Jewel thieves have made off with rare gems worth $100,000 from an emerald mine in North Carolina.
The burglars broke into the Emerald Hollow Mine, located 60 miles north of Charlotte, some time overnight on Saturday.
During their raid they grabbed both cut and uncut gems, jewelry set with diamonds, and Hiddenite stones – which are found nowhere else in the world.
Owner Jason Martin told the Charlotte Observer that he believes the burglars visited the mine as guests first, before later returning to raid it.
Martin bought the mine in 1986 and has worked to turn it into a major tourist attraction, pulling in around 38,000 visitors per year.
Display cases and two safes were raided, Martin said, with rings and jewelry worth between $10,000 and $15,000 inside.
The most expensive single item taken was a $26,000 emerald pendant set with diamonds, he added.
Some of the items were rare and dated back decades, making them impossible to replace.
Martin said he is particularly galled at the thought that the thieves might throw the precious stones away, in the false belief that only their gold housings are valuable.
‘That is a bitter pill to swallow,’ he said.
Martin believes it will take the mine years to recover from the theft, which will badly impact the local community because of how many job rely on it.