Crabtree Emerald Mine
Spruce Pine, North Carolina

History of the Crabtree Emerald Mine

The Crabtree Emerald Mine is one of the most famous emerald mines in North America. The mine has been worked for emerald since the late 1800’s. In 1890 the first emeralds were found by farmer Alfred Chrisawn on the Thomas Sparks Sr. property. In 1894 J.L. Rorison of New York and D.A. Bowman acquired the mineral rights and began mining the property. The Crabtree was mined by Tiffany & Company of New York from 1895 until around 1900. In 1905 the mineral rights were acquired by the American Gem and Pearl Company. This company mined the site from 1906 until 1908. During this time many nice emeralds were found, some measuring one inch long and one inch in diameter. The emeralds occur in a pegmatite vein approximately five feet wide with well defined walls. This pegmatite matrix encased the emeralds along with associated minerals, garnet and tourmaline. These stones were cut en-cabochon with the crystals in the host rock and given the name “emerald matrix”. Another attempt to mine the site took place in 1919. From 1930 until 1935 the Crabtree was mined by Edward Fortner and J.P. Grindstaff. From 1939 until 1957 the Crabtree was idle with the exception of the occasional rockhound. In 1957 the site was opened again by Little Switzerland Emerald Mines. After 1957 the mine was again idle. In later years the Crabtree was mined commercially from 1965 until the 1980’s by the partnership of Bill Collins and Peggy Fortner (widow of Edward Fortner), during which time fee collecting was allowed on the dumps. The workers would go into the mine and load the ore cart, the cart would then be hauled to the surface and dumped for the mine customers. Many beautiful specimens were collected during this time. In 1979 the famous “Lineberger Emerald” was found. This emerald was reported to weigh 1,492 carats. It’s whereabouts are unknown today. In the early 1980's the mine was closed for some time. The mineral rights were purchased in 1984 by the partnership of Ted Ledford, Bert Roper and Dal Duppenthaler, the new owners actively mined the site and public collecting was allowed on the dumps. In the late 1980’s the state mine inspectors visited the site and the mine was eventually shut down for various safety reasons. As of 1994 the mine has set idle with the occasional collector visiting the site. After over 100 years, the mine has been dug into the mountain over 200 feet. The adit/shaft today is under water and the area looks like a natural pond. If you walk around the edge of the pond, you will see the old ore cart tracks running into the mine. In 2003, Roper and Duppenthaler acquired sole ownership of the mine property and mineral rights. Almost 20 years of collecting had taken their toll on the mine dumps, the piles had been thoroughly picked over and the site was becoming unproductive. In May, 2006, the current mine owners, Mineral City Mining Company asked local rockhound, Richard Jacquot to manage the site for them. Richard is also the president of a local mineral club, the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association. Today, through management of the club, the mine has been rejuvenated. The M.A.G.M.A. club has brought in heavy equipment to dig deep into the old tailings piles that are 20-40 feet deep in places. Many beautiful emeralds have come to light in recent years and the mine is experiencing a re-birth of sorts with many new rockhounds getting the chance to experience finding emeralds at this famous and historic site.

The Crabtree Emerald Mine is the only "real" emerald mine in the United States that is open to public collecting.

Noted crystals and specimens found at the Crabtree Mine:

A 77 pound “Emerald Matrix” specimen with an estimated 1,500+ carats of emerald was found in 1974 by Ken Kyte. Currently in the Richard Jacquot collection.

A 200 carat crystal was found in 1976 (Bill Collins) that would cut a 40 carat faceted stone.

In 1979 the 1,492 carat “Lineberger Emerald” was found, the crystals whereabouts is unknown today.

In 1985, Seth Hammer, Son of Dr. and Mrs. Daniel Hammer, found a 83.11 carat crystal.

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