May 2018

Several years ago we attended a family reunion at a wonderful event space that included a vast array of child-friendly activities. Among those activities were hayrides, a giant water slide, and digging for gemstones, as well as educational exhibits showcasing farm life before electricity, running water and gasoline engines. All of those activities seemed fitting for the locale – with the exception of gemstone mining. I’d only heard of gemstones being found in the upper Piedmont and Mountain regions of the state, and my only experience with gemstone mining had been an afternoon’s entertainment with my children on a trip to the mountains that included Tweetsie Railroad and Horn in the West.  

Today, there are more than 800 active permitted mines in the state. Many of these mines produce non-fuel raw minerals, crushed stone, construction sand and gravel. North Carolina leads the world in the production of high-purity quartz and is first in the nation in the production of feldspar, mica and olivine. But, let’s get back to the gemstones.

Did you know that rubies are more rare than diamonds? I was surprised to learn that. And, I was even more surprised to learn about a collection of four “extraordinary” rare star rubies that could bring more than $90M at auction. The stones were discovered in 1990 by native North Carolinian, and self-proclaimed rock hound, Jarvis Wayne Messer. Mr. Messer lived in the Asheville area. Reading this fascinating story recently  in the News & Observer and Garden & Gun Magazine, my interest  was piqued to learn more about gemstone mining in our state.

The first systematic attempt to mine gems within the state occurred in 1871. The first commercial source of emeralds in the United States was the Crabtree Emerald Mine in western North Carolina that opened in 1895. The mine supplied emeralds for Tiffany & Company. In 2009, a 64-carat cut emerald, known as the “Carolina Emperor,” was found in Hiddenite, Alexander County (near Statesville.) The raw stone measured two inches square. This find helped to solidify the area as a high-quality emerald district in the world market. It also prompted the opening of numerous commercial collection sites, luring amateur collectors to try their luck at finding gems. According to the Western North Carolina Vitality Index, primary gem-collecting counties include Alexander (emeralds and hiddenites), Macon (rubies, sapphires and garnets) and Mitchell (emeralds and aquamarine) – making North Carolina first in the east coast in the mining and marketing of gemstones and mineral specimens.

Today, North Carolina is home to more pay-to-dig mines than any other state. So, if you’re in the mountains this summer and looking for an activity to keep the young ones entertained, why not explore one of them? It’s sure to be a fun way to share time together while creating a lasting memory for everyone. Who knows, you might just find an amazing gemstone!

Scroll down to learn more about upcoming travel adventures and add to your knowledge about the state’s official symbols.

There are still seats available on the High Country Adventure, May 22-24, as well as Roanoke Island & the Outer Banks, June 5-7. Just click on the links to learn more.

Happy Spring!

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North Carolina's State Symbols

Continuing our exploration of our state’s symbols, the pine tree was designated the state tree in 1963. North Carolina’s extensive pine forests have played significant roles in the state’s economy since colonial times. The tree’s products of tar, pitch, rosin and turpentine were integral to the world’s ship-building industry during that period. Today, this renewable resource continues to play an important function in the state’s economy, especially the building industry. I chose the pine cone as the symbol for visit NC Concierge because the pine forests, from the mountains to the coast, unite North Carolina’s landscape. And I love the fact that our state toast pays homage to the pine tree. The poem, entitled, “The Old North State,” was written by Leonora Monterio Martin circa 1904 and adopted by the General Assembly in 1957 as the State Toast of North Carolina. Though never proficient at remembering lines of verse, the state’s toast has stuck with me since 8th grade North Carolina history! The first stanza of this poem, often recited at social events across the state, is as follows:

Here's to the land of the long leaf pine,

The summer land where the sun doth shine,

Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,

Here's to "Down Home," the Old North State!

An Update on Things to Come

Join us September 13th for a visit to Ft. Bragg, the largest military base in the world (in terms of population.) With uncommon access, this full day on the base will bring us closer to the soldiers, stories and traditions of the U.S. Army as we learn about North Carolina’s second largest economic sector.  

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Shearing Day Follow-Up

After writing about my visit to Stoney Mountain Farm in the April newsletter, Carvel Cheves emailed to tell me about shearing day on Clover C Farm – his multi-generation family farm in Franklin County. Carvel and his family converted from conventional crops – tobacco, corn and soybeans – to livestock in the early 1980s. Their flock of approximately 400 sheep is comprised of several breeds, each having their own special place and contributing different products to the farm. Shearing day at Clover C Farm is May 19th.

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What Our Guests are Saying About Us

"Mary Esther is always available to answer any questions you may have and with great patience. She also is very willing to help solve any problem you may have. She is an excellent planner, director and tour guide. Her trips have been super!"

"Just a short note to tell you how much we enjoyed our curated trip to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit yesterday. It was truly first class ... It was our first trip with you and certainly will not be our last."

"We were very well educated as to what we would be doing and what we needed to do to make it all happen. Everything flowed as expected."

"We loved the carriage tour through the historic district. The homes and buildings were beautiful. We loved everything we did and thought each stop was delightful. Exceeded expectations."

"What I appreciate is that you provide guests an opportunity to learn and experience a part of NC while you take care of all the logistics and details!"

Contact us to book your tour today! 
visit NC concierge is a premier hospitality company dedicated to providing the discriminating traveler unique experiences savoring North Carolina’s history, geography, and culture at a leisurely travel pace while enjoying the state’s finest sites, cuisine, and lodgings. Itineraries are subject to change at the discretion of the company. Group size: minimum 10; maximum 30. Registration for each tour closes 30 days prior to tour start date. For more information, visit us at
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8726 Cypress Club Drive
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