology.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rex-

Any idea why there's quite a bit of gem grade emeralds being found in NC? :hmmmmm: No disrespect to anyone that finds rubies or other gemstones etc but they are very rarely gem grade. At least that's my impression.

http://www.northcarolinaemeralds.info/HiddeniteDistrict/NAEMMine/NAEM.htm

Hoping you could shed some light on this.

Steve

Hi Steve,

I'm not as well versed in North Carolina Emerald Geology, but it appears one good possible source of more information would be "Fieldtrip Guidebook Hiddenite District, Alexander Co, NC". I know the Columbian Emeralds formed mainly in calcite fissures coming up through the local geology which was composed of sedimentary rock such as shale. Impurities within the hydrothermal fluids in the fissures helped facilitate the emerald formation. It's my understanding that emeralds from the Crabtree Mine are from pegmatites. At least one location in Hiddenite is supposed to have a hydrothermal origin, mabye not so much of a pegmatite origin. I know emerald from different locations will have various types of identifying inclusions, but I'm sure you already knew that as well.

A couple geology links: Abstract of report on Rist Emerald Mine in Hiddenite, NC

Abstract of report on Columbian Emerald Geology

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rex-

I am very familiar with the formation of emeralds from Muzo,Chivor,etc and some of the emeralds that have been found in North Carolina are comparable to those from Columbia. I guess what I meant to say is have their been any gem grade rubies found in North Carolina that are comparable to the those found in Burma? I have read about some large ruby finds in North Carolina but they never mentioned anything about the grade and whether they were suitable for faceting. I know you can facet anything but....

Steve

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...