Cowee Gift Shop and

Mason Mountain Mine

Franklin, NC
Covered Flume Area
Handicap Accessible
About Us

Family Owned and Operated by Tom and Ginger Johnson

Mason Mountain Mine Flume

Mason Mountain Mine Flume

In the late 1800's, a mine was discovered in northern Macon County that was rich in Rhodolite garnets and six other minerals. The mine was a well-known treasure to the county's earliest inhabitants and in 1965, when Tom Johnson was just six months old, his father purchased the mine. Today, the mine is still in the family with Tom and his wife, Ginger, continuing the family's legacy of opening the mine, now known as Cowee Gift Shop and Mason Mountain Mine.

The family mining tradition has remained making the mine a popular gathering site for families and miners from all over the world who come to Macon County still searching for gems.

In addition to Rhodolite garnets, named for the native Rhododendron that grows across the mountains, the property has six other minerals – Corundum, which is Ruby and Sapphire, Kyanite, Moonstone, Smokey Quartz, Garnet, and Cordierite (a form of Iolite).

At Mason Mountain Mine customers become friends and friends become family!

gem mining franklin nc

We offer the best hands-on training you will ever need to begin finding gemstones. Once you find a few, bring them to our gift shop to have them examined by one of our professional staff to see if any can be cut into something beautiful!
Tom & Ginger, Your Hosts

watermelon rubies


Looking for that special souvenir? When you stop by our gift shop our friendly staff will happily assist you. As you browse our shop, you will find gems and minerals from our property, surrounding areas and from all over the world. Whether you are looking for jewelry, T-shirts, hats, specimens, toys, or home decor you can find it in our gift shop.

Gem Mine Hours 2024

** Jan. & Feb. 2024 = CLOSED

** Opening Day = March 1, 2024! **

Summer/Fall 2024

(Mar. 1 thru Oct. 29)

  • Sunday – CLOSED
  • Monday – 9am-5pm
  • Tuesday – 9am-5pm
  • Wednesday – CLOSED
  • Thursday – 9am-5pm
  • Friday – 9am-5pm
  • Saturday – 9am-5pm


Winter 2024

(Nov. 7 thru Dec. 21)

Special Closed Dates 2024

  • Oct. 30 – Nov 6.
  • Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving)
  • Dec. 22-31 (Christmas)

    Winter 2024 (Nov. 7 thru Dec. 21)

    • Sunday – CLOSED
    • Monday – CLOSED
    • Tuesday – CLOSED
    • Wednesday – CLOSED
    • Thursday – 10am-3pm
    • Friday – 10am-3pm
    • Saturday – 10am-3pm

    Gem Mine Hours 2025

    Jan. & Feb. 2025 = CLOSED
    Opening Day = March 1, 2025



    Tom teaches gem cutting lessons throughout the season.

    Cutting demo lesson: $150.00

    All lessons are by appointment only.
    ​To schedule a lesson call (828) 421-1457

    gem mining franklin nc
    gem mining franklin nc


    At Mason Mountain Mine you can have your treasures turned into jewelry that will last forever. Our knowledgeable staff can assist you in identifying which findings would best make into gemstone jewelry. A wide selection of mountings from rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets help customers design that unique piece of jewelry.

    Pricing of cutting and mountings vary depending on the size of stones and whether mounts are silver and gold.

    Contact our gift shop at:

    (828) 421-1457 for pricing.

    Return Policy – If you are unhappy with your purchase, we do offer exchanges only.

    Exchanges must be made within 30 days of purchase date, returned in original packaging with receipt!


    Gem Mining

    Dig Your Own

    Our native dirt pile where your gem mining experience begins. Native dirt from the private mine site located atop Mason Mountain is brought down to this pile for miners to sift through. Soil samples from this location indicate a wide variety of minerals including Rhodolite Garnet, Ruby, Sapphire, Kyanite, Moonstone, Cordierite and Smoky Quartz.

    Our experienced staff will guide you in how to discover native material. We have a gemstone chart available to help you identify your findings as well.

    Just place the dirt in the screen and rinse thoroughly. Concentrate on material that is smooth, heavy and has color. Until you become familiar with the native material, be sure to have our staff help you in the beginning.

    • Dig: $40.00
    Super Buckets:

    To ensure gems are discovered, miners can purchase enhanced buckets that have gems added to the native dirt. This will guarantee a find of additional minerals.
    These buckets are many of our miners' favorites!

    • $30.00 Super Bucket (approx. 4-6 pounds of gems)
    • $50.00 Super Bucket (approx. 10 pounds of gems)
    • $100 Super Bucket (approx. 20 pounds of gems)
    • $300 Super Bucket (approx. 50 pounds of gems)

    For our avid rockhounds, we offer barrels that range from $500.00 to $1,500.00. ​These barrels are said to “Rock your world” as a rockhound.

    ​Once your mining is completed at the flume line, be sure to take your findings into the gift shop for identification by the shop staff. The staff will select any findings that could be cut and made into jewelry. We offer cutting and jewelry making for our customers. Our turn around time ranges from 3-8 weeks depending on the season.

    We Ship Dirt

    Can't make it during our season?
    ​No worries, we ship dirt all over the United States. Please visit our ONLINE STORE to purchase one of these buckets and have it shipped to you.

    ​Or call us at (828) 421-1457 to have some magical dirt delivered to your front door!

