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Gem Mining

Your guide to gem mining in the Franklin, NC area!


Guide to Gem Mining in the Franklin, NC Area!

Gem mining has been a favorite activity for visitors to the Franklin area for years. As you read on you’ll discover our heritage as “Gem Capital of the World” as well as how to mine, what to look for as you mine and complete descriptions of active mines in the greater Franklin area!

Keep in mind most mines are open from spring through autumn. As always have you have further questions or need additional information call our toll free number or use the request information form link found at the top of this page.

Mining History In Macon County – Franklin, NC
gem-mining-wncMining for ruby and sapphire began in Macon County in 1870. Called corundum, the minerals were mined commercially for abrasives and gave work to many men. Corundum and other minerals, mica and kaolin, were hauled to the railroad by horse and wagon and shipped out of Macon County in large quantities. Tiffany’s showed an interest in the area in the 1890’s but two other companies, American Prospecting & Mining Co. and US Ruby Mining Co., began work hoping to find the source of the rubies found in the corundum mines. Both companies ended the search in the early part of the 20th century leaving the area open to rockhounds and gem enthusiasts. The source hasn’t been found – yet.

What To Bring To The Mines
Bring ziploc bags or a plastic butter dish to take your stones home in (no glass). Rubber gloves are handy if it’s chilly or you have a nice manicure and a hat and some sunblock if it’s sunny although many mines provide cover on the “flume”. The wooden benches get hard as the day goes on so you might need a cushion to sit on or old towels work well too and you can use them to wipe your hands. Wear old clothes and tennis shoes or boots and bring a plastic bag to put your muddy shoes in and an extra pair to wear in the car. Bring a picnic lunch, most mines provide a place to eat out of rain or sun, plan to spend the day! And you will need to bring the camera for those pictures to show friends you played in the mud in North Carolina and found beautiful gem stones.

How To Mine
Most mines sell gem dirt in a bucket or bag (few allow digging) and you may have to pay an admission fee for the day. You are provided with a screen for washing and there is a flume – a trough of running water – with a bench along it’s length. The dirt goes in the screen, the screen goes in the water and the mud is washed away. Well, it’s not quite that easy but it is completely safe and mine operators are on hand to help with technique and identification.

What To Look For At The Mines
The “3 C’s” of gem mining are Color, Clarity and Crystals. Gemstones come in every color from white to black. Garnets are glassy red , pink or reddish brown. Rubies are silky red, sapphires are every other color, and both have a crystal formation with 6 sides. Moonstones are pearly white to gray and peach to chocolate brown with a flat box-like shape. Quartz comes in many forms, sometimes clear colors like Amethyst and Citrine, sometimes opaque colors with mica flecks like Aventurine and of course clear with sides – quartz crystals. That’s just a few of the many gemstones found at local mines. Stop in at one of the many gem shops for a crash course in gem identification or spend some time at The Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum in the old jailhouse on Phillips Street in historic downtown Franklin.


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  • Mason’s Ruby & Sapphire Mine

    April 1 - October 31. 9am to 5pm (October 9am - 4pm) 7 days a week. Franklin's original "Dig Your Own" native gemstone mine. Now offering enriched buckets. Home of the "Bell Ringer" for 10 carat and larger stones. Located in scenic Burningtown.
  • Cowee Mtn. Ruby Mine

    Cowee Mtn. Ruby Mine is locally owned and operated for over 35 years.  Open March 1st through December 1st, 7 days a week.  We are located on Hwy 441, 4 miles north of Franklin.  Two covered flumes offer mining rain or shine.  Our gem shop offers a wide range of gifts. Also you can get your stones evaluated for cutting and setting.  Free Admission.
  • Gold City Gem Mine

    Home of the 1061 carat sapphire found at Gold City, featured in PEOPLE WEEKLY, DISNEY ADVENTURES and ROCK & GEM Magazines. Native and Enriched Gemstones buckets. We also have Gold Panning. New and Improved large covered flume for Gem Mining rain or shine.Located on highway 441, 6 miles north of Franklin, NC. Click on website for hours of operation or give us a call at 1-800-713-7767. Free stone inspections.
  • Sheffield Mine

    Native Ruby & Sapphire Mine - see on TV - Come find a valuable piece of North Carolina or mine for gems from around the world.  Open 7 days a week April 1st through October 31st from 10 am till 5 pm.  Last customer at 3 pm because real gem mining takes 2 to 3 hours minimum.  See you soon!
  • Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine

    Experience the joy of mining for Native North Carolina Rubies, Sapphires, Garnet and other gems. The 686 carat Cherokee Princess & the 1,070 carat Cherokee Chief Rubies were mined at our mine in scenic Cowee Valley. You will enhance your knowledge of gems and may even become a Rockhound!
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    Franklin Tourism Development Commission

    98 Hyatt Road • Franklin, NC • 28734
    Phone: 828-524-3161


    Visitor Hours

    May – October
    Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm
    November – April
    Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm

    Closed New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day