Are you ready to go on a treasure hunting vacation for a gem that is such a beautiful color of blue that the Latin word for it, “aqua marinus” literally translates to mean “water of the sea”?
Then an aquamarine mining adventure may be just the vacation you’ve been looking for!
Before you go out to find some for yourself, you probably would like to know what aquamarine is. Aquamarine is a gem in the beryl family, which includes not only aquamarine, but also emerald, morganite, heliodor, and bixbite.
How is Aquamarine Formed
Now you’re probably wondering “How is aquamarine formed?” Well…
Aquamarine is found and formed in beryllium bearing pegmatite deposits all over the world, but gem quality aquamarine is a rare find indeed.
A good specimen without any inclusions (cracks or other minerals trapped in the crystal), deep blue aquamarine can fetch you over $1500 a carat*. Unlike emerald it is much more common to find specimens of aquamarine that are inclusion free.
Aquamarine gets it’s light blue to deep-sea blue color from trace amounts of iron that are also present in the pegmatite deposits that it was formed in.
If you would like to see a full discussion on the formation of crystals such as aquamarine within the pegmatite please see our pegmatite page.
How is Aquamarine Mined
Your next question is probably going to be “How is aquamarine mined?”
Aquamarine mining is a type of hard rock mining, so the two main ways of doing it is with either hammers and chisels, or with the use of explosives.
Of the few places in the world that allow you to mine for aquamarine for yourself, much of the really hard work is already done for you. So there should be no need to mark this treasure hunting vacation off your list out of fear of really heavy labor.
At many of these locations you can search through piles of ore from the mine. Searching through this ore can take quite some time, the key here is to move as much ore as you can, but once you start to find some of those wonderfully colored gems you’ll want to slow down just a bit.
While your digging through the ore you’ll need to screen all of it to pull the larger material out. Just because you don’t see an aquamarine crystal in your screen at first doesn’t mean it’s not there, so you’ll want to put the material left in your screen in a bucket for washing and screening again later.
Since aquamarine and other gems such as quartz are often form in clusters in the host pegmatite, many times when the soil is dug out of the mine with one crystal in it, odds are that others will have been dug out at the same time.
So once you find an aquamarine crystal in a spot, don’t just leave that location, because many more aquamarine crystals may be hiding just under the surface for you to discover.
After you’ve dug out a bit of rough material from the piles, you will want to go down to do a final screen and wash of your material.
Once the dirt is washed off it will be much easier to see those wonderful blue piece of the ocean shining up at you.
Other sites that are open for the public to explore for aquamarine are old quarries, so these sites may require a little heavier digging then the ore piles. So be prepared to do a bit more labor at these sites.
Of the pieces of aquamarine you find odds are that the pieces that have deeper blue areas on them will most often produce the gem quality specimens. This is due to the fact that the more cracks and inclusions the pieces have in them the liter or more milky white the crystals will appear.
Where to Mine for Aquamarine
The biggest supplier of aquamarine in the world is Brazil, but there are quite a few deposits located throughout Africa and the United States.
In the US there are only 3 states that have areas available for aquamarine mining. They are in North Carolina, Maine, and Colorado.
The ones in North Carolina, and Maine are fee for dig mines, and the one in Colorado is free if you can still find areas that haven’t got new mining claims on them.
If you’d like to get your hands dirty, enjoy some fresh air, and just have a good time searching for your very own piece of the ocean trapped in a gem. Then see some of these aquamarine mining sites, and enjoy your treasure hunting vacation.
Bushy Creek Aquamarine Mine Spruce Pine, NC
Songo Pond Mine Bethyl, Maine
Mt. Antero Nathrop, CO
*Please understand the fact that although some gems are sold at a price like that, the odds are very much against a person not directly in the mining business ever even seeing a gem of that quality. Treasure hunting vacations are not about getting rich, they are not about the treasure you find in the ground, they are about the treasure you find in searching for the beauty that nature has to offer, and the treasure of enjoying time with family and friends. Enjoy your trip for these things and you will have a treasure hunting vacation of a lifetime.
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