Learn About the Wonders of Sheffield Gem Mine
We are committed to providing an unforgettable experience to everyone. Come see us and learn what it is like to mine beautiful gemstones. You’ll both learn how to spot and identify genuine Rubies from our Mine. And be guaranteed to find powerful gemstones and crystals to take home from any of our Rainbow Enriched buckets as well.
Sheffield Gem Mine is one of the oldest native ruby mines that remain in operation in the Cowee Valley. The area was once mined by renowned jewelry crafter Tiffany and Co. for more than 60 years, but rubies and sapphires are still abundant. It is now open to the public for recreational gem mining.
The stones that you can find in our mine appear in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They are most likely to have a rough coating of granite that is note tumbled away in a creek. But at least one shimmering surface or corner will convince you into taking a piece home. You may also have a cut and polished Sheffield ruby, which is truly distinctive.
Enjoy a Native Bucket With Us
We believe that Mother Nature placed these gemstones in beds of clay where they have remained undisturbed for millions of years. At least, until we excavated the dirt from the hillside and shoveled the gem-bearing clay into buckets. Each Native Bucket should be taking you at least 45min to do until you become a pro at it. We are there to guide you through the process and help you spot rubies, some stand out clearly, but many are missed if you haven’t cleaned the dirt off thoroughly. That’s why we encourage you to take your time, and you’ll learn also about the other minerals native to our mine!
What is a Honker?
We like to have some fun at Sheffield Gem Mine, our tradition the many years has been to call out rubies found here as Honkers based on their carat weight. Bring your rubies in to be weighed, and we’ll get on the horn and tell everyone about it.
- 15 – 29 carats – is what we affectionately call a Squeaker, you’ll get a Squeaker button as a souvenir and bragging rights on the spot.
- 30 – 99 carats is a HONKER – Find a honker and become part of our Honker club. You’ll get a card entitling you to a FREE bucket of native dirt for life. Just bring your card in, and with paid admission, we’ll give you an extra bucket of dirt each time you visit. You’ll also get a cool button.
- 100 carats and over is a SUPER HONKER – Truly an honor, we typically only have a few per year. Worthy of celebration, we get pretty excited here. You’ll be a Honker Club member for life and get our exclusive Super Honker Button – remember, you can’t take it off till Midnight!
Frequently Asked Questions
That's easy! At our native ruby and sapphire mine, you will have a fun-filled day digging in the dirt while making lots of silly, exciting, and relaxing memories with your family or friends! Here are four other reasons to visit Sheffield Gem Mine:
You will have a genuine gem mining experience.
You will do something new and different or do something you already love.
You will be the first human to spot, touch, and own a real ruby or sapphire no matter what the size is.
You will create lasting memories with your family and friends by finding various gemstones.
Native stones are formed in the ground that you are standing on! These are found at a native mine in buckets and it takes hard work and lots of time to find. If you have never searched for the stones, you will need help in finding your first few until you get the hang of the process. You might not get the stones you wish. But if you do, you will be the very first person to pull it and hold it in your hands! That's what we call braggin' rights!
It is good to remember that although you may find a huge native gemstone, it has never been examined and checked for quality. Just because it looks amazing doesn't mean that the stone in your hand, while a precious stone, has any real value. Many stones may have a color that you weren't expecting or be riddled with microholes that make it uncuttable, but these qualities, along with others, are often unknown until cut into or examined with professional tools.
Salted means that the stones you found have come from a different part of the world and have been added to local dirt. These stones require very little work and are easy finds. Most of these stones are imported from places like India, Brazil, or even Africa!
You will typically find larger sizes and quantities than from a Native Bucket. You won't be the first to ever find these stones, but you will be the one bringing them home! These stones have often been pressure-washed and inspected for a minimum quality.
Rubies belong in the corundum family. The only thing that sets it apart from sapphire is its color. It is typically red, but it can be in the purple range as well. These are the second hardest mineral known to man, ranking a nine on the MOH's scale. Its specific gravity is 4.02 and its crystalline structure is hexagonal, meaning that while forming, it develops into a long six‑sided crystal.
Non-jewelry-quality rubies are used as jewel bearings in watches and as components of scientific equipment and in lasers.
Rubies that you'll find at Sheffield Mine aren't the traditional red rubies that one usually thinks of. These here are star rubies, and their color is a bit different. They are more of a purple-red color. Even though it is different from what most of you would expect, make no mistake as these are rubies. If they are of good quality, they can be more valuable than diamonds!
Occasionally people find a Pink Sapphire, if the color is truly pink. And we find a few more unusual colors rarely. Overall, we rely on the local Lapidary experts to classify whether it’s a Ruby or a Sapphire.
During the day, we love to make a big deal out of the stones found and those who found them. So, to make it a squeaker, it has to weigh in at 15 carats or larger. Once it hits the 30-carat mark, it becomes a honker. After that, at 100 carats, we deem it a super honker.
