Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine, Franklin: Hours, Address, Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine Reviews: 4.5/5

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Closed until Jun 1, 2022

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine
Temporarily closedClosed until Jun 1, 2022
Temporarily closed Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine is Macon County's ONLY 100% Unsalted Gem Mine, located in the heart of the beautiful Cowee Valley of North Carlolina's Smoky Mountains. NOTE: Cherokee Mine is currently CLOSED for the season, and will re-open on 01 May 2022
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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217 reviews
Very good

Kimberly F
3 contributions
Apr 2021
We just got home from vacation and that was the absolute first thing I did and always wanted to do. I found quit a bit and even had one ruby made into a 2 carat oval, wish I could have done 4 like he said it was a huge gem but at 100 dollars a carat I couldn’t. It came out beautiful! I have plenty more to do as well as the sapphires. They are in a tumbler now! I have a lot of people saying it’s fake and they are not real gems. Do you have any information on it? We stopped again in pigeon forge and I think that one was fake because there was a coin in the bucket and the stones were not ruff
Written April 22, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Don B
1 contribution
Jun 2021 • Friends
Upon arriving, my girlfriend and I were given an introduction to what gems were at the area, how to identify them and some great information on telling look-alikes apart. Then we were shown how to use the shaker boxes and flume. Truly great information and delivered by people who are passionate about teaching and sharing the experience. They even provide a free service of checking behind us to ensure we do not miss anything. The girlfriend found three sapphires and various pieces of other gems. I found moonstone, kyanite, garnets and a few other pieces. (Sadly, no sapphires for me) truly magnificent time!
Written July 2, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Freeland, MI13 contributions
Jul 2021 • Family
We drove all the way from Gatlinburg and enjoyed it. Got there at 11am. They only let in a specific number per day so get there early if you can help it. We were there and they started turning people away around noon. We would have been disappointed if that were us but there are others in the area. The staff were very knowledgeable and patient teachers. We found a few jeepers but nothing overly exciting. I would have stayed longer if they didn’t shut down for the day at about 1 pm. On way back we hit the museum in Cherokee (3 out of 5).
Written July 9, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Coral Springs, FL18 contributions
May 2021 • Couples
What a lovely experience! This is definitely “off the beaten path” but well worth the trip if you are looking for something not so “touristy” after visiting the Smoky Mountains.

It’s an UNSALTED mine, which was exactly why we ventured out here. Everything that you find is native to the earth here, and has not been tampered with.

Lisa and Matt were AMAZING! Super knowledgeable and helpful! I loved the personalized attention that we received (they had just opened back up to the public after being closed due to Covid, so it wasn’t busy when we visited).

We found a couple of sapphires, garnets, and a whole bunch of other stuff that they identified for us.

I sooo wish we were local. I would totally be a regular here!
Written June 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Sara R
1 contribution
Jul 2021 • Family
This was an outstanding adventure that I highly recommend. We had so much fun snd learned so much about gems and about geology. It sparked an interest in all of us to learn more, and we can’t wait to return.

Matt and Lisa are so kind and welcoming, and they shared their extensive knowledge about finding and identifying rocks and gems.

I will add that the drive to the mine, whichever route you take, is beautiful.

I have been visiting the Great Smoky Mountains since I was a child, usually for hiking and kayaking, but this is one of the most fun and one of the best experiences I have ever had!

Thank you Matt and Lisa!!!!
Written August 5, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Emily P
1 contribution
Aug 2021 • Couples
I wish I could give more than 5 stars on this review! The owners are incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and go above and beyond to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and have all the accommodations you could need. The rental umbrellas were a wonderful touch to have to help stay cool and comfortable. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to take a stab at being able to go to an unsalted mine and it was nice having trained eyes make sure we didn’t miss anything at the end. :)

Found some sapphires, garnet, moon stone!, and a few other nice finds from the buckets we went through today. :) will definitely be back!
Written August 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

