Keep in mind most mines are open from spring through autumn
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.
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. Free Admission. Refreshing picnic area by shade trees & running brook.
As featured on the TRAVEL CHANNEL. Native Rubies & Sapphires. Open 10am-5pm. Admission includes 2 starter buckets. You are able to mine rain or shine at the covered flumes. Picnic tables, snacks & beverages.