Gem mining has been a favorite activity for visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for years. Most gem mines in the Asheville and Franklin area are open from spring through autumn.
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". 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 since most mines provide a place to eat outside.
Most mines sell gem dirt in a bucket or bag (few allow digging). 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. 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.
Gem Collections & Museums
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
At PARI (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) in Pisgah National Forest, see an impressive collection of minerals, gems and meteorites (photo above) including a piece of the first one documented in 1492. This space and science center is a former NASA center, so also see space artifacts. See our PARI Guide.
Asheville Museum of Science
Want to get a close up view of thousands of minerals and gems? Stop by the Asheville Museum of Science in the heart of downtown Asheville. The Museum's primary mineral collection includes some 4,500 specimens from North Carolina and around the world. See our Asheville Museum of Science Guide.
Museum of North Carolina Minerals
Located at Milepost 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, the museum introduces the treasures found in the state and the local Spruce Pine Mining District through interactive displays on the wide variety of minerals and gems found in the region, providing an introduction to the importance of mining in the region and the mineral and gem wealth found here. See our Museum of NC Minerals Guide.
Gem Mines Near Asheville
Asheville Outdoor Center: Grab a bucket and sluicing box and find some real gemstones, rubies, sapphires, and fossils near downtown Asheville and Biltmore. Keep whatever you find. Located on the French Broad River in a park with an authentic 8' waterwheel, water tower, mining sluice, old time wagon, and Teepee. Read more!
Emerald Village: This fascinating group of gem, mining, and historical attractions is nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, within an hour's drive of Asheville. Located in a spectacular mountain setting, Emerald Village is home to seven real mines and has been featured on The Travel Channel. Many exhibits are free to enjoy. Open April through December. See our Emerald Village Guide.
Old Pressley Sapphire Mine: Located in Haywood County, near Canton, the Old Pressley Mine is one of the oldest operating mines in western North Carolina. Made famous by the discovery of the 1445-carat "Star of the Carolinas," the mine contains abundant quantities of minerals and Sapphires. About 20 miles west of Asheville. 240 Pressley Mine, Canton
Gem Mountain: Find lots of local materials such as Crabtree emerald, Wiseman and Brushy Creek aquamarine, as well as moonstones, garnet, citrine, amethyst, ruby, sapphire and others brought fresh to the mine daily. Gem Mountain is located on Highway 226 between Spruce Pine and the Blue Ridge Parkway, about an hour north of Asheville. 13780 Highway 226 South, Spruce Pine
Pisgah Forest Gem Mine: Located near the entrance of the Pisgah National Forest at Brevard, the mine feature Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, Aquamarine, Topaz and other precious or semi-precious gems and fossils. Covered indoor and outdoor mining for year round fun. Rock and gift shop, pluse picnic area by the river. 3338 Asheville Hwy, Pisgah Forest. They also have a location in downtown Hendersonville on Main Street.
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine: Located in Hendersonville, mine for gems that include Rubys, Sapphires, Emeralds, Quartz crystals, Citrine, Amethyst, Garnets, Adventurine, Sodalite, Opal, Fluorite, Aquamarine and many more. The flumes are covered for rain or shine mining. 2120 Brevard Rd, Hendersonville
Gem Mines near Franklin, North Carolina
Gem Capital of the World: Franklin, North Carolina is located about 65 miles west of Asheville. There are bunches of gem mines to choose from.
Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine: Come enjoy the fresh mountain air, natural creek water running through the flume line and the scenic beauty of Cowee Valley. Their 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". May-October. 2550 Ruby Mine Road, Franklin NC
Gold City Gem Mine: Home of the 1061 carat sapphire found at Gold City. Native and Enriched Gemstones buckets. They also have Gold Panning. New and Improved large covered flume for Gem Mining rain or shine. New inside heated flume for cold days. 9410 Sylva Rd, Franklin
Rose Creek Mine: They have rubies, sapphires, garnets, emeralds and so much more. They also have special buckets, gem kits, lapidary supplies, jewelry, Opals and a world class collection of minerals. April-October. 115 Terrace Ridge Dr, Franklin