Gems of Tennessee

By Kathy Imbriani
Agates are found all over the world and are usually named for their location.

Tennessee is home to a range of gemstones, including the Tennessee freshwater pearl, which is the state gem. Agate, the state mineral, is found is several locations in the state and is highly valued by rock hounds.

Tennessee Freshwater Pearl

Although technically not a gemstone, the Tennessee Freshwater Pearl was designated the state gem in 1979. River pearls are formed by the indigenous Washboard freshwater mussels. Most often spherical or pear-shaped, these pearls are considered to be among the most beautiful and durable pearls in the world.

The Tennessee State Mineral

Agate is a semiprecious gemstone found in only a few areas of Tennessee. Formed by slow deposits of quartz into rock cavities, agates have centers laced with ribbons of color when sliced open. The Tennessee Paint Rock agate is best known for its spirals of yellow and red and is found at elevations of 1200 to 1600 feet. Other types of agate are the greasy cover agate, saw mill agate and greenhaw paint rock agate.

Middle Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society Museum

Tennessee boasts fewer gemstones than some other states, but the Middle Tennessee State University Mineral, Gem, and Fossil Museum displays examples from all over the world. Located in Murfreesboro, the museum was established in 2005 by the university's Department of Geosciences and is open to the public as well as students.

About the Author

Kathy Imbriani's love of gardening grew from a childhood spent on the family farm. She is the co-author of two gardening books and numerous articles on science and gardening subjects. Imbriani holds a Bachelor of Science in horticulture from North Carolina State University.