1 contribution
Oct 2014
Went there on my honeymoon and we had so much fun. We spent 2 days going through dirt and have sandwich bags of stones. There a many that aren't cuttable bit we did end up with many nice stones that we can get cut. The highlights of the 2 days was that I found an 8.5 carat sapphire and my wife found an 89.6 carat piece of sillimanite. We are hoping to take the 9 hour drive from pittsburgh again next year to try our luck again. We did try a couple other mines in the area but never spent as much time at those places as we did here. Other mines seemed too commercial or where salted and wasn't as much fun.
Written November 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Carterville, IL47 contributions
May 2012 • Family
Our recent visit to the Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire mine was a new experience for my family and I. I panned for gold once as a kid in Cripple Creek, Colorado at a salted road-side attraction and recall enjoying it. With that in mind I thought gem mining would be an excellent family outing. Well, let's just say it was a learning experience that I would do again in a heart beat knowing how to get the most out of Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine.

First, let me be completely frank about the "family" experience. This activity takes A LOT of time and A LOT of patience and focus. My kids were expecting to find a baseball size ruby in the first four minutes and, when that didn't happen, they seemed to wander back to the van with no desire to make attempts to try. However, there was plenty of space for them to throw the football around and play while we sifted through their dirt and rock. If your children are natural rockhounds with an ability to sit still for hours at a time, this is an amazing opportunity for them. The tip here is to have something else for the kids to do when they do get bored and you still have a lot of sifting left to do.

Second, use the help of "mom". The mine is run by a lady and her son although the son seemed to do nothing to actually help "mom". She was having to take care of new customers and help sift through the rocks of customers while he talked on his cell phone for the entire 4 hours we were there. However, if you have patience and wait your turn she will go through your rocks with you and teach you exactly how to find the gems. Then you can return to the rest of your dirt and enjoy the search. Plus, she is lovely to talk to and shared some very interesting pieces of her life with me. I found her to unknowingly fill a desire for another moment with my grandmother who passed several years ago. She was soft-spoken, sweet, kind and it was fun to make her laugh.

Third, take your time. This is not a rushed, excitement a minute activity. It is very slow-paced. Don't come there with only an hour allotted. It is not enough time to really dig into this adventure.

Fourth, come early and don't forget the sunscreen. The more daylight you have the better it is to see the gems. So, although some people rented the large umbrellas, it really is something you need the sunlight to do it best. Slather on the sunscreen and bug spray, as well. With the unusually warm winter bugs did not have the opportunity to die off and they started swarming around 1 or so. Not bees or anything that would hurt but more annoying gnat like bugs.

Fifth, be prepared to laugh at the attention-seekers in your head so you don't get annoyed the whole time. There seemed to be several people who wanted everyone to notice them at the long sleuth box and would make loud comments non-stop. Sometimes even to the extent of being rude. I had to start finding ways to laugh at them in my mind to make it tolerable. Like why would a 60 year old man need everyone to know he had paid $1,000 to go diamond mining so bad that he loudly mentions it more than ten times in 2 hours? I'm sure you can guess my explanation.

Sixth, wear crappy clothes. You will get dirty. You will get a little wet. Save the cute outfit for dinner later that night to celebrate the gems you found because, more likely than not, you will.

Seventh, bring your own snacks. This isn't a quick jaunt and you will want a drink and, probably, at least a snack. The bologna and cheese sandwiches we took never tasted so good!

Overall, this is an inexpensive experience that taught me a lot about gems, rocks, mining, tolerance and myself. It was much cheaper than going to the movies and we got to be outdoors together. Enjoy "mom" because she is the "Field of Dreams" of grandmas. Get your directions before you go because even GPS signals went out. Enjoy the drive, enjoy the views and enjoy this must-do experience in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Written May 28, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Columbus, OH2 contributions
Jul 2011 • Solo
Cherokee ruby and sapphire mine is the only place in North America, open to the public, that allows you to search for rubies. The other gem mines in the area only contain sapphires. The stones found here are very pretty and usually whole, not broken. The owner, Maria, really cares for her customers and for her business. This fact is very evident as soon as you show up and are greeted. The mine is not as busy as Sheffield so this allows for more time with the associates identifying your gems. I found 4 different kinds of gems at this mine and only 1 at the Sheffield mine.

