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Rio Doce Mine

14622 Hwy 226 S

Spruce Pine NC 28777


P.O. Box 296

Little Switzerland, NC 28749



Fax: 765-2097


Rio Doce Gem Mine is open everyday from Easter through Halloween.

The operating hours are from 9:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M.


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Because the rich green color of emerald is the color of spring, the ancients prized it as the gemstone symbolizing love and rebirth. Treasured for at least 4,000 years by different cultures all around the world, emerald is said to quicken the intelligence as well as the heart. Legend gives its owner the gift of eloquence.


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One legend says that Satan lost the emerald from his crown when he fell. The emerald was shaped into a bowl which the Queen of Sheba sent to Nicodemus. Christ used the bowl at the last supper and Joseph of Arimathea used the bowl to catch blood from the cross, founding the order of the Holy Grail.

Emerald is the birthstone for May, the month of springtime romance, and the anniversary gemstone for the twentieth year of marriage, the perfect emblem of an enduring love.

Emerald is a beryl, a mineral that is normally colorless. Emerald's rich green color is caused by minute traces of chromium. Chromium is the rare Midas element of gemstones: its presence also gives rubies their firey redness. Crystals of emerald grew long before human history in metamorphic rocks, which usually restricts the size of emerald crystals, making them even rarer in large sizes.

Although many people consider Colombia to be the source of the best emeralds, country of origin is never a guarantee of quality. Even the best mine produces mostly low quality gemstones because good qualities are very rare! Fine emeralds also come from Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Russia and other countries, so don't be afraid to choose the emerald that looks better to you.

As you might expect from gems that have been known to spend centuries at the bottom of the ocean and then return to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions, emeralds are durable gemstones with a hardness of 7.5 to 8. However, emeralds with many inclusions should be treated with some care and be protected from blows. With a little care, your emerald will no doubt be treasured by your descendants thousands of years in the future!