The 21 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Tennessee In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 21 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Tennessee In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Tennessee is known for its rich mining history and abundance of gemstones, making it one of the top destinations for gem mining. Whether you’re an expert gem hunter looking for a spot to mine for gems or a family who wants to introduce their kids to gem hunting, there are plenty of opportunities to discover!

Gemstones can be found from the Great Smoky Mountains to the lush forests and streams of the Cumberland Plateau. With so many of these great locations available, we know it can be hard for you to decide where to dig for gems. So, here are some of our recommended spots to do gem mining in the country’s Volunteer State.

The ideal locations to find gems in Tennessee are creeks, rivers, stream beds, mountains, and hillsides. Our favorite spots include the Cumberland Mountain State Park, Elmwood Mine, Douglas Lake, Cooper’s Gem Mine, and Pigeon Forge Gem Mine, which we have covered in great detail below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in Tennessee
In order to find the absolute best places in Tennessee for gem mining we had a lot of things to consider. It can be really tough to find good information so it took us a long time to put together a solid list like the one below. The main inputs to our recommendations are as follows:

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from several gem hunting groups and organizations
  • The accessibility of the mining locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced gem hunters and those who are just starting out

Overall we’ve been able to put together a great list that anyone can use to locate a lot of beautiful gems.

The Gemstones Found In Tennessee You Can Mine

A few pieces of gorgeous Obsidians discovered while gem hunting in Tennessee

In Tennessee, there is an extremely wide variety of gems. Since every state is different and not everyone knows where to get this information, we’ve made many guides to help you locate gem mines near you. You can find rare and more common gems in this area with the appropriate information and good fortune.

Rare gemstones found in Tennessee

  • Agate
  • Freshwater pearls

More common gemstones found here

  • Calcite
  • Jasper
  • Obsidian
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining in Tennessee

We’ve created a list of our favorite locations so that adults and children can use it to experience the thrill of gem mining. These places will allow adults to participate in real gem mining and help kids get off to the most incredible start on their gem hunting quests.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Cumberland Mountain State Park

An elegant Celestite located at Cumberland Mountain State Park

24 Office Dr, Crossville, TN 38555, United States

Cumberland Mountain State Park is located in Crossville, on the Cumberland Plateau. The park covers 1,720 acres and is surrounded by the Cumberland Forest. There are a ton of outdoor activities, such as gem mining, where you can search for precious stones and minerals in the park’s mining sluices. It’s popular among families and is a fun way to learn about geology and the local environment.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Cumberland Mountain State Park

  • Barite
  • Calcite
  • Celestite
  • Fluorite
  • Gypsum
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz
  • Sphalerite

The Best Time To Visit Cumberland Mountain State Park

The best time to visit Cumberland Mountain State Park for searching gemstones is in the summer months of May to August. The park offers gem mining activities during this time of year, and the weather is usually warm and sunny.

Rock pick being used

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 rockhounding tools 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:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southeastern Quadrant 

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.

Elmwood Mine

A stunning Calcite mined at Elmwood Mine

Carthage, Smith County, TN, United States

Elmwood Mine is an underground zinc mine located in Carthage. It was initially opened in 1969 and was later shut down for a considerable period until it reopened in 2010. You can explore the underground workings of the mine and learn about its history by taking a guided tour or by visiting one of the many interpretive exhibits located around the property. You can also find amazing Tennessee crystals here.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Elmwood Mine

Over the years, the mine has generated numerous gemstones, some of which were:

  • Aragonite
  • Barite
  • Calcite
  • Fluorite
  • Sphalerite

The Best Times To Visit Elmwood Mine

The spring months are the perfect times to explore the mine. Fewer gem miners go during this time of year, so you won’t have to worry about large crowds or long lines.

Douglas Lake

Two people searching for gems at Douglas Lake

Douglas Lake, TN, United States

Douglas Lake is a great location that allows you to comb through the sandy banks of the lake in search of gems and minerals. You can purchase additional tools, such as sieves and magnifying glasses, to help them find their hidden treasures. This fun experience is excellent for all ages, so come prepared with sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Douglas Lake

Gem hunters can find various gemstones here, including:

  • Calcite
  • Hematite
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Douglas Lake

The best time to visit Douglas Lake to search for gems is in the summer, providing extended daylight so you can spend more time hunting for gems.

