Open Ruby & Sapphire Mines in North Carolina

North Carolina is renowned for its rich deposits of precious gemstones, particularly rubies and sapphires. The state is particularly famous for its ruby and sapphire mines located in the Cowee Valley near Franklin, NC. This area is known for being the source of some of the finest rubies and sapphires in North America.

The mines in Cowee Valley are not commercial operations but recreational mines where visitors can try their hand at unearthing these precious gems. These mines contain placer deposits,  Placers are formed over millions of years by the erosion of mountains containing these gemstones.

There are several mines open to the public, offering visitors a chance to sift through buckets of gravel in search of hidden treasures. You can find rubies, sapphires, garnets, and other minerals.

Ruby & Sapphire Mines in North Carolina
Ruby & Sapphire Mines in North Carolina

Popular Sapphire Mining Locations in NC

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine (Franklin, NC)

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine is located in the scenic Cowee Valley near Franklin, North Carolina. It's famous for its lilac sapphires, and it's the only place in North America where you can search for rubies alongside sapphires. They are a "placer" mine, which means visitors can search for gemstones in deposits of ancient streambed gravel. They tout their operation as an "unsalted" mine, meaning they don't add any extra gems to the buckets of dirt. Mining is done in the traditional method using hand tools and screens.

Prices & Fees: $35.00 Per Person,  free for children under 5.

Opening Hours & Seasons:

  • Open from March through December.
  • Operating hours: Typically 9 AM to 5 PM, Their operation is weather permitting, so it's always best to call ahead and check before you go. They are closed during inclement weather.

Amenities: They provide all the tools you need to mine for gems, including buckets, shovels, and screens. They also have a shaded flume for sifting through your dirt. There are restrooms and a picnic area available for visitors use.

What you can find: Rubies, Sapphires, Garnets and other types of gemstones and minerals.

Contact Information:

Mason's Ruby & Sapphire Mine (Franklin, NC)

Mason's Ruby & Sapphire Mine is a Macon County gem mine that prides itself on being a "dig-your-own" experience since the 1950s . They offer a chance to experience real mining for native North Carolina corundum, which can include rubies and sapphires.

Opening Hours & Seasons: They are open year-round: Thursday, Friday & Saturdays (9am to 3pm)

Price & Fees

  • Native Gem Mining: $35 for ages 12 and up, $15 for ages 6-11, and free for children 5 and under. This price includes all the tools and dirt you can dig until they close the digging area at 3 PM.
  • Enriched buckets: Prices vary depending on the size of the bucket (25 dollars, 50 dollars, and 100 dollars).


  • Restrooms
  • Picnic tables
  • Primitive campground (separate fees apply)

What gemstones you can find: Corundum, which can include rubies and sapphires

Contact Information:

Elijah Mountain Gem Mine (Hendersonville, NC)

Elijah Mountain Gem Mine is located in Hendersonville, North Carolina. It is a popular destination for gem mining enthusiasts, offering the opportunity to find a variety of gemstones, including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethyst, fossils, geodes, and many more. The mine is open year-round and features indoor and outdoor covered flumes, making it suitable for mining in all weather conditions.

The mine offers a variety of mining experiences, including indoor and outdoor covered flumes, which allow visitors to mine for gems and gold in any weather. With over 40 types of semi-precious and precious gemstones possible in every bucket, visitors are guaranteed to find something special.

Opening Hours & Seasons: They are open year-round, 7 days a week.

Facilities: Offers a petting zoo, picnic areas, and a large indoor mining area for rainy days. There's also a rock shop with a wide range of gemstones and souvenirs.

What gemstones you can find: A variety of gemstones including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, quartz crystals, citrine, amethyst, garnets, and more!

Price: Prices vary depending on the size of the bucket you want to mine.

  • Small Buckets: Approximately $12.00 - $20.00
  • Medium Buckets: Approximately $25.00 - $45.00
  • Large Buckets: Approximately $50.00 - $100.00+
  • Specialty Buckets: Prices vary based on the type of gemstones and the amount included.

