$25 Investment Yields Huge Payday for Amateur Diggers at N.C. Emerald Mine

Amateur gem hunters Libby and Kevin Barrieault paid $25 apiece to rummage through an aging emerald mine and came away with a 50.5-carat gem worth upwards of $10,000, according to ABC News.

This 50.5-carat emerald was discovered in Hiddenite, N.C.

The next day, another couple working only a few feet from the Barrieault’s find hit the mother lode as they discovered a pocket containing a single 30-carat emerald, 240-carats of smaller emeralds and about 160-carats of high quality “matrix” emeralds, which are commonly embedded in rock. Terry Lofgren and fiancé John Kehoe estimated their haul could be worth $30,000 to $40,000.

The emerald discoveries took place at the sleepy North American Emerald Mine in the town of Hiddenite, N.C. The mine, which had been closed to the public for 40 years, was recently reopened to treasure hunters at $25 a head as a way for mine owner Jamie Hill to make some extra money.

Little did Hill know that the mine was still so rich in precious emeralds.

Known locally as the “Emerald Man,” Hill told ABC News that he had no regrets: “I haven’t had a major find in a number of years,” Hill said. “I figured, if you bring in a whole bunch of recreational miners in here and let them go loose, it’s a great experience for them and they may just find something. It helps me, too, because it leads me to new locations. So it’s win-win.”

Libby and Kevin Barrieault found a 50.5-carat emerald under a rock.

Incredibly, the town of Hiddenite, N.C., was also the source of four remarkable emeralds that an anonymous benefactor donated to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh only a few days earlier. The collection included the “Carolina Emperor,” a 64.38 carat gem-quality masterpiece that was cut from a 310-carat crystal.

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