Gem Hunting, My Side Job as a Gold Miner

I get LOTS of questions about gems and gem hunting especially from gold miners. So I figured I’d address a few of them.   For me, I have always been a “rock hound” back to my childhood and it’s what got me started in gold mining.  I can remember those cool old wooden boxes with mysterious rocks from around the world.  Ah… to be 10 again.

First… gems are NOT easy to find for most. They usually lie in POCKET areas and you can be OFF good gems with only a few yards of movement.  Also, most gems are buried DEEP so if you’re not working excavated dirt, they can be scarce.  Also, the type of gems in YOUR area will differ greatly.

Can gems be caught in a gold sluice?
A gold sluice is a gold sluice and set / tuned for that. To your SLUICE… gems are ROCKS that you tell it to get rid of. Again, you have told your sluice and header box to get these things out of here. It’s only doing its job. Yes, at shut down you might see the occasional gem in the sluice, but 98% of our gems are found by HAND SEARCHING. Your tailings, both from your header system and at the end of the sluice, will be discharging gems. You must screen them and inspect them.

I heard they made diamond sluices?
True, but most of the BIG BOYS in the diamond industry use diamond jigs and still rely heavily on visual / hand inspection.  They also are not focused on GOLD as a primary capture.

How can I tell what gems are native to my area?
Did someone SEED these gems in?
Simple… learn to pan or inspect your black sands with a magnifying glass. Much like gold, gems also get crushed by water and grinding actions of rivers and creeks. If you look at the TINY fine black sands in your system, you’ll see tiny pieces of gems.  (See picture below)  Humans don’t SEED tiny gems the size of salt. So if you see these traces… they are native to your area. It should also tell you what to look for. Note… that is the tip of my finger in the picture.

raw gemstones prospecting

How can I identify gems? 
It just takes time. Carry a chart around with you and it REALLY helps to go somewhere that HAS gems. It’s a VERY worthwhile investment to spend a day at a pay-to-play mine and LEARN. If you never find any, you’ll never silly little things about them. Like a river topaz… feels round and smooth like a jelly bean. (Pic below)

raw gemstones prospecting

Eventually, after years, you’ll be spotting them from 20 feet away.

Some cool finds from the past 2 years in Georgia.

BELOW… A good day of gem hunting (gold mining)

Below… we call them watermelon rubies.

Below crazy day…. tons of terminated quartz points.

BELOW rutilated quartz.

BELOW … A massive cluster of quartz crystals found at the Loud Mine.



  1. Nice collection you have there. I’m from Wisconsin and there is not a lot here except for agates. Because of the glaciers any gems or gold are spotty. I’ve wondered if there was a better way of finding gems while searching for gold but I guess it just takes a little more work and I need to train my eye to spot them.

  2. My trip to Georgia last year (2016) got me HOOKED big time on gem stones! My husband, who usually goes for the gold is slowly turning to see what gem stones has to offer 🙂

  3. The majority of gems found in the southeast have little true “gem” value. But if you find something interesting, it could have value. A lot of people sell their gems on EBAY.

  4. Joining a rock club in the area to help identify what you find. Working with those who collect rocks could help you find areas to collect gems. Knowing what is in the area and where you can collect will help a lot. SOmetimes they know where there are good collections sites. Learn from others is a great step.

  5. True, the gems are getting my attention more and more.
    If I can combine both gem hunting and gold prospecting all that much better.

  6. I have quite a few gems from N.C. that i have sent overseas to be cut not really worth a lot but sure look like bling to me 5 carat silver topaz is brilliant and looks like a diamond . I also mail order sapphire gravel from Montana AND HAVE SO/SO LUCK one 21/2 carat stone after being cut that is a yellow stone and a few that are in the carat and 1/2 range

  7. Rock hounding is something I have done since I could walk. I am new to gold panning this year. I am so excited to have found more information and websites to connect with like minded people. Its lovely to continue to learn about what I love.

  8. Great article, went to Gold N Gem Grubbin , the first time was Feb 11th, we used classifyers and buckets, we found quite a few gems and some gold to boot. My wife and I were amazed at just how small some get ground up. Salt grain sized Amhytist , pyrite , crystals. It took a bit to clean up the cons I brought home , my wife loves picking through them after I panned out the gold, she takes specks of Amhytist and pyrite and arranges them in a locket , looks great. We call it the semi semi precious locket.

  9. Like DanRud suggested: join a Gem n Mineral Club. Best thing I ever did as my hubs and I are both gold and rockhounders. Its so amazing when you find that gemstone out there whether in water or dry land. It does a heart good for sure !!
    We are in both a gem and a gold club, my hubs has gold claims that we regularly pan on in the summer as well as the gold club claims. We have learned a lot in the gold club and still learning in the gem club (as we just joined last July 2016, been a gold person for 25 years joined the gold club 10 years ago). Good information, good leads and good people.

  10. Really great info on gems and hunting for them Doc. steaming00 could you provide a link or such for the overseas outfit that cuts gems for you?


  11. I’m just starting out gem hunting, like you said I’ve also been a “rock hound” since a very young age. I’m looking for any tips and tricks you might have for someone just starting to hunt 🙂

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