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Gem Mining in the Smokies – How it Works

Gem mining in the Smokies, Gem Mining Western North Carolina, Yellow Rose Realty Vacation Cabin Rentals, Thiings to do in the Smokies
Rubies!
While enjoying your vacation cabin rental in the heart of the North Carolina Smokies,  you may want to try your hand at gem mining. Our previous posts discuss what kind of gems you might find, where to go and what to bring with you. Now, let’s look at how it all works!

Times of Year To Go Mining: Most mines in the area are open from spring through autumn. While some mines charge a daily admission fee, most sell gem dirt by the bucket or bag. A few allow you to dig your own dirt from a specified area.

Two Types of “Dirt”: There are two different types of “dirt” you can get. Some mines have only “native” dirt, which means that you are getting a bucket of dirt straight from the ground in the mine. You may or may not find anything in it but whatever you do find is an authentic gem from Western North Carolina. Others have what they call “enriched” dirt in addition to native buckets. These buckets of dirt are “salted” with gems bought at shows. They most likely are not gems native to the area.

For beginners or for young children who want the quick payoff, an enriched bucket is really the way to go. The colorful stones are easy to see and exciting to find. For those with more experience, the native buckets are a great challenge.

Step 1: After deciding which type of bucket you want, it is time to get down to business. You will be provided with a sifter box; a wooden box with a screen on the bottom that lets water and dirt rush out but keeps your gems and rocks inside. Take your bucket and sifter box and have a seat next to the flume, which is a shallow trough with water running through it. The running water will help you wash the dirt of the rocks and stones in your bucket.

Step 2: Pour some of the dirt from your bucket into the sifter and place it in the water. Shake the sifter from side to side and move it up and down in the water to rinse away the dirt. If you have an enriched bucket, the job won’t be too difficult. Stones are clean when mixed into the dirt, so it will wash off easily. If you have a native bucket, it will take more time and effort. Rinsing the dirt off native stones is a bit more challenging and the gems are still surrounded by their matrix, a crusty gray protective barrier.

Step 3: Push large rocks aside and gather smaller gravel into a mound at the center of your tray. Push your hands down onto the pile and move it in a circular motion to help remove the dirt. Rinse your stones and rub again. Repeat the process until no more mud is visible on your hands. Spread your clean stones into one layer and look carefully for glints of lavender, pink or deep purple-red.  Don’t forget to check those larger chunks you set aside. Chances are they’re just rocks but you never know – there could be something amazing hiding within!

If it’s your lucky day, the mud will be washed away to reveal spectacular treasures in your sifter! Rubies are silky red; garnets reddish brown; and note that sapphires come in just about every color there is! Quartz, a favorite among gem hunters, is a smoky clear color. Mine staff are usually on hand to help show you what to look for because gem stones in their natural state look nothing like the brilliantly colored cut gems we see as the final product.

We hope you have a wonderful time on your gem mining adventure! There are a lot of gem mines in the area, many just a short drive away from Bryson City, NC and your vacation cabin rental from Yellow Rose. Happy hunting!

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Gem Mining in Western North Carolina – Planning Your Adventure

Gem Mining in Western North Carolina, Fun things to do in the SmokiesThe first thing you need to do before setting off on your gem mining adventure is to decide where to go. There are many mines in the area to choose from (a short list is provided below). Some have native gems only while others have native and enriched buckets. A few mines let you dig your own dirt. Choose the mine that most closely matches the adventure you have in mind and make sure to get clear directions! While many mines are only a short drive away from your vacation cabin rental in the Bryson City or Cherokee NC area, relying solely on a GPS in the mountains has resulted in many a lost and frustrated tourist!  So, make sure to have written directions as well!

While it is possible to get through a bucket or two rather quickly, for most people, mining is an all-day affair. When planning your gem mining adventure, you will have a better time if you are adequately prepared.  Here are a few tips to help make your experience the best it can be!

Most mines are off the beaten path, so it is wise to pack a lunch and bring along plenty of water. Many have picnic areas for your convenience so you can leave your lunch in the car and just take a break when you are ready.  Gem mining is not a clean activity – you are going to get wet and muddy! The dirt is often a reddish color that can stain clothes, so it is best to wear old clothes and tennis shoes.  The ride back will be much more comfortable if you bring an extra set of clothes and shoes to change into before heading home. To protect the inside of your car from the mud, you may want to bring a plastic bag to put your wet shoes and clothes in. Although many mines feature covered flumes, it is wise to bring along a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen if it is sunny.  Some people choose to wear rubber gloves if it is particularly chilly (this is also a good idea if you are concerned about ruining your manicure!)  Sitting on narrow wooden benches for a long time can get a bit uncomfortable, so you might want to pack some old towels that can be folded up and used as a cushion.  While most mines provide plastic bags to for the gems you find, you may want to bring along your own zipper bag or plastic container. And of course, you will want to have a camera on hand to record that wonderful moment when you find your very own treasure!

There are many gem mines throughout Western North Carolina, with a majority located right in our mountain neighborhood! Following is a list of mines located in and around Franklin, which is known as the Gem Mining Capital of the World.  Yellow Rose Realty has vacation cabin rentals throughout the Cherokee and Bryson City area, including cabins on the way to Franklin. Most are within 15 minutes to 45 minutes from great gem mining. Happy hunting!

Cowee Mountain Ruby Mine

LOCATION: 6771 Sylva Road,
828-369-5271.

Gold City Gem Mine

LOCATION:
9410 Sylva Rd., ph 800-713-7767 or 828-369-3905

Jackson Hole Gem Mine

828-524-5850 – OPEN ALL YEAR

Mason’s Ruby & Sapphire Mine

828-369-9742. Located in the
Burningtown Community off Route 28 North.

Mason Mountain Mine & Cowee Gift Shop

LOCATION: 5315 Bryson City
Rd., ph. 828-524-4570.

Rose Creek Mine

LOCATION: 115 Terrace Ridge Dr.
For mining info call 828-349-3774.

Sheffield Mine

LOCATION:
385 Sheffield Farms Rd., ph. 828-369-8383.