Editor’s note: I’d like to introduce you all to Morgan Meredith. Morgan’s writing combines passions for geology, culture, and authentic experiences. Her remote work as a consultant for coaches (AccountableHero) allows her to explore often. It is my hope that she becomes a semi-regular contributor here at The Royal Tour, teaching us about the world through its geology. Please click here to read more of her writing!
About an hour outside of Clemson University, in an area choked with so many beautiful lakes you wonder if there may be more than the 10,000 Minnesota boasts, sits Diamond Hill. This gemstone hotspot gets its misleading name from the beautiful quartz clusters settlers noticed on the ground – so don’t be disappointed to learn that you’ll have to make your way over to Arkansas to dig for actual diamonds.
While you’ll find plenty of quartz crystals throughout this area of South Carolina, much of the area can be treacherous to walk through or privately owned. Finding access can be difficult, especially with rivers and lakes at high volumes currently. The privately owned Diamond Hill Mine promises a memorable adventure for those seeking to uncover the treasures hidden beneath the surface – or sometimes, just sitting on top, which rockhounds call “surface finds.” Suitable for all ages and affordable, the mine boasts several types of beautiful quartz.
Getting to Diamond Hill Mine is part of the adventure itself, as the journey is filled with picturesque views. The mine is accessible by a regular-clearance car, and you’ll park near the entrance. Be sure to bring your own food and water to make the most of your day among the gemstones, surrounded by nature. Diamond Hill Mine‘s entrance fee is a wallet-friendly $20 per person, making it accessible for both individuals and families. This nominal fee grants you access to the entire six acres from 9am to 5pm.
For tools, their website provides solid guidance in terms of rakes, buckets, shovels, and stools, but also be sure to bring a spray bottle so that you can easily see your treasures! A wheeled wagon will also allow you to move around the site more easily.
Be sure to inquire at checkin about any current hotspots and what can be found in them. They’ll describe the difficulty level of each type of digging as well. The tailings piles (loose dump piles from the large-scale equipment used at the mine for commercial purposes) are suitable for those with limited mobility as well as children, while the rest of the terrain may include hiking and more difficult digging. While visiting that table, be sure to take a peek at the gems they have on display so that you’re more conscious of what you’re likely to find.
The mine boasts many kinds of quartz, including the expected clear variety, as well as amethyst (a purple-hued variety), citrine (orange-tinged), smoky (gray or black), milky (white), and a type I’d not heard of prior to this trip: skeletal quartz (also known as elestial quartz). The latter creates stunning formations that look like teeth or bones. The matrix that holds the skeletal formations together seems to be weaker than that of other types of quartz, so take care as you dig to avoid smashing apart the portions if you find one.
As you dig, consider the serene hike down to the creek to fill up your bucket with water to wash off your specimens. A quick rinse will help you know immediately whether your find is worth keeping or not. Tip: seek out the bright red clay, where nice quartz tends to hide out.
Finally, if for some reason you’re unable to find anything worth taking home (which would be highly unlikely), the checkin table displays some available for purchase.
Diamond Hill sits on a geological formation called the Sixmile Thrust sheet, which consists of older rocks being pushed over younger rocks (geologists believe at least ten folded rock sheets make up this formation). This folding results in a fascinating mix of rocks, with a higher amount of metamorphic rock than other nearby formations. Thrust sheets are typically located over a thrust fault, and the Sixmile Thrust is no different; it overlies a geologic fault line called the Seneca Fault, where the top plate is still currently sliding and pushing to the south. The mixing of these
sheets means the ages of the rock in the area range from 541 million years ago to 443 million years ago, when Earth’s surface still mostly consisted of ocean; thus, geologists believe most of the rock in the area was metamorphosed marine sediment that had volcanic material mixed in as well. The most common rocks found in the Sixmile Thrust are a mix of gneiss and schist (both metamorphic rocks), with pegmatite and quartz (igneous) making up quite a bit of the material as well. Check out South Carolina Geological Survey’s interactive map of South Carolina’s geological formations here.
As you explore the Diamond Hill area, keep an eye out for the geological variations and appreciate the geological processes that shaped this remarkable landscape. Overall, the Diamond Hill mine is a nice day trip for a solo traveler, couple, or family, with some great finds to be had and knowledge to be absorbed.
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