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“People make businesses & the owners are HONEST & WONDERFUL!”

Cowee Gift Shop & Mason Mountain Mine
Ranked #1 of 10 Shopping in Franklin
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Attraction details
Owner description: Tom and Ginger Johnson own and operate the mine and shop. The mine has grown over the years to provide you with the best environment for all your rockhounding needs. We offer full access for the handicap to enjoy all the fun as well. Check in at the gift shop for instructions to our access road, so you can drive right down to the flume. At our gem mine we offer strictly native dirt at the dig pile, plus enriched buckets and all the best help so you can start finding gems right away! In our gift shop we carry a wide variety of snacks and drinks to keep you going. There is also a nice deli nearby if you need a little extra and for the really hungry, Franklin is only 12 minutes away. We also have a wide range of rough specimens from all over the world as well as from our "back yard" which is literally our mountain where the mine site is located. You will see many different types of gold and silver mountings and jewelry already manufactured from our jewelry bench that will astound most folks. So stop on in if you can, we will be happy to see you even if it's just to say hi and catch up on things!
Atlanta, Georgia
Level 6 Contributor
89 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“People make businesses & the owners are HONEST & WONDERFUL!”
Reviewed April 1, 2012

I have mined and shopped at this business for over 12 years. You can dig UNSALTED or SALTED! You tell them what you prefer and they will provide it. I have purchased or dug up more than 30 gem stones from them and the work and quality have never been in question. This is a wonderful family run business.

Visited September 2011
Helpful?
2 Thank GPSMike
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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99 reviews from our community

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English first
Amelia Island, FL
Level 4 Contributor
44 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Way more fun than I espected!”
Reviewed March 21, 2012

My wife and I went for me to do a half-day of mining but stayed the whole day! I mined in the dig pile, which contrary to another reviewer who reviewed the wrong mine with a very similar name, it is not salted at all and comes directly from Tom and Ginger's family mine. People who may want to purchase salted buckets and sift through those may do so also at this mine. That is what my wife decided to do after she saw samples of what people were finding in them, i.e., specimens of minerals and semi-precious stones (emeralds, rubies, and sapphires) in addition to (non-local) beautifully quartz crystals, blue kyanite, aquamarine, smoky quartz, rose quartz, rhodolite, garnets, amethyst, tiger eye, pyrite and who knows what else. I found rubies, sapphires, and emeralds in my dig pile which I enjoyed as I filled bucket after bucket and washed though everything in the running water sluice trough. Brian was there to help me identify and separate the good stuff from the leverite (leave it right there) and fun to talk with about the history of the mine and the area. Tom and Ginger (owners) are very nice people as well and have a great attitude about making sure customers are happy with their experience whether mining or buying or browsing in the rock, jewelry, and gift shop. It was one of the highlights of our visit to North Carolina. Wear some clothes you won't mind getting dirty, but I didn't come away too bad for the day's work. Bring a lunch, too! This is a seasonal business, so best to call ahead to make sure they are open if not during the busy summer months.

Visited March 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank mcbswolf
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, GA
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Misleading about what you are buying.”
Reviewed October 29, 2011

This place is not terrible as long as you know what you are getting into. First of all, this place has a dig pile, but everything is salted. We thought we had some great finds, only to find out from a lapidary that most of what we had was garbage and imported from other countries. For example, we were told we had found a star ruby, but later discovered it was a sapphire from Africa. I thought we would be digging for native gems only. That was disappointing. Also, you should note that even though you can pay a flat fee for a half day of mining, if you get there after 1pm, they won't let you dig. However, we got there a little before 2pm and the attendant was not going to let us dig, but then he let us dig til 3pm, (the time the group currently digging was scheduled to be finished) for only $5 each. If you have kids, this is probably a fun place to go because you are sure to find something but chances are, it won't be from the area.

Visited October 2011
Helpful?
2 Thank mjhall78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Conway, South Carolina
Level 4 Contributor
32 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“cuts and mounts absolutely beautiful”
Reviewed October 23, 2011

After a fun trip to Franklin and lots of mining at Mason Mountain Mine, we selected a few of our sapphires and rubies to have cut and mounted. We had a earring neckless set in lighter blue sapphires with cabracon cut in silver for our daughter. Then I had the darkest sapphires faceted in yellow gold and watermelon ruby in yellow gold. My husband and I were amazed at the quality of each piece. They did an amazing job with our finds and it gives us a lot to show off when we tell our mining story. Thank you Cowee Gift Shop!

