There are many states in the U.S. where natural gems can be found. In South Carolina, there are several different counties where you can look to find your own gems (and even gold). Some of these counties also offer "pay to dig" sites--for a fee, you can dig for precious gemstones. There are different ways to go about looking for different gem stones. And should you find one (or several) you can keep them for your very own collection of gems or even set the gem in jewelry.
Know where to look. There different counties around the state that produce different types of gemstones. Here is a list of counties where gems can be found:
Abbeville: zircon and garnet Anderson: beryl, zircon and amethyst Cherokee: garnet, tourmaline and quartz Greenville: kyanite, smoky and clear quartz, sillimanite, garnet and tourmaline McCormick: beryl Oconee: cats eye, sillimanite, quartz and garnet Spartanburg: garnet, tourmaline and quartz York: Zircon, corundum, garnet, tourmaline and quartz
Visit the various "pay to dig" sites (counties Abbeville, Anderson, Greenville and McCormick all offer these sites). Although you have to pay to get into the sites, it can certainly be worth it. Not only are you working in an enclosed and safe area, but there are plenty of people who work at the sites that will offer their advice and experience in digging for gems.
Use a shovel and bucket to find the gemstones. Dig up a square foot of earth, placing the dirt into a bucket. Slowly and carefully, take out handfuls of dirt. Open your fingers slightly to allow the dirt to fall through your fingers and back to the earth. With your fingers only slightly opened, any gemstones will remain in your palm for you to examine.
Sift through the dirt with a sifting pan. A sifting pan, also used to find gold, has very tiny holes in the bottom of the pan. When filled with dirt, the holes will expel the dirt, keeping anything too large to fit through the holes. Take a look what's left inside of the pan and see if any of the contents are gems.
Wash all of your findings with water. Cleaning the items thoroughly will help you verify and examine what you have found (it could be a precious gemstone...or just a rock). To get rid of tough dirt and grime, use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Get low to the ground and walk around--sometimes it's as easy as that. This method works best after a heavy rain. The rain washes through several layers dirt, bringing the gemstones to the dirt's surface. When the sunlight comes out, the gems will slightly glisten. Getting low to the ground will help you see the gems easier.