At the Cherokee mine, you can find Ruby, Sapphire, Sillimanite, Rutile, and moonstone. While I wasn't lucky enough to find any rubies, I found the others, and most of it was facet grade. The only con I noticed with this mine is their flumes are not covered, they do rent umbrellas for 1 dollar a day though. The sunlight generally helps in the identification of the gemstones. Overall the best gem mine in North America if you truly want to find gemstones native to North Carolina.
Written July 10, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jenny I
Corbin, Kentucky, United States10 contributions
Oct 2015 • Friends
I have been to almost all the local mines in Franklin. I have to,say this day was terrible and not a pleasant experience at all. First they do not show you that the dig pile is a bunch of large river rocks until after you pay and once you do pay, they want you to dig all six buckets at once without a break in between, the man working the flames was rude and not very helpful at all almost to the point of making fun of people instead of helping the. All the same gems they had were tiny tiny tiny and took tweezers to even see. When they were asked to check to see if anyone missed anything they didn't even look down to look through anyone's stuff. I was really upset with the way they acted down there. When we would ask a question we were basically treated like we were stupid. We were there a long time and didn't even do half our buckets from frustration, the man working there wouldn't even show any of us what we were looking for until we did at least half a bucket for "our benefit". While there only one woman found one ruby out of all the people there and it was so tiny that it would have been impossible to have cut. The other groups there when we were expressed their frustration with the way they were treated as well. Stick with the other mines, you will be a lot happier for it.
Written October 13, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Congratulations on being our 100th Tripadvisor Reviewer! While we would have preferred a positive review upon reaching the 100 Review Mark, we will address your negative review item by item, as we normally do. It is probably a mere coincidence that the same day we moved up from #9 to #6 of TripAdvisor’s “Top Things To Do In Franklin”. First of all, it is simple to see the other TripAdvisor reviews of mines you state you have visited. It is the policy of Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire mine to never refer to other mines by name, regardless of whether the information is good, bad, or indifferent. We have been to one of those two mines, and I can tell you from several different trips that they do not take you by the hand and show you their Dig-You-Own area, and then take your hand and lead you back to your seat at the flume. By the same token, nothing prevented you from asking to see what the Dig-Your-Own area at Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine, and you would have been permitted to see it for yourself prior to paying admission IF you had A) asked, and B) signed your Liability Waiver. We do not permit anyone into the mining area - paying or non-paying – without signing the Waiver. You did not ask. Second, this mine is a placer mine, and we excavate alluvial gravel from an ancient stream bed. The material is deposited in the Dig-your-own bin in the exact condition it was excavated, in order to maximize the odds of gems being in the ore. If there had been no large rocks to generate turbulence in the flow of water, the gems would be washed out to sea, instead of being trapped where they could be recovered in the mining process. No customer is compelled to choose the Dig-Your-Own option - that is why it is an "OPTION". The other option is for "Pre-Filled" buckets, which contain the exact same material as is found in the "Dig-Your-Own" bin, except that it has been run over a rock shaker with a 3-inch-by-3-inch metal grid to remove the larger stones, and then the material is shoveled into buckets by a person we pay to fill them. Nobody searches or modifies that material other than as just described. When you receive your initial mining information lecture at the Office these different options are explained to you, as is the policy of filling all the "Dig-Your-Own" buckets at the same time. Part of that explanation covers the level of difficulty of participating in “Dig-Your-Own”, as is the amount of time necessary to properly and completely process your gem ore for both the “Pre-Filled” and “Dig-Your-Own” options. Now, I know that one of the four people in your party was rather impatient and very insistent to do things her own way, much to the chagrin of the other three people in the group. I also know that this same person, rather than pay attention to the information being provided by our greeter, instead barged in to the office while I was in the middle of a telephone call with a contractor, and interrupted me by asking "How much does it cost to do mining?" I then pointed to the phone and stated "I am on the phone." That apparently was not the proper answer, because the next thing I was told was "I WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH I HAVE TO