By: Sidney Dills, Diversions Editor
There is a place on Poinsett Highway where one can literally find buried treasure. Jewels, crystals, estate pieces, minerals, and fossils can all be found at Dixie Gem, a niche store that sells all things related to geology.
Dixie Gem has been on Poinsett Hwy for 43 years. The current owners, two twin brothers named Larry and John Turner, have owned the business for 28 years. They bought the shop from a friend that shared their interests in geology who they had worked with in the past. Working primarily as mineral dealers, the Turners buy pieces from shows and collectors, bring them to their store.
While the two brothers do not quite remember how they got into geology sales, they do remember one of their first experiences with minerals as children. As boy scouts, they worked with intense interest to earn their Geology and Mineral merit badges. Now the boys make their business selling a little bit of everything related to geology and they often go to local rock shows to pick up new pieces. When Furman had a geology major, the Turners even advertised in the Furman student phonebook that used to be sold on campus. Several former students who pursued higher degrees in geology now sell pieces to the brothers.
While looking around the store you might see a framed picture of the brothers holding the “The Boot of Cortez,” a 27 pound piece of gold that was found in 2007 and sold for $1.5 million dollars at a time when it would have only been worth $300,000 based on the price of gold on the market. Unfortunately, the brothers were not the people responsible for finding or buying this “boot.” However, the piece still stands as a cool slice of history that they were able to capture on camera and, now, display to customers.
The brothers are a huge part of the Dixie Gem experience. They are willing to answer all of your questions, explain structures of minerals, show you minerals under a black light, and crack jokes along the way.
“I thought Strom Thurmond was old enough to be our fossil,” said Larry Turner, referring to the new state fossil, the Columbian Mammoth, for example.
John is more serious in business, while Larry enjoys joking with Dixie Gem’s customers.
Amongst its jokes, Dixie Gems houses two fossils and, although neither are for sale, both are wonders to look at. The first is a piece of the new state fossil, a mammoth tooth the size of both of my palms. The second piece is an American Lion skull, a remnant of a now-extinct species.
Along with fossils, there are a variety of mineral samples of all sizes and types. There are several samples of Angle Plate Quartz, a rare mineral only found in Northern Greenville County. There are a few pieces for sale, but their rarity makes them expensive, costing approximately $500 each.
While Dixie Gem houses unique not-for-sale pieces on display, it also includes plenty to shop for. For any mineral or coral collector, the shop has great samples, all reasonably priced. For $20 to $40, you can purchase a large piece of amethyst showing prismatic crystals, a geode, or a raw vein of copper.
I always thought that antique jewelry or estate pieces would be incredibly expensive and difficult to come by, but the store offers cases full of items for sale and many are only about $20. If you are looking for an unusual looking bracelet or pendant to match an outfit or give as a gift, look no farther than Dixie Gem.
Dixie Gem showcases history, not just in the sense of surrounding visitors with million-year-old rocks, but also in the stories that the brothers can tell.