Then, we will announce it to the crowd and the person that found it over the loudspeakers with our special horns. If you end up bringing us a honker or super honker, you get to join our honker club and are awarded a few extra goodies.
As you can see, we like to get dirty! Wear your old clothes and shoes. After all, this is not the opera! You are going to get wet and anywhere from a little bit dirty to a lot and a bit dirty. We promise that you'll have so much fun with us that you won't mind a bit!
Yourself and extra clothes. Everything else is already in our location. We also have food and drinks for sale in the gift shop, as well as gloves and ponchos just in case the weather gets bad. The flume lines are covered, so you don't have to worry about getting drenched while having fun!
Yes. We use Square and accept most major credit cards with a surcharge of 3.75% However, once on the flume, many find it handy to have some cash to add on buckets without needing to stop and go inside to pay.
Yes! This is a genuine native ruby and sapphire mine. The "Real McCoy," the dirt, rubies, and sapphires come from right here on our property. Now, some "mines" will tell you that the dirt comes from their property, but they don't tell you that the stones come from their property.
They let you fill that gap in yourself and of course, the inclination is to fill it in with "well I guess that the stones come from here too.” But they don't! Their stones are like our rainbow stones that come from various parts of the world—but not from here! However, our rubies and sapphires are native and come from our property here in North Carolina.
This means that when looking for rubies and sapphires, you have to be diligent and patient. Remember that these stones have been in the earth surrounded by dirt and other rocks for millions of years, so they aren't just going to pop out at you screaming "Hey, look at me! Don't I look pretty!" This process will take about an hour per bucket. With your admission, you get to start with two buckets of your choice.
We know everyone doesn't have the patience to go through the Native Buckets, so we also have the option of salted buckets for those who want an easy find. Keep in mind that you will not find any rubies and sapphires in these. Instead, you will find some very cool and unique stones!
Here are a few pointers before you come, but remember, you still need to listen to the speech once you arrive.
1. Pour no more than 1/4 of your Native Bucket into the tray at a time. Less is even better!
2. Make sure all the mud is gone by laying the tray in the water and squishing out the mud with your hands!
3. Here's the time-consuming part. Your rocks need to be as clean as possible! Gather your small rocks to the center of the tray with the tray out of the water and cup your hands around them to start scrubbing the rocks.
4. Dip the tray back in the water to rinse. Then, repeat steps 3 and 4 at least a good 5 times and probably more depending on how long you scrub each time.
5. Put your hopefuls in the tin can and film canister. We will come by to let you know what you have if you don't already!
It is in purple or pink color and has triangle ridges, six sides, weight, and if it’s hard enough to scratch the tray. If it breaks or leaves color behind when trying to scratch the tray, you can throw it out.
Each native bucket takes about 45 min to an hour to go through. You can choose to get two native buckets with your admission, so plan on being here for at least two hours or more, depending on how much fun you’re having! Also, please note that during summer, we can get pretty slammed and we have been known to have a waiting list for a room at the flume line. If you don't want to hang around waiting for someone to be done for the day, then make sure to get here at 10 am when we open!
The regular Salted or Rainbow Buckets take about 10 minutes to go through. If you’re planning on doing Native and your child will be doing the Rainbow Bucket, you might want to consider one of the larger Specialty Buckets, as they take more time and allow you to finish more in sync with each other. However, the main reason people choose our Specialty Buckets are they are just FUN.....and you never know what you’ll find. Often people will opt to share a bucket and share the finds. Also if you are a crystal lover, you’ll leave with an abundance and variety of crystals and gem stones for your collection at significantly lower prices than buying them individually. But again it’s really all about the experience, the memories and fun shared!
No problem! If you can't walk or just need some assistance getting down to the mine, we'll be happy to pick you up from the parking lot. Once parked, just honk your horn three times and we will have someone come and get you in our red mule.
If you use a wheelchair, we have a special section of seating that is removable, so that you can wheel right up to the flume and dig in. We are happy to carry your buckets and tray etc over for you, but you still get to pick which ones feel Lucky!
Going to Our Native Gem Mine
To reach our mine, take Cowee Creek Rd to turn Leatherman Gap road, look left and you’ll see our sign. You will only travel half a mile on a gentle mountain road. After parking your vehicle in our lot, you will descend to the mining area by a stairway. Keep in mind that our location was improved in 2010. We currently have an area to sit if you need to pause for a moment or two before coming all the way down. And if you need assistance walking down, we are happy to come up and get you in our mule.
The Destination for Recreational Mining
Our location has sapphires and star rubies. It is important to note that star rubies are only found in the hills of Cowee Valley and Burma, India. In addition to that, our mine is one of the oldest and prettiest in the area. Its peaceful and calm surroundings will ensure everyone’s fun and relaxing time with us!
Excellent Customer Service Guaranteed
We are dedicated to providing a fun atmosphere and friendly environment to everyone. Our team will keep people smiling and ensure that they are enjoying their time in our mines.
Contact Sheffield Gem Mine
For additional information regarding our company, please reach out to one of our representatives today. We look forward to attending to all of your needs.