Finding agate in Tennessee can be challenging if you don’t have the correct information. Agates are often hidden, unlike more common rocks and minerals on a hike. To find these semi-precious gemstones, you need to have a trained eye and know where they will likely be.
Many people spend hours or even days sifting through riverbeds, exploring rocky areas, or digging in possible hotspots, but they don’t find anything. If you don’t have good information, a treasure hunt that should be fun can become frustrating.
But we have good news! We’ve already worked to share options with anyone who wants to hunt for agates. We have everything you need, from detailed maps and suggestions for sites to tips on what tools to use and how to find good geological markers for a gratifying experience.
What is Tennessee Agate?
Agates are so beautiful that they take your breath away. They come in a wide range of colors and patterns that are truly unique.
Each type of agate, whether banded, moss, or plume, has qualities that make it popular with collectors and fans. They are formed when hot water filled with minerals flows into holes in other rocks and then slowly hardens over time.
Their smooth surfaces can show a mesmerizing interplay of light and color, making them look like tiny works of art created by nature. Even though agates can be found in many places, it still takes a sharp eye and some rock-hunting knowledge to find one.
For more information, we wrote an article about how much agates are currently priced.
Moss agates are a unique and fascinating type of agate that looks like they have patterns inside of them that look like plants. Nope, that’s not actual moss in there!
The green, brown, or black patterns resembling ferns or moss are made from mineral impurities. Imagine looking into a clear or milky-white stone and seeing a tiny forest captured inside.
Tennessee isn’t famous for its moss agates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find any. The state has diverse rocks and minerals thanks to its varied geology.
Your best bet would be to look near riverbeds, streams, or places where water has flowed through volcanic rock or limestone.
Fire agates are like little treasure chests of color; they’re a unique type of agate with this fantastic, fiery glow. The stone is full of iridescent red, orange, gold, and even green flashes.
This magical show of colors happens when light hits fragile layers of iron oxide or limonite crystals inside the stone. You hold a tiny flame when you turn a fire agate into the light.
The chances of finding fire agates in Tennessee are pretty slim. They are primarily found in the southwestern United States.
Blue lace agates
Blue lace agate is a beautiful and unusual type of agate with soft, wavy blue and white lines running through it. It resembles the sky on a clear day or the soft waves of the ocean.
Its soft colors make it a popular choice for jewelry and home decor. Like other types of agate, blue lace agate is made when mineral-rich water fills holes in rocks and then hardens over time.
Some minerals, like silica, mixed with small amounts of iron and aluminum, give blue agates its unique color.
The tools every agate hunter will need
When you're out looking for agates having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.
We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced agate hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.
Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.
At a minimum you should have:
1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard
2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set
3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well
4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill
5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable
6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to
7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect
The agate-finding books that we use most
There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:
We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.
The Best Spots To Find Agates in Tennessee
We’ve listed our suggestions for places to find agates in each state. There are a lot of exciting places to find gems in Tennessee, but not all of them have agates.
The Cumberland Plateau is a natural wonder that stretches across the eastern part of the state. This high area is known for its rough landscapes, which include deep gorges, vast forests, and interesting rock formations.
The plateau is mostly a flat piece of land with a few valleys and cliffs that make it exciting and give it a variety of ecological niches. It’s a popular place for rock and mineral collectors because it has many different kinds of rocks and minerals.
Make sure you know the most up-to-date rules about collecting in Tennessee before you bring back any agates you find there.
Where we found agates in the Cumberland Plateau
The area around Crossville is a well-known place to look for rocks, such as agates. Agates and other semi-precious stones can be found in the gravel beds next to creeks and streams.
Collectors have also found agates in Grassy Cove, which is also on the Cumberland Plateau. Creeks, riverbeds, and areas of bare rock near these places are usually good places to start looking.
Horse Mountain is a gem few people know about, but it’s a great place to find beautiful agates. This elevated area is in the southeast of the state. It has a unique geological landscape that is perfect for making agates.
The mountain’s soil and rock layers, mostly chert and limestone, are the perfect place for minerals to seep into cracks and form agates. This process is sped up by the many streams and creeks in the area, eroding the land and exposing possible agate finds.
Even though Horse Mountain isn’t as commercially used as other places with lots of agates, it has its quiet charm that attracts new and experienced collectors. Because the area isn’t too crowded, you can often find agates peacefully and without interruption.
Where we found agates at Horse Mountain
Creeks and streams that run through or near Horse Mountain are usually good places to start when looking for agates. As these waterways wear away the rock around them, they can reveal hidden pockets of minerals.
Another place to look is exposed bedrock or outcrops, especially those made of chert or limestone because these geological conditions suit agate formation.
LaFollette is in the beautiful hills of East Tennessee, making it an excellent place for agate lovers and rock hunters. This cute town is surrounded by the Cumberland Mountains, which have various geological features.
