Generations of rock hounds and miners have turned the earth in western North Carolina, looking to bring a special ruby, sapphire or emerald - the "big three" of the gem world - to the light.
The passion started early for Terry Ledford, 53, who operated a gem stand on weekends when he was a kid. "I always loved rocks," said the Spruce Pine resident.
For W. Renn Adams, 90, the world of spodumenes, hiddenite and beryl runs even deeper in his blood. His Alexander County family has been digging for them since the 1880s.
The men's interests became intertwined early this decade when they became partners on the Adams family farm, which grows corn along with its treasures below.
And then came that day in August 2009 when Ledford saw what looked to be part of a 7UP bottle. It was an emerald crystal. A very big emerald crystal. Some 310 carats of it.