Gem Mining

Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains who try their hand at gem mining, and may very well find themselves with far more beautiful baubles that they ever imagined. In addition to gold, area mines are home to sapphire, ruby, emerald, amethyst, topaz, citrine, tourmaline, and more.

Grab your boots, rubber gloves, and favorite mining gear (old clothes) and Lady Luck to experience the Smoky Mountains gem and gold mining boom. With more than 10 local mining outfitters to choose from, you can shovel, buckets, or screen for exquisite precious gems during your Smoky Mountain vacation.

North Carolina’s Gold Rush – North Carolina’s mining history dates back centuries to 1799 when the first authenticated discovery of gold was made in the United States with a founding a 17-pound gold nugget in North Carolina. Output around the 1830s-40s, with the Gold Hill shaft eventually reaching a depth of 800 feet! Even the federal government built a mint in Charlotte, N.C. so that it could coin gold from 1838 until the start of the Civil War in 1861. By the early 1900s, gold output has been minor, but mining has regained current favor due to the high price of gold.

Recreational mining is still a popular hobby in North Carolina. While the gold rush has passed, you may still find a little “color” in a in your screen or pan that will create wonderful memories for years to come. Here is a selection of Smoky Mountain mines that cater to visiting travelers:

Gold City Gem Mine, Jewelry and Rock Shop – Offers gem mining, gold panning, and turquoise panning; and home of the 1061 carat sapphire featured in People Magazine, Disney Adventure Magazine, and more.

Jackson Hole Trading Post – Considered the cleanest mine around, Jackson Hole offers help for the inexperienced.

Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine – A true “Dig Your Own” mine where customers are provided with all of the tools needed are provided. The original mine dates back to 1895 and was operated by the American Prospecting and Mining Co. of New York where abrasive grade corundum was mined and occasionally gems were produced. Mason’s has four flumes capable of holding about 100 people, two of which have full coverage roofing to keep you cool and dry.

Nantahala River Gem Mine – Gemstone material comes from both the local area, and from mines all over the world as many of the mine sites are in remote and not easily accessible locations. The gemstone material is brought to their site so you can search for a variety of precious gemstones including rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, topaz, amethyst, citrine, peridot, moonstones, rhodolite, apatite, and aquamarine.

Primitive Outback – Offers a variety of pails sizes, and panning in the Little Tennessee River with a shovel and screen. You could find topaz, rubies, amethyst, emeralds and many other types of stones.

Rocky Face Gem Mines – Offers a native & enriched gem mine with covered, concrete flumes.

Rose Creek Mines – Dig in their gem tunnel with all equipment provided, and assistance identifying stones. Guest miners have found garnets, rubies, sapphires, smoky and rose quartz, amethyst, emerald and more. Lapidary equipment is also available in their gift and rock shop.

Ruby City Gems – Offers custom gem cutting and mounting: 14k gold jewelry and findings, thousands of cut gemstones, lapidary equipment and supplies, mineral specimens, stone carvings and bookends, free museum and store.