Picture this: You’re in the beautiful Smoky Mountains for a long weekend, looking for something to do. The sun is out but not too warm, and you’d love to spend a couple hours outside, but you already have plans to go hiking and swimming over the next two or three days.
You see a brochure for gem mining, and maybe a part of you chuckles. Gem mining? Really? People still do that?
Here are five reasons we believe you’ll love it if you try it, too.
That’s right—whether you find tiny tumbling gemstones or a rare star ruby, your haul is yours to keep. Many of our mines have both native buckets (straight from the mines) or enriched ones (with gemstones added) as options, so you can choose between finding the gems they’ve hidden or trying your luck with untouched soil. It’s an all-natural treasure hunt!
A one-of-a-kind souvenir
As if the gemstones themselves weren’t cool enough, you can also have them mounted into necklace pendants, rings, and bracelets to wear your memories wherever you go. Some mines have a jeweler on site, but if yours doesn’t, we have several gem museums and jewelers in town for you to choose from.
A peaceful, relaxing atmosphere
Each mine around Franklin is nestled into the mountainside, just far enough from the road that you can easily drive to the site while still feeling wrapped up in the forest. Listen to the water as it rushes through the flume and over your sieve, pulling away dirt and rubble and unveiling the glittering gemstones beneath.
There’s nothing like taking time to really enjoy the moment, and gem mining is a perfect way to slow down and breathe in that fresh mountain air.
A taste of mountain history
Not only is gem mining relaxing—you’ll also have the opportunity to dip into Franklin’s history as a town. Franklin’s gem and mineral heritage can be traced back to 1870 when companies began mining corundum (which is second only to diamonds in hardness) in Macon County.
In 1895, the American Prospecting and Mining Company intended to find the source of the rubies and sapphires by digging experimental shafts and test holes while gem mining in NC. Other mining interests joined in, but the source for the gemstones was never located—and that’s why locals and visitors alike are still searching for the motherload of ruby and sapphire today!
And of course: Getting muddy!
Everyone needs to get muddy every once in a while! There’s a certain nostalgia to putting on an old set of clothes and beat-up tennis shoes, rolling up your sleeves, and digging into rich earth and red clay. Finding gems is just an added bonus!
If you’ve never gone gem mining before, give it a try! It sounds old-fashioned, but we guess that’s sort of the way we do things in Franklin, North Carolina—and you’ll never have so much fun! Check out the mines below to plan your gem mining adventure.
List of Mines near Franklin, NC
Museums and jewelers