Visited July 2011
Helpful?
1 Thank keysrat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
South Florida, Florida
Level 3 Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“WOW we dug up pounds of BIG sapphires and rubies in their native dirt pile!”
Reviewed September 16, 2011

We went to Mason Mountain Mine & Cowee Gift Shop for two days and on the third day we thought it would be smart to at least try another mine, so we started at Mason's Ruby & Sapphire Mine and that was so BAD we left after two hours and went back to Mason Mountain Mine & Cowee Gift Shop!

We never bought one of the enriched buckets although I wanted to just so I could bring home some pretty vase filler bling type stuff. Instead, we dug in their native mine dirt every day for the three days. Each day we found 15-30 good sized sapphires or rubies and each day about 6 of them were just plain huge. The first day my husband found a star sapphire that they said would yield a 10, 15 and 5 carat (three stones) when cut and I found a lavender sapphire the size of my thumb! We found so many we quite taking them into the shop - after our three days at MMM & CGS we left with POUNDS of sapphires and rubies!!!

James who runs the mining area can explain how to pick out the sapphires/rubies and if you really pay attention after the first hour or so you can easily pick them out.
1. They look and feel smoother then the other rock in the dirt
2. The dirt rinses off them faster then the other rocks
3. They will generally always have a flat side and many are hexagon shaped
4. They are very heavy when compared to a plain rock the same size

Unlike the other mine that has sticky clay you have to literally scrub off, here the dirt has very little clay content so while you are sluicing your dirt in the water. the sapphires, rubies, quartz, rodolite and other gem materials can be cleaned off just be swishing your screen so you don't have to tear your hands up scrubbing clay off. The dig pile has a ton of quartz, mica and rodolite in it - their diggers truck it from underneath a rodolite area - so we also left with several bags of quartz and rodolite specimens to put on display.

If you decide to skip the enriched bucket baubbles and instead try the authentic dig your own dirt, the trick is to do a lot of buckets - you may find 1-3 or so good sized gems per every 5 gallon bucket of dirt you dig, so the more you can dig and sift the better. It is very hard work - even though they give you a hand truck to haul your buckets, the digging and dragging of the dirt/rocks, then hunching over the flume shaking and dumping the sluice box filled with rocks all day will wear you out. Day one and two we put in about 6 hours each day and literally staggered into our hotel room each afternoon sore and exhausted. BUT it was so much fun and we found so many BIG rubies and sapphires that we went back for the third day and found we had toughened up quite a bit! Wish we could have stayed longer...I could totally turn into a rockhound at that place!

As others have posted you should wear old tennis shoes or boots, and either dark or old clothing as the dirt is very red and stains. The water in the flume is very cool and refreshing so even on the warm days we were there it kept us cool with our hands in it, but I recommend bringing sunscreen - the covered part of the flume is the farthest away from the dig pile. You park your car so close that you can go to it for drinks and food easily and just keep an eye on it in general, and they have picnic tables and bathrooms right in between where you park and where you mine.

We paid $20 in the morning when we arrived for a 1/2 day and then around lunchtime if there are enough people mining and if you want to stay then you just pay the other $10 for the total full day rate of $30 per person. For digging large quantities of native dirt that is the way to go - we probably did 15-20 buckets each per day so if we were paying by the bucket like some mines charge wow would that get expensive. If you want an enriched bucket instead of digging, their buckets looked good and had more genuine native gems then most places as they pull most of it out of the local mines on their land...they have enriched buckets ranging from $30 on up and everyone I saw do one of those had a ton of stuff from them.

James who works the mining area knows literally everything there is to know about rockhounding so ask him whatever you want - he will train you and leave you alone so you can peacefully zone out sorting rocks, but don't mistake that for a lack of attentiveness. If you WANT him to chat and hold your hand he will, but if you don't need or want that he lets you be which is great (the other mine had a guy constantly talking to us and it ruined the peaceful nature of the process.) I left with a great education from James and he told us some good stories about his own exploits searching for treasure.

We are planning to return to Franklin for more gem mining, and will only go to MMM & CGS the next trip...if your goal is quantity, size and value then it's the only mine to go to. One thing to keep real - the cost to cut gems is VERY HIGH going up into the high hundreds for a large stone facet cut, and if you want it mounted in gold jewelry well gold is $1,800 an ounce right now so do the math. Rubies and sapphires are almost as hard as diamonds so they need to be cut rather then tumbled...we are contemplating buying a cabbing machine and cutting them ourselves since we now have all these HUGE gems and no way are we spending hundreds/thousands per stone. James said cabbing and faceting is not that hard to learn and if you buy a machine from them he gives you an hour lesson with the purchase.

Visited September 2011
Helpful?
10 Thank manchulu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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