If you’re looking for a fun activity where you find real buried treasure gem mining in Illinois may just be the perfect choice for you! With its diverse topography and rock formations, our state is an ideal spot for finding some pretty incredible gems.
Whether you are a novice or an experienced gem miner, there are plenty of spots here where you can find a wide variety of gemstones. As you go through your search, you’ll learn more about the geological history of the area.
Check out our list of the best places to go gem hunting here. Whether you’re on your own or with your friends and family, there’s a great place here for you!
The best places to mine gems here are in the state parks, hills, mountains, mines, and farms. Among our favorites are Cave-in-Rock State Park, Minerva Mine Conco Mine, Golden Gulch Gem Mine, and Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm, which we have all discussed below.
The Gemstones Found In Illinois You Can Mine
Rare gemstones found in Illinois
More common gemstones found here
Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining In Illinois
Below are our five favorite places to gem mines here based on the variety of gems that can be found in each location and on the amount of fun you’ll have discovering them.
The first three we discussed here are targeted towards adult who are into real gem mining, while the last two will be perfect for kids and families who want to have a blast while searching for gems.
1 New State Park Rd. Cave-in-Rock IL 62919
Cave-in-Rock State Park, located in Hardin County and along the banks of the Ohio River, is known not only for its beautiful views and abundant wildlife, but also for offering some of the best gem mining opportunities in the region.
It was established in 1929 and was named after a large rock shelter that had been carved out by the river over time. Today, you can search for gems at several locations throughout the park.
You can also purchase buckets of gravel from vendors and search through them for gems.
The Types of Gems Found In The Cave-in-Rock State Park
This place abounds in diverse gemstones, both rare and more common. Most abundant among these are the following:
Confusing gems with each other is a common problem, but fear not! Our user-friendly guides will give you all the information you need to tell specific gems apart:
The Best Time To Visit Cave-in-Rock State Park
If you have plans to visit this place, the best time to do so would be during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is usually warm during these months, making it ideal for outdoor activities. Additionally, the park typically opens its gem mining area during these months.
The tools every gem hunter will need
When you're out looking for gems it's very important that you bring the right tools with you. 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 gem miners which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhound supplies 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 gem-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.
Minerva Mine No. 1
Rock Township, IL
Minerva Mine No. 1, located in the town of Metropolis about two miles east of the Ohio River, has been in operation since the mid-19th century. It is known for its production of a unique variety of Quartz crystal called Smoky Quartz.
To this day, the mine is still producing different kinds of gemstones. If you visit this place, avail of the opportunity to search for gems on your own or take part in the mine’s guided tours.
This is among the favorite spots of crystal hunters to search for crystals in Illinois.
The Types of Gems Found In The Minerva Mine No. 1
This mine has a variety of gemstones, but it’s abundant with the following:
- Smoky Quartz
The Best Time To Visit Minerva Mine No. 1
It’s best to visit and explore this place during spring and summer months because the weather is warm and dry. These conditions make it easier to search for gems. Additionally, during this time of year, the ground is more likely to be dry, making it easier to reach the mine.
North Aurora, Kane Co., IL
Conco Mine has been in operation since the early 1950s and has since become a popular tourist attraction. It was first discovered by local prospectors in 1952, when it was known as the “Honeycomb” mine due to its honeycomb-like formations of Quartz crystals.
Over the years, more minerals were discovered and today, the mine is known for its large variety of gemstones from around the world. When you visit here, you can explore the various tunnels to search for gems. The mine also offers educational classes for those interested in learning more about gemstones and minerals.
The Types of Gems Found In The Conco Mine
This mine is known for having rich deposits of the following gemstones:
The Best Time To Visit Conco Mine
Conco Mine is open year-round, but the best time to visit here is during the summer months, which typically run from June through August. During this time, temperatures are usually comfortable and the days are longer, allowing for more hours of exploration.
