Gem mining has been a favorite activity for visitors to the Franklin, NC 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!
Mining History In Macon County - Franklin, NC
Mining 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.
Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine
(Native Only) Come enjoy the fresh mountain air, natural creek water running through the flume line and the scenic beauty of Cowee Valley. The mine is not "salted" or "enriched" and contains only native North Carolina gemstones, including Rubies, Sapphires, Garnets, Moonstones, Rhodolite, Rutile and Sillimanite. These gems occur naturally in the Cowee Valley and are not as plentiful as in "salted" mines, but are much more valuable and many are "facet quality". Helper's will be glad to help you identify your gems. The CHEROKEE CHIEF RUBY was found here in 1993. This huge gem quality ruby had a total weight of 1070 carats.
LOCATION: 41 Cherokee Mine Road off Ruby Mine Road, 828.349.2941
Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine
Located 4 miles north of Franklin at the foot of Cowee Mountain just off Highway 441,, Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine is open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. until "The Last Person Leaves". Two covered flumes allow you to mine rain or shine. Mining instructions for the novice on premises. Free Admission. Refreshing picnic area by shade trees & running brook. Cold drinks and snacks are available in the gem shop. Buses, large or small groups welcome. Group rates are available for groups of 15 or more. Gem dirt to go is available all year. Family owned and operated.
LOCATION: 6771 Sylva Road, 828.369.5271.
Gem Mine at Gem World
Open 7 days a week at 9AM, rain or shine, covered flume - conveniently located on Hwy 441. Colorful gems in every bucket! All equipment provided. Assistance to identify gems; custom gemstone cutting; gemologist on premises. Picnic area with restroom, soft drinks. Gem dirt to go! Group Discounts. Opal buckets available. Gift & Rock Shop.
LOCATION: 1884 Georgia Rd., 828.349.5411, email@example.com
(Native and enriched stones) Located in waterfall country above the breathtaking Cullasaja Falls on Hwy. 28 & US 64 halfway between Franklin and Highlands. Closed occasionally on Tuesdays. Gem cutting available, snack bar and gem shop on site. Covered gem mine. Friendly assistance in the cleanest mine around. 828.524.5850 - OPEN ALL YEAR
Mason's Ruby & Sapphire Mine
(Native Only) Under new management. This mine has an abundance of beautiful sapphires in all colors along with pink and red rubies. It's one of Macon County's oldest and most productive mines. The only mine with a guarantee that all will have success their first time. Dig your own dirt. Open 8a.m. to 5 p.m. 828-369-9742. Located in the Burningtown Community off Route 28 North. Follow signs.
Mason Mountain Mine & Cowee Gift Shop
(Native and enriched stones) Beautiful native rhodolite garnets, kyanite, pyrope garnets, and quartz along with other added gems. Assistance to beginners and "old timers". Shaded flume, clean restrooms, gift shop and snack bar.
LOCATION: 5315 Bryson City Rd., ph. 828.524.4570.
Rose Creek Mine
Rose Creek Mine Gift & Rock Shop. We have rubies, sapphires, garnets, emeralds and so much more. We also have special buckets, gem kits, lapidary supplies, jewelry, Opals and a world class collection of minerals. Last new miner accepted at 4pm. Dig your own dirt, first bucket free with admission. Help for beginners, equipment supplied, covered flume line, clean restrooms, covered picnic tables, snacks. Group rates available as is gem dirt to go. Five miles north of Franklin on Hwy 28, left on Bennett before river. 115 Terrace Ridge Dr. For mining info call 828.349.3774.
As featured on the TRAVEL CHANNEL. NATIVE Rubies & Sapphires (some will "STAR") or Enriched Rainbow Buckets with Semi-Precious Gems from around the world. Open 10am-5pm. Admission includes 2 starter buckets. Mine rain or shine at covered flumes. Picnic tables, Snacks & Beverages. Gem Identification. Stone Cutting and Setting available. Gift Shop. Clean Restrooms. Group Discounts. Wire Wrap Classes available. Gem Dirt to Go. Fun for all ages! Relaxing atmosphere, friendly assistance, and all you need to bring is yourself! 385 Sheffield Farms Rd., ph. 828.369.8383.
Cowee Gift Shop
Located 5-1/2 miles north on NC 28. Fine quality lapidary, gem cutting, finished jewelry. 5315 Bryson City Rd., ph.828.524.4570
Cowee Mtn. Ruby Mine & Gem Shop
Located 4 miles north of Franklin on Highway 441. Open 9AM until the last person leaves. Come visit their gem shop for friendly assistance in stone identification. Stone cutting & setting available. There is a large selection of gifts ranging from bookends to carvings and rock candy. There is also a large selection of gold and silver jewelry. Located at 6771 Sylva Road, Ph 828.369.5271
Franklin Gemstone & Jewelry Warehouse
Franklin Gemstone & Jewelry Warehouse is a wholesale warehouse for gemstones and rough rock. Included in the warehouse is a jewelry and rock shop retail outlet. The jewelry outlet holds one of the largest selections of sterling silver jewelry in Franklin. Fine quality 10K and 14K gold and gemstone jewelry are also featured at outlet prices. The warehouse is open 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. The warehouse will also open at other times by appointment. 3002 Georgia Road, ph.828.524.6132
The Gem Factory
Located 3.5 south of Franklin, NC on Highway 441/23 the Georgia Road. The Gem Factory has used time honored traditions of goldsmithing and stone cutting to create one of a kind jewelry. Their new expanded showrooms have a large variety of jewelry, gemstones, rocks, minerals, carvings, fossils, and gifts in a beautiful nature inspired atmosphere. Come in for a free guide to the mines and free stone inspections. Contact the Martinez Family at 3348 Georgia Road, ph. 828.524.9193.
Located in waterfall country halfway between Franklin and Highlands on NC 28 and US 64. Complete gem service with on site gem mine. Expert cutting and mounting. They can meet all our gem mine and gem shop expectations. ph.828.524.5850
Ruby City Gems
They are one of the oldest and largest gem and mineral shops in the Southeast, with over 50 years collecting and experience, and approximately 5000 sq. ft. of retail and museum space. If you are a rock hound, they are an authorized Graves & Lortone dealer. If you need guidebooks or maps, they have those too. Come by the shop on your way to the mines for your FREE map.
For your jewelry needs, the options are endless! There is a huge variety of stones that are cut and ready to be placed in the mounting of your choice, including precious diamonds, amethyst, citrine, tanzanite, sapphires, emeralds, peridot, tourmaline, aquamarine, and more! They have a vast collection of Gold finished jewelry.
Located on HWY 441, 2 miles south of Franklin. Gemologist on premises, specializing in opals. Custom jewelry designing. Repairs done on premises. Free gemstone inspection. Gem stones cut & mounted. Gold & Silver mountings, copper jewelry, rocks, gems & minerals available. Lapidary equipment for sale or order. Fine selection of books, bookends and gifts. Located at 1884 Georgia Rd., ph. 828.349.5411
The Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum
Located in the "Old Jail" on Phillips Street across from the Macon County Courthouse. Open daily May 1st - October 31st, 10am - 4pm. Founded in 1974 by members of the Franklin Gem & Mineral Society, with the cooperation of county commissioners and local businesses, the museum is renovated and maintained by volunteers. Includes the North Carolina Room, the States Room and the "Slammer". Free Admission. 25 Phillips St., ph.828.369.7831