"Unimin Mine, in Spruce Pine, Silicon Valley, North Carolina, is the only place in the world where this ultra-pure mineral is found."
There are many gem mines in the Appalachian Mountains. As I was researching I found that the first gem that was found in the US was gold at the Reed Mine in Mecklinburg County, NC (which is just outside of the Appalachians). We have 12 counties that have gem mines; 8 of them being in WNC part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The other states in the Appalachians to have prospecting for gold mine are TN, SC, GA, & AL. You may find more information at GoldProspectors.org.
The most interesting gem to me that was mined around here is quartz. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral found in the earths contininetal crust after feldspar. The Spruce Pine Mining District of Mitchell County, N.C. is a 25 x 10 mile mining district that is a leader in quartz mining. From American natives using quartz for burial decorations to space computer parts, quartz in many forms has become a necessity today in mankinds progress.
There is much you could learn about quartz. Its history, types, chemical make up and mining opportunities but I found its uses most interesting:
1. Golf course sand - it is a highly valued white golf course trap sand sold across the country to the finest golf courses, including the Augusta National, the host for the Masters.
2. Computer semiconductors (chips) - Because of its extreme purity, quartz from the Spruce Pine District is used in EVERY computer in the world in its manufacturing process!
3. Light bulbs- Spruce Pine district quartz meet stringent purity requirements that make it valuable in extremely high temperature light tubing required for light bulbs in automobile, streetlights, and film projectors.
4. Jewelry - There are many forms of quartz used in jewelry today.
"Theres Gold, I mean, Quartz in them thar hills!"
If your interest is sparked, the Mineral City Heritage Festival is held on the 2nd Saturday in October this year!