PAY!" To this I replied, "The lady giving the presentation tells you all that information, and I am on a business call, please go back to your group." Now, I ask all you TripAdvisor readers - who was exhibiting rudeness in this instance? I guess that interaction set the tone for the rest of this reviewer's visit. . . As to not permitting a break, that is a false statement. We generally insist that the buckets be filled at the same time, for several reasons. First, once you have finished filling your buckets, you do not have to go back into the bin. This aids in traffic control, and allows an orderly progression of customers through the Dig-your-Own process. Second, it ensures that customers do not get shortchanged in the amount of material they obtain for each admission. It also helps minimize the temptation for some customers to treat the Dig-Your-Own admission as an "All-You-Can-Eat Buffet". In spite of that, when one member of your party came to Lisa and me after filling two buckets and asked if she could take a break " . . . because I am old and this is hard work," we both said that it would not be a problem, that we do make exceptions in cases such as this. I also take issue with your statement " . . . the man working the flames (sic) was rude and not very helpful at all almost to the point of making fun of people instead of helping . . . " The approximately 7-minute Mining Orientation at the flume is not helpful? The approximately 8- to 10-minute Gemstone Identification Presentation at the flume is not helpful? And when I include anecdotes of the mistakes other miners have made, it is for the benefit of other miners (" Please learn from the errors of others - it is far less painful than learning from your own errors." Do you not remember that statement during your orientation?). The statement ". . . they were asked to check to see if anyone missed anything they didn't even look down to look through anyone's stuff. . ." is also blatantly false. We check every bit of gravel that is brought to us for a detailed search, which we ask that you transfer from your screen into the small blue buckets we provide for that purpose. Now, one of the people in this group (and I wonder who it may be?) repeatedly dumped the gravel from the screen over the flume into the spoils area, rather than put it in the buckets, as you were informed to A) during registration at the office, and B) at the Mining Orientation at the flume. As is also stated during the Mining Orientation "If you dump it over the side, it goes into the spoils pile for site remediation and road repair...", but apparently SOMEONE chose to not pay attention, or chose to simply disregard instructions. As is stated during the Registration and the Mining Orientation, this is an UNSALTED MINE ("There is no guarantee that there is anything there to find. . ." Do you not remember that statement during your orientation?). And, if you had paid attention to your surroundings and other miners, you may have seen some of the other gems of significant size that were found that day. Apparently, however, your mining expectations can only be met by the offerings of a salted mine. We do not do the flumeside Gem Identification session until customers have completed at least one, or preferably two, full screens of gem ore. However, the flumeside Gem Identification is NOT the only time customers are shown the gems. During the registration process, all customers are shown samples of each of the gems found at this mine, along with Native American artifacts, and even a Civil War-era Minie Ball. Perhaps, if you had not tried to interrupt my business call, you would have benefitted more fully from this initial information session. The flumeside Gem Identification session is the SECOND - not the first - time gems are displayed for customers to see. The second session is more in-depth and complete, but your statement that you are not shown the gems until after you have done the two screens of gravel is also false. What else in your review is false? I could go on, but this is already a long enough rebuttal. Let me just leave you with one final fact: When one of the members in your group stated that she needed mica for instructional purposes, because her students regularly peel it apart and it becomes unusable for display purposes, I, without any prompting or waiting to be asked, went to our Gem Identification display containers and immediately removed about half of the mica in the jar, and brought it to her, and told her to take it for her class. I guess that is because I am a rude and unhelpful person. TripAdvisor Readers: We encourage all of you to take everything you read here on TripAdvisor – both reviews and rebuttals – with a grain of salt, and we also encourage you to read all of the reviews (and rebuttals) and make your own informed decisions. We also hope you will visit Macon County’s only remaining 100% Unsalted Mine and make your own assessment in person.
Written October 16, 2015
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine

Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine is open:
  • Sun - Sun 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon - Sat 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM