Ten-year-old Lawrence Shields picked through a bucket of dirt at a commercial gem mine, and found an interesting rock.
“I just liked the shape of it,” he said.
It turned out to be a 1,061-carat sapphire, one of the state’s biggest.
Experts said it is worth thousands, but that its exact value won’t be determined until it’s cut and polished. Lawrence and his parents say they’ve been told it could be worth more than $35,000.
On Wednesday, Lawrence and his family, from Alexandria, Va., were at the Gold City Gem Mine near Franklin in southwestern North Carolina, one of several in the state.
Lawrence worked through a $10 bucket of soil - about 16 pounds, said manager Sandy Hanson - and found a large bluish-black stone.
Then people around him started getting excited and taking pictures.
“I thought it was because he was a little kid,” said the boy’s mother, Maria Shields. “We thought, ‘These people in the mountains are really nice.”’
Lawrence’s father, Larry Shields, said he hopes the stone will help pay for his son’s college education.
Lawrence has other plans. “I’ve decided to buy a fishing boat,” he said. “The name is going to be Sapphire.”