Cooper’s Gem Mine – Great for kids

Children finding gems at Cooper's Gem Mine

1138 Big Hollow Rd, Blountville, TN 37617, United States

Cooper’s Gem Mine is located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. You can experience the thrill of prospecting for gemstones and minerals and purchase jewelry made from the gems they find. The mine also offers educational programs to teach people about geology and how to pan for gems.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Cooper’s Gem Mine

Cooper’s Gem Mine has a variety of gems, crystals, and other minerals available you can dig for, including:

  • Agate
  • Amazonite
  • Amethyst
  • Apatite
  • Aquamarine
  • Aragonite
  • Aventurine
  • Calcite
  • Chrysocolla
  • Citrine
  • Fluorite
  • Garnet
  • Hematite
  • Jasper
  • Kyanite
  • Malachite
  • Moonstone
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz
  • Tourmaline

The Best Time To Visit Cooper’s Gem Mine

Cooper’s Gem Mine is open year-round, and the weather is usually mild throughout the year. The mine is open for gem hunters from 9 am to 5 pm each day, and it’s best to plan your visit for a more enjoyable experience.

Pigeon Forge Gem Mine – Great for kids

A kid looking for gems at Pigeon Forge Gem Mine

2865 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, United States

Pigeon Forge Gem Mine is a family-owned gemstone mining attraction in Pigeon Forge. It’s been operating since 1998 and offers a unique experience for all ages. You can purchase buckets of ore that contain semi-precious stones, then use sluice boxes to search for their gems.

The staff at Pigeon Forge Gem Mine are knowledgeable about geology and can answer questions about the different stones that gem hunters find.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Pigeon Forge Gem Mine

Although there are many various types of gems in this area, it is mainly recognized for having a lot of the following:

  • Aquamarine
  • Amethyst
  • Citrine
  • Kyanite
  • Ruby
  • Sapphire
  • Smoky Quartz
  • Topaz

The Best Time To Visit Pigeon Forge Gem Mine

The mine is open year-round, but hours may be limited in the winter months due to weather conditions. Planning before spending the day with family or friends would be best.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Tennessee

A handful of beautiful Quartz located while real gem mining in Tennessee

There are many gemstones in Tennessee, not just in the locations we’ve already highlighted. Along with our top picks from the list above, here are a few more fantastic locations you should check out if you want to go gem hunting in this state.

  • Ben Lomond Mountain – Calcite, Celestite, Dolomite, Marcasite, Pyrite
  • Boatland – Calcite, Celestite, Dolomite, Marcasite, Pyrite
  • Buffalo Cove – Calcite, Celestite, Dolomite, Pyrite, Sphalerite
  • Bumpus Cove Mining District – Anglesite, Cerussite, Hematite, Sphalerite
  • Burra Burra Mine District Actinolite, Garnet, Pyrrhotite, Quartz
  • Horse Mountain – Agate
  • Little Tennessee River – Clear Quartz
  • Mossy Creek – Smithsonite, Sphalerite
  • Straight Creek Mines – Sphalerite
  • Tennessee River – Freshwater Pearls
  • Unaka Mountains – Epidote, Quartz, Unakite

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Tennessee

A family doing public gem mining in Tennessee

Here are some more excellent suggestions for parents who want to introduce their kids to gem mining.

  • Jae’s Gem Mine – 2416 Music Valley Dr. Suite 102, Nashville, TN 37214, United States
  • Little River Gem Mine – 2189 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37876, United States
  • Lucky ‘7’ Mine – Craftsman, S Valley, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863, United States
  • Magic Gem Mine – 2135 Wears Valley Rd, Sevierville, TN 37862, United States
  • Old Smoky Gem Mine – 968 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, United States

Tennessee Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

Tennessee has a few regulations that apply to recreational gem hunting. These regulations are designed to protect the environment and ensure public safety. Prospectors must obtain a permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation before engaging in any gemstone prospecting or collecting.

Gem hunters may only collect gems on state-owned lands with permission from the appropriate land manager. They must adhere to all applicable state laws and regulations, including land use and access, water quality, wildlife protection, and air quality. Prospectors must not disturb any archaeological sites or artifacts while gem hunting.

All collected gems must be kept in their natural form; they may not be altered or processed before being removed from the site. All collected gems must be labeled with the collector’s name and date of collection; this information should also be recorded in an inventory log.

For more information on Tennessee’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website link above.

Additional places to mine for gems in nearby states

You can browse the list of guides we’ve created below to locate more gems in the neighboring states when you’re done visiting each of the sites we mentioned above:

If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered, please leave them in the comments below!

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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