Miners use different types of prospecting equipment depending on the gem they aim to mine and their location. Gem mining has been around for thousands of years. Many of the techniques and crystal mining tools remain the same today as they have for hundreds of years.
Sluice boxes are commonly used for collecting a wide variety of gems, including emeralds and gold. Panning in creeks or rivers is a simple method similar to sluicing. Often prospectors will visit remote river locations seeking precious gems. Digging for gems is the most labor-intensive method for mining gems.
Sluicing for Gems
Sluicing is common in gem mining operations. A person sits before a sluiceway or a flume, which is a channel of running water, and wash scoops of ore and dirt with a framed screen so that only stones are left. Today sluicing is a popular tourist attraction and activity in areas where large-scale mining efforts have been exhausted. For inexperienced miners, personnel of the mining operation can help identify which stones are actually gems in the rough.
For sluicing, buckets or bags of dirt and ore are required, along with the screens and shovels or scoops, so the crystal mining tools required is minimal. Sitting bent over a sluice can be time consuming, so often miners will use a cushion to make it easier. Sluicing is an outdoor activity, and the water can get cold in the winter. Gem miners must wear warm clothes and latex or rubber gloves to keep their hands dry.
Fossicking and Panning
Mountain mining operations may have creeks flowing through the terrain that is suitable for prospecting. The streams are up to knee deep and can contain gems that have been deposited in the waters from surrounding mines and landscape from erosion. Because of the essential equipment required, fossicking and panning are two of the oldest methods for seeking gems.
Fossicking simply requires miners to hunt among rocks and exposed gravel for precious gems. Screening, or panning, is more common and more productive. To pan, the miner needs a hand shovel and a screen, which is some type of metal grid enclosed in a frame. Screening is similar to straining things in the kitchen: dump a shovelful of gravel on the screen and strain with the available water. Today, mining operations rent or sell prospecting equipment to local prospectors.
Digging for Treasure
To dig for gems is to cut into the ground or in a mine's vein, hoping to find a mother lode that yields a valuable find. This kind of prospecting is hard labor and requires a rock hammer, shovel and bucket. Pickaxes are used for breaking up hard ground and getting into crevices in the rocks. Miners use scrapers made from iron straps and fencing wire help to remove dirt or small gems from crevices. These days, amateur gem miners can rent equipment at local mining facilities or bring approved equipment from home.
Large-scale mining operations use semi-mechanized equipment to help shift through more significant volumes of soil and speed up prospecting operations. This equipment includes excavators, bulldozers and washing plants. Miners either set up stationery washing plants if they plan to excavate an area for a long time or use mobile equipment. The washing plants work by filtering and sorting sand, gravel, minerals and gems through their size using water and filtration systems.
Other Prospecting Equipment
Other crystal mining tools small-scale gem miners use include containers or bags to carry out precious gems that are found, and a spare change of clean, dry clothes. Many miners also use kneepads or a towel for support while kneeling for long periods. Folding shovels are useful as they are compact for easy transportation in remote areas.
About the Author
Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.