Scenes from The Carolina Emerald

The idea for The Carolina Emerald grew from an article that mentioned an unsolved burglary of the American Museum of Natural History. Among the items never recovered was a six-inch emerald that had been mined in North Carolina.

Emeralds in North Carolina? I’d never heard of such a thing. Most of today’s emeralds are mined in South America.

After a lot of research – which included a tour of a real North Carolina emerald mine – The Carolina Emerald was born.

The photo from a 1907 NC Geological Survey is the actual emerald stolen from the museum.

Researching The Carolina Emerald

Emerald from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Emerald Embedded in Quartz

North Carolina emeralds are found only in the presence of quartz, mica, pyrite and the powdery limonite seen on this miner’s fingers.

North Carolina Emerald Mine, The Carolina Emerald, Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Digging for North Carolina Emeralds

When I visited a real North Carolina emerald mine, I expected to travel into a deep cave. Instead, the mine resembled nothing more than a rock quarry. The photo above shows a new exploration into the red earth.

Pocket of uncut emeralds from The Carolina Emerald, Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Emerald Pocket in North Carolina

Emeralds are found in pockets deep within the earth. Above you can see the raw emerald crystals nestled among other minerals.

Close-up of emerald crystal from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Emerald Crystal

Emeralds form into long, six-sided crystals. Emeralds from North Carolina tend to have a slight bluish tone.

Super long emerald crystal from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Record-Breaking Long Emerald Crystal

North Carolina emerald crystals of this size are sold for museum displays around the world.

The Wizard of Oz and hunting for emeralds in North Carolina

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Take another look at the stolen emerald, shown above next to a poster of the Wizard of Oz. Notice how the long emerald crystals resemble the peaks of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz? Now remember that North Carolina emeralds are found only in the presence of yellow limonite. Is it any wonder that miners joke about following the yellow-brick road to the emerald pockets?

Creating a Realistic, Fictional Emerald Mine

Overhead view of a North Carolina emerald mine, from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery.

Overhead of a Real Emerald Mine

If you’ve read any of my mysteries, you’ll know that I like to make them as realistic as possible. Well, as realistic as I can be when an amateur sleuth solves mysteries. To create the emerald mine where Kim digs for gems, I started with an overhead view of a real emerald mine

Adding fictional elements to a real photo of a North Carolina emerald mine.

Adding Fictional Elements

Next, I drew a new road onto the overhead photo and began adding important elements from the story. I even added the location of the body. Mystery writers are so weird.

Sketch of fictional mine from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Sketch of Fictional Mine

I used sketching software to create an overhead close-up of the fictional mine. Not the prettiest sketch, but it helped me visualize Kim’s movements.

Sketch from The Carolina Emerald, a Kimberley West Gemstone Mystery

Side View of Fictional Emerald Mine

Finally, I sketched a side view of the mine, showing the hilly landscape and the location of the surrounding forest. This helped me keep track of when Kim was running uphill or downhill!

Weaving the Research Throughout The Carolina Emerald

To enhance the reader’s experience, I wove the above research throughout The Carolina Emerald.

Below is an excerpt. The scene takes place at the emerald mine. Rory, Kim’s standard poodle, unearths an old leather bag.

“Kim expanded the bag’s opening and gently tipped the contents into her hand.

“A faded bandana had been wrapped around something. The bandana itself was unusual. Unlike the standard blue or red print, this one was imprinted with words: Truth, Knowledge, Vision.

“She frowned. Why did that combination of words sound so familiar?

“She turned the bandana over, searching for an easy way to unwrap it without tearing the fragile threads. Finding an edge, she gently teased the bandana open.

“The forest, the birds, even the dogs faded into the background as she stared at a distinctive green crystal.

“No, not one crystal. Three bolt-shaped emerald crystals rose from the same base, their shape resembling the turrets of a castle. The crystals were long enough to cover her palm and weighed about as much as a small bag of dog treats. Even with the sun partially blocked by trees, the pure green color shimmered.

“The bandana that had wrapped it now lay beneath, the imprinted words invisible. She didn’t need to see the bandana, however, to conjure the words from memory: Truth. Knowledge. Vision.

“No wonder the words had seemed so familiar. She’d first seen them as a child, carved above the doors of the American Museum of Natural History.

“The bandana had been someone’s souvenir. And the emerald . . .

“The emerald had been stolen from the museum more than half a century ago.

“The nudge of Rory’s nose startled her and she almost dropped the emerald. Glancing up, she suddenly realized that she stood in the middle of a forest, out of sight of her friends. The sun had moved lower in the sky and now the woods were full of shadows.

“With trembling fingers, she re-wrapped the emerald, her ears straining for the sound of Rachael or Scott.  But all she heard was the beat of her own heart. Where were the birds, the insects?

“Rory suddenly turned and stared deeper into the forest, tail up, body rigid. Was he alerting to deer or a squirrel . . . or something on two legs?”

— excerpt from The Carolina Emerald