With sedimentary rock formations like limestone and shale, the area is a good place for agates to grow. Its creeks, streams, and exposed rock outcroppings are great places to look for these beautiful stones with bands.
Given its natural beauty, featuring lush forests and rolling hills, searching for agates here becomes a serene experience combined with the excitement of discovery. The waters flowing through this terrain contribute to the exposure and erosion of rocks, enhancing the chances of unearthing agates or other semi-precious gems.
Where we found agates in LaFollette
Streams, creeks, and rivers that run through or near LaFollette are good places to start. The banks and beds of these waterways often hold an assortment of rocks and minerals that have been eroded and shaped over time, making them potential sites for agate discovery.
Oak Ridge is known for its scientific contributions, but its geology is often overlooked, which makes it a good place for agate hunters. It’s located in the state’s east, close to the Cumberland Plateau, which has some of the same mineral-rich features.
The area comprises sedimentary rock formations like limestone and shale, good places for agate to grow. The waterways in and around Oak Ridge help bring these hidden gems to light.
It’s an excellent place for people who want to discover new things and enjoy the beauty of nature at the same time. It has wooded areas and riverbanks where you might find agates and an enjoyable outdoor experience.
Where we found agates at Oak Ridge
Generally speaking, rivers, creeks, and streams in and around Oak Ridge are good places to start your search for agates. Waterways like the Clinch River and its tributaries can have eroded banks with various agates.
Exposed rock formations or outcrops in the area, particularly those made up of sedimentary rocks like limestone, could also yield agates. Road cuts or construction sites can sometimes expose these rocks, but be sure to seek permission if these areas are on private property or have restricted access.
Richardson’s Landing has a unique geology that attracts rock collectors and nature lovers. The area is known for its sedimentary formations and old alluvial deposits, which make it a good place for agates to grow.
This location stands out because it’s exciting and has new things to discover. Even though the area is beautiful in and of itself, it’s also a quieter and less crowded place to look for agates than more popular spots.
Where we found agates at Richardson’s Landing
The riverbanks and sand plains nearby are good places to look because that’s where rocks and minerals carried by the river currents end up.
Additionally, the sediment layers in this region sometimes yield unusual agate formations that differ from those found in mountainous or plateau areas.
Other Great Places To Find Agates in Tennessee
We’ve already suggested where we think are the best places in Tennessee to look for agates. We want you to be successful in your search, so we’ll tell you more places in the state where you can find them. We’ve put them in order by county:
Our recommendations by county
|Rutherford||Murfreesboro area, in chert at road cuts and ditches|
Additional areas you can find agates
Here are a few more specific places where agates can be found. Because Tennessee has a vast area, we want to help you find these beautiful stones.
Agate collectors often think of quarries as treasure troves, and this is for a good reason. Geological layers, usually deep below the Earth’s surface, can be seen in these excavated sites for the first time.
They make it easier to get to the agates and other minerals hidden below. Removing rock from a quarry often breaks open cavities and cracks that haven’t been touched in thousands of years, letting minerals and gemstones shine through.
Streams and creeks, with their ceaseless flow and erosive power, stand as dynamic geological agents, constantly reshaping the landscapes they traverse. These waterways serve as natural conveyor belts for agate collectors, unearthing and transporting hidden gems from their origin points to more accessible locales.
As agates form within volcanic rock cavities, the surrounding softer rock gradually erodes, releasing these treasures. Streams and creeks expedite this process, washing away the eroded material and often revealing agates.
Streams and creeks
Streams and creeks are always a dynamic setting for agate hunters because the natural forces of water and erosion continually refresh them. These flowing waterways move rocks and minerals from where they were first found and deposit them along the banks and beds.
As water flows over the land, the rocks around it wear away. This often reveals pockets of agates and other gemstones that were hidden. This action does most of the hard work of digging for you, putting together a group of stones ready to be found.
Common Agate-Hunting Questions
When people go to Tennessee to look for agates, they ask these questions most often.
Is it illegal to collect agate in Tennessee?
You can collect agates in Tennessee if you follow the rules. When you are on private land, have permission to go in and take specimens.
The Best Places To Buy Agates In Tennessee
Some people don’t like spending a hot day outside looking for agates. Sometimes, you only need one piece to add to your collection or give as a gift. Here’s a list of Tennessee rock shops where you can easily find agates:
- Alex’s Rock Shop – 100 S Main St, Shelbyville, TN 37160, United States
- The Hidden Gem – 1229 Dinah Shore Blvd, Winchester, TN 37398, United States
- Jae’s Gem Mine – 2416 Music Valley Dr #102, Nashville, TN 37214, United States
- Old Smoky Gem Mine – 968 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, United States
- Yellow Sky Emporium – 220 W Dumplin Valley Rd, Kodak, TN 37764, United States
If you have any recommendations for our list please leave a comment below!