Contact Information:

Sugar Creek Gem Mine (Marion, NC)

Sugar Creek Gem Mine is another great option for gem mining in North Carolina. They are known for their high-quality service and experienced staff. They offer a guaranteed find in every bucket, making it a perfect choice for families with young children.

Opening Hours & Seasons: The mine is open year-round.

Prices: Gem mining buckets

  • Prices vary depending on the size and type of bucket you choose.
  • You can find the latest pricing information on their website Sugar Creek Gem Mine.


  • Sluicing stations with running water for gem washing.
  • Picnic areas and shaded seating.
  • Restroom facilities.
  • On-site gem identification and cutting services.
  • Gift shop with mining supplies, souvenirs, and pre-cut gemstones.
  • Free parking.

What gemstones you can find: Sugar Creek Gem Mine offers a variety of gemstones and minerals, including rubies, sapphires, emeralds, garnets, amethyst, and more.

Contact Information:

  • Address: 3045 Tynecastle Hwy, Banner Elk, NC 28604
  • Phone: (828) 898-GEMS (4367)
  • Website: Sugar Creek Gem Mine

Sheffield Gem Mine (Franklin, NC)

Sheffield Gem Mine is a historic gem mine located in Franklin, North Carolina. They offer visitors a chance to experience gem mining for themselves, surrounded by the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. They have both native buckets where you can find rubies and sapphires or "salted" buckets for a guaranteed treasure hunt.

Opening Hours & Seasons: Open 7 days a week from April 1st through October 31st (10:00 am to 5:00 pm)


  • Admission fee of $10 per person.
  • Native buckets: These buckets contain dirt from the mine itself, and you get to keep whatever treasures you find. Buckets of gem dirt range from $5 to $100 or more, depending on the size and type.


The amenities offered at Sheffield Gem Mine are limited. They have a sluicing flume where you can sift through your bucket to find gemstones. They might also have basic restrooms and picnic areas available.

What Gemstone You Can Find

Primary Gemstone: Sapphires, Visitors might also find garnets, emeralds, rubies, and other semi-precious stones.

Contact Information:

  • Address: Sheffield Mine, 385 Sheffield Farms Rd, Franklin, NC 28734
  • Phone: +1 828-369-8383
  • Website: Sheffield Mine

Old Cardinal Gem Mine (Franklin, NC)

Experience the fun and adventure of mining for gems at Old Cardinal Gem Mine, located in the beautiful Cowee area of Franklin, NC. The mine has been in operation since 1900. They provide all the necessary equipment and have a partially shaded flume for comfortable gem hunting, even on hot days.

Opening Hours & Seasons: Open 9-5 Monday - Friday and Sunday, closed on Saturdays.

Price: Prices depend on the size of the bucket you choose. They offer gem buckets to suit all budgets, starting around $10

Amenities: The mine offers a flume that is partly shaded for hot summer days, and all the equipment needed is provided. If you find a gem, they offer gem cutting and mounting services.

What gemstone you can find: 

Visitors can search for rare, native Rhodolite Rubies, Sapphire, moonstone, and enriched stones.

Contact Information:

Tips for Visitors

  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Mining can be muddy and wet, so wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Stay Hydrated and Bring Snacks: Mining can be physically demanding, so bring water and snacks.
  • Patience and Persistence: Finding gemstones can require time and effort. Be patient and enjoy the process.
  • Check Regulations: Make sure to check each mine’s regulations and fees before visiting.

Before visiting any of these mines, it's recommended to check their websites or contact them directly for hours of operation, pricing, and any other pertinent information.

Keep in mind that while these mines offer the thrill of the hunt, most of the rubies and sapphires found are on the smaller side and may not be gem quality. However, the chance to unearth your own piece of treasure and the beauty of the surrounding Cowee Valley make the experience worthwhile.

Read also:
North Carolina: Places to Dig for Gemstones in North Carolina
Arkansas: Best Crystal Digging Sites in Arkansas
4 Rare Rubies Found in North Carolina Could Fetch $90 Million

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