Golden Gulch Gem Mine – Great for kids
17250 Weber Road Lockport, IL 60441
Located in the small town of Elburn about 40 miles west of Chicago, Golden Gulch Gem Mine has been in business since 1992. The area was mined back then for its abundant mineral resources.
In 1992, the current owners purchased the property and began operating as a gem mine. Today, you can enjoy a variety of activities for families and groups, including gem mining, prospecting, rock hounding, gold panning, fossil hunting, and more.
The Types of Gems Found In The Golden Gulch Gem Mine
This mine is great for families and kids who have an inkling towards exploring places and discovering gemstones on their own since it has a rich variety gemstones.
The Best Time To Visit Golden Gulch Gem Mine
Visiting here with kids? The best time to do it would be during the spring and summer months, when the weather is warmer and more conducive to mining activities.
Many people also find that the warmer temperatures make it easier to work with the equipment and search for gems. Additionally, the daylight hours are longer during these months, which allows for more time to explore and search for gems.
Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm – Great for kids
13341 West 151st Street Homer Glen, IL 60491
Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm is a family-owned farm that has been operating since the 1950s. The farm offers a variety of activities, including gem mining among others.
If you visit this place to experience searching for gems, you will sift through bags of sand to find different kinds of gemstones in our state. The gem mining experience is offered from spring through fall each year.
The Types of Gems Found In The Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm
Here, kids will have a blast getting the chance to discover different kinds of gemstone that are naturally found in our region. For a list of the possible finds here, refer to the list of rare and more common gems above.
The Best Time To Visit Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm
If you’re planning to visit here with your kids, the best time would be during the summer months, from May through September. The farm offers gem mining activities on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.
It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm availability before visiting.
Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Illinois
Lucky for you, our favorite places are not the only gem mine sites here. Apart from the ones we’ve shared above, here are some more great places that might just give you the gem mining experience of a lifetime.
- Rosiclare – Calcite, Fluorite, Sphalerite
- Sparta – Pyrite
- East Brooklyn – Marcasite, Pyrite
- Hamilton – Agate, Jasper
- Fayville – Agate, Diamond, Jasper
- Cordova – Agate
- Bishop Hill – Agate, Jasper
- Galena – Cerussite
- Thebes- Agate, Jasper
- Palestine – Siderite
- Elizabethtown – Aragonite
- Mt. Vernon – Diamond
We know gemstone confusion can be annoying, but with these practical tips, you’ll be able to tell one gem from another in no time:
The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Illinois
For families wanting to expose their children to the thrill and adventure of gem hunting, here are some of the best family-friendly locations that both you and your kids will enjoy visiting.
- Driftstone Pueblo – 702 W Tower Rd. Saint Elmo , IL 62458
- Richardson Adventure Farm – Spring Grove, IL
- Oliver’s Mining Co. – 1700 Nations Dr, Gurnee, IL 60031
- AMJ Spectacular Events – Gemstone Mining Activity for Parties available for Illinois
Illinois Gem Mining Laws And Regulations
Recreational gem mining is regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). While it is not allowed on any land owned or managed by the IDNR, it is still possible to mine on non-IDNR managed lands by getting permission from the landowner and any other local government agencies governing the land.
Make sure to follow all applicable laws when searching for gems, including those related to trespass and water rights. Additionally, no commercial operations are permitted without first obtaining a permit from IDNR.
The IDNR also prohibits the use of equipment such as shovels, picks, screens, or sluices in streams and rivers.
Finally, it is important to note that any precious gemstones you will find belong to the owner of the property where they were found. If you wish to collect any of it, make sure to get permission from the landowner first.
For more information on the state’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ link above.
Additional places to mine for gems in nearby states
If you’ve already visited all the places we’ve listed above or if you’re considering traveling to the surrounding states, see our guides for those states below:
- Gem mining in Indiana
- Gem mining in Iowa
- Gem mining in Kentucky
- Gem mining in Missouri
- Gem mining in Wisconsin
If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered, please leave them in the comments below!