Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spruce Pine North Carolina

We left Cherokee and headed east towards Raleigh-Durham where Bill and Junior have to catch a flight to Alburquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday. We decided to stop at a small town called Spruce Pine to check out a gem mining attraction. Before we left Wisconsin I had purchased two books detailing mountain roads and the grades - one for the West and one for the East. We have used the Western edition quite extensively but for some reason we failed to check the Eastern edition before heading north on Hwy 226 from I-40 here in North Carolina. We.will.not.make.that.mistake.AGAIN. It was a nightmare of hairpin turns and in one spot actually had a 14% grade....that's right FOURTEEN PER CENT.  Needless to say, we will NOT be leaving Spruce Pine the same way. We will have to go west back to catch up with I-40 and add 70 miles or so to our trip but that will be much better than the roller coaster ride we came here on.

Spruce Pine is called "The Mineral City" as gem mining is an important part of the economy and culture of the area. So on Friday we decided to be real tourists and go to one of the multitude of gemstone mining attractions that are in the Spruce Pine area called Gem Mountain. We decided to go to this particular attraction because it had been featured on TLC's show "The Hunt for Amazing Treasures" and we remembered seeing it.

It goes like this. You go inside the flume area where there is a long trench of cold (did I say cold?) stream water. After buying a bucket of gems which range in price from $25 for a 4 gallon bucket of mixed gems all the way to $800 for a huge, huge bucket of pricey stones like emeralds. We opted to share the $25 bucket and proceeded to look for the next Hope Diamond.

I was a bit disappointed that our bucket did not contain any peridot which is my new gem of choice along with diamonds of course. It took an hour to empty our bucket between the two of us. The guy working at the time was nice enough to come and throw a couple of peridots into Bill's sifter so I did come away with a couple!

 As you can see we didn't come away with anything resembling the Hope Diamond but we did get a couple of decent sized amythests, emeralds and rose quartz pieces. When you are done panning you take your bag into the store where the gemologists tell what what is worth keeping and what is not. Of course they also encourage you to have them cut and set your stones in a piece of jewelry. I asked him how much it would cost to take one of the peridots and made it a silver ring. He told me it would be about $45 to cut it and $40 to mount it. Add that to the $25 for the bucket and I probably could have gotten a much better deal on a sale at Kohls! They were also 4 weeks out in getting the jewelry to you. If they are 4 weeks behind now imagine how behind they are when the full summer tourist season hits. All in all it was a good time and a chance to do something different.,_North_Carolina

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