The Southern Appalachian Mountains known beauty lies in plain sight of forest blooms in spring and the soon to be leaf color change in the fall. However, a wide variety of beauty lies on and under the surface in the form of minerals, semi and precious gems and rocks, including highly prized diamonds and gold.
The mountain highlands, and the Piedmont Plateau adjacent, are made up of the oldest strata of crystalline rocks of igneous and metamorphic origin and a real number of minerals and gems may be found - some in abundance.
Indians used the chert, flint, granite and quartz for arrowheads and an assortment of tools, primitive carvings have been found in white crystalline marble.
Early white settlers knew of the many rocks and minerals, but did not have the knowledge or capital to develop mines.
Consequently, northerners wound up owning the mining industry in Georgia.
A band of gold mines and prospecting sites runs northeast from Gainesville, Clarkesville, Helen and Clayton. Off to the side of this streak of gold, numerous mining and prospecting sites are seen in the ChattahoocheeForest near Blairsville. Slave workers made the first two discoveries of gold in Georgia, one near Helen and the other near Dahlonega - it is not certain as to which of the finds was actually first. In 1828, a slave of Major Logan of Loudsville (WhiteCounty) discovered gold on the Lovelady Place. At about the same time, another slave in neighboring LumpkinCounty found gold on Bear Creek near Dahlonega.
The discoveries of gold brought so many prospectors to Georgia that the legislature decided in 1831 to distribute the gold lands by lottery. 35,000 plots of 40 acres each were put up for the lottery and drawings were made by around 130,000 hopeful prospectors. A private mint was established a few years prior, but the first official mint was set up in 1838 in Dahlonega where over $7,500,000 were coined. You should visit the GoldMuseum (Georgia's oldest public building) in the center of Dahlonega.
Samples of area's gold are displayed along with mining relics and scale models of mining techniques. The name Dahlonega is from the Cherokee word – Talonega meaning (precious yellow color.") Over $40,000,000 of gold was taken in this area. You can see this gold on the Capital dome in Atlanta and the Price Memorial Hall on the campus of NorthGeorgiaCollege in Dahlonega.
Several mining operations are still going, but they are more oriented to tourist panning than to commercial mining. You do have a chance of finding gold in your pan at any of the panning operations. There are a lot of hobbyists who pan on a regular basis in the small streams in the area - some with success.
Gemstones, including diamonds, were found first during the search for gold. Prospectors kept only the obviously pretty stones and those they happened to recognize. Consequently, many high quality gemstones were overlooked.
Professional hunters and hobbyists say there are so many potential sites in Georgia that those presently involved could never thoroughly explore even the highly suspected areas.
Of the 500 gold mining and prospecting sites shown in Georgia's geological records, 16 sites were in Rabun County, but no major finds have been discovered in recent years.
Gold found was in small quantities in quartz deposits extracted by the old and slow stamping mill techniques. This method was too expensive to encourage new in- vestments in the search for gold, so most of the mining operations were stopped around the time of the Civil War - some- what because many mines were owned by northerners who abandoned mines and never returned after the War.
Some of Georgia's finest amethyst is found in TownsCounty, in the Charlie's Creek area. Well known gem collector and lapidary, Gilbert Withers of Atlanta, was fishing when he made a major amethyst find. Noticing a shiny object in the roots of a fallen tree he discovered the roots had grown into a solid mass of-amethyst.
This area produces exceptional quality of deep purple with red highlights. In fact, TownsCounty amethyst rivals the quality of the best Siberian gems. The crystals have also been of exceptional size allowing for large faceted stones. The common border of Rabun and TownsCounties has reduced a remarkable number of gem quality amethyst stones.
TownsCounty has also produced Georgia's best rubies, found in an old corundum mine known as the Hog Creek Mine, a few miles southwest of Hiawassee.
Unlike rubies in many other red corundum stones, these rubies not only have the desirable red color, but are clear enough to facet into cur stones.
There are a number of old mines and prospects along the Appalachian Trail and Brasstown Creek that may be worth exploring. The beaches of Lake Chatuge, particularly when the water is down in the winter months, have gems for the picking in the form of kyanite or cyanide crystals, greets, quartz, tourmaline, rutile and corundum.
Gold is found with limited success around UnionCounty. Some individuals are prospecting on a regular basis, but as far as we can determine there are no active commercial mining operations.
The 4,000 acre LakeNottely is great for its boating, swimming, fishing and other recreational opportunities but unfortunately it also flooded a highly mineralized area of high quality minerals. lf you decide to prospect in the area, you may want to check out the lake shore in the
wintertime when the water level is lowered Collectors say this is the best time to search all of Georgia's northern lakes.
Obviously, Habersham is an area that should be explored. The second largest reported gold nugget found in Georgia was in HabershamCounty. It weighed 3 pounds 6 ounces.
Four out of five of the largest, ''reported" gold nuggets in Georgia were found in the Whitepath area of Gilmer County. The largest weighed 4 pounds 6 ounces, the third and fourth largest both weighed 3 pounds 4 ounces and the fifth largest was 2 pounds l l ounces. We say ''reported'' because most people will not spread the word about substantial finds as they do not wish to have another ''Gold Rush'' in Georgia.
Should you decide to try your hand at gold or gem panning, please keep in mind you should avoid going on private property without permission. Land owners are very protective of their hard earned property.
Maps are available showing at least 500 known gold mines in Georgia. Maps are sold at places offering panning and/ or selling prospecting equipment. These maps are not going to lead you to an easy find, but they will get you into an area that did have a working gold mine. From there you are on your own.
It is estimated that 90% of all the gold ever in Georgia is still in the ground.
You can get into prospecting on the open National Forest Lands, You may pan in any stream in public lands, collect and keep what you find of gems and minerals on an amateur basis. You may not do any digging or excavating in the forest lands as a commercial operation.
Happy treasure hunting!
John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on February 09, 2018:
I found the information about the rubies very fascinating. I pan in Arizona and find garnets myself. Love to learn about other states. Thanks.
JM on March 15, 2013:
I think it should be pointed out that any collecting in the Charlie's Creek area and the Hiawassee corundum mine is strictly illegal - these areas are frequently watched by the forest service and if you are caught it is a hefty fine and you are likely to be jailed!
dp on July 09, 2012:
Derek on May 27, 2012:
daquan on January 05, 2012:
wow this is cool
oldandwise on December 26, 2011:
Very informative hub. Voted up.