    Mark Your Calendars


    Reservations are required for all Mine and Super Supper Bucket events. Please call (828) 421-1457 to reserve your spot.
    Mine Event - Super Supper Bucket Event

    Private Guided Mine Excursion
    2 Hours
    Must be 18 years old
    Please call (828) 421-1457 to make a PAID reservation.
    Cost $200 per person per event.

    Emergency Services Night

    Saturday, June 3
    6 pm – 10 pm
    Call for details

    Night Mining

    July 8
    7 pm – 11 pm
    All rates apply
    No reservations needed

    Customer Appreciation Day
    October 14
    9 am – 5 pm
    No reservations needed


    Based on 221 reviews
    Julie Porter
    Julie Porter
    November 2, 2023
    We had a great time! Folks were very friendly, helpful, and told us all about our find , after our sift. We spent 4 hours there digging in dirt, and sifting for our gem stones!! Mighty nice people there. I will definitely go back there! Found some great gems too!! Emeralds, Rubys, Sapphires, and Garnet! A super nice piece of Tiger's Eye. And many more gem stones too. A great experience!! Get a little dirty, get a little wet! It'll bring out your inner kid!! And the gift shop has some gorgeous gifts!! Very reasonable priced. Jewelry, gems, stone! Beautiful hand crafted pieces. It's one of those places, you'll want to go back to. Time, after time.
    Sarah Magin
    Sarah Magin
    October 1, 2023
    We traveled to NC to mine for a ruby that we could facet into a center stone for an engagement ring. We found a great stone at Mason Mountain Mine! When we found it, we had only a few hours before our return flight home. I later contacted the shop to see if they would facet the stone for us. Ginger was so helpful in giving me all the information, and Tom cut a beautiful center stone for my ring! The pricing was very reasonable as well. We are so appreciative of the experience and the end result!
    Kirk Hartley
    Kirk Hartley
    October 1, 2023
    Had a great and successful time mining for stones! Great people assisting and educating as you soft for gems! I found a nice star ruby that they are turning into a pair of earrings for my wife ! Lots of Rhodolite garnets, and some very good rubies ! I will be back!
    Gary Norrington
    Gary Norrington
    September 2, 2023
    This just our second time mining for anything and the first time no one took the time to explain how it is done and show examples of what we were looking for. When we paid in the store they took the time to show us examples of things we may find/see. We were then directed to the mining area across the street. Shout out to Patty, she explained everything to us and once we were situated and beginning she came over multiple times to see how we were doing and pointed out a few things we should be looking for. This was a great experience and look forward to coming back on a future trip. We had buckets of fun while mining.
    Nicholea Boggs
    Nicholea Boggs
    September 1, 2023
    We have been there 2 times.. we will go back hopefully many more times.. wonderful people who work there they made my day.. had a blast looking for Ruby’s and Rodalite Garnets..
    August 29, 2023
    Best rock mining in the area. Always find goodies in the natural dig
    Seth Fontaine
    Seth Fontaine
    August 14, 2023
    My family and I spent 2 days mining here. Fantastic people and had a blast looking for rubies and other gems. We left with piles of gems. Highly recommend this activity for young ones and adults.
    Robert Lafollette
    Robert Lafollette
    July 27, 2023
    This is most definitely on of my favorite gem mines if not my all time favorite! John is super helpful and everyone here is nice as all get out! I’ll be back plenty more!
    D Varne
    D Varne
    July 21, 2023
    I have been to several different mines in the area, and this one is the best by far! The amount of stones and the size is amazing and frankly the cost is great on a bang for your buck level! The staff is very friendly and extremely knowledgeable. If you are in NC visiting the gem mines, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE!!
    Katie Wollard
    Katie Wollard
    July 9, 2023
    My family loves these sweet people, we visit often when in the area. The best and only mine to go to!

    Bobby & I have been coming to Mason Mt Mine for about 10 years or so. Feel like part of the family! It is a place to relax, dig in the dirt, learn something new every time and most of all, make new friends! You won't find better native dirt in the area(and we've tried almost every mine) and Tom & Ginger are some of the sweetest souls you will ever meet! We love it here and send as many Pittsburgh folks down as we can! Very grateful for the Johnsons!

    Bobby and Linda Joyce

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Cowee Gift Shop and Mason Mountain Mine

    When we first started mining, we checked out several mines. We fell in love with mining here. Tom and Ginger always have knowledgeable employees at the mine to help you know what to look for! They sort your rocks and tell you what’s good, pretty or just leaverite (leave it right on the ground).

    Ginger has an eye for design and Tom cuts and finishes the stone to perfection. Large stones or small, cabochon or faceted, silver or gold, the jewelry comes out looking amazing. Each year we add to our beautiful collection of jewelry. We know the stones are real! We mined them. We know the settings are good quality and the workmanship top quality.

    The gift shop has a wide variety of single stones or beautiful jewelry already made and ready to wear.

    Tom, Ginger, and  Brad; as well as Benji’s and Brandon's families became friends as we visited yearly. Now they are extended family.

    We've brought family and friends to share our mining experience!

    Helen and Howard Ashenfelter

    Morgantown, WV

    We furnish all mining equipment

    We Ship Dirt

    Buckets can be purchased and mailed right to your doorstep. Please visit our ONLINE STORE to purchase buckets that can be shippped to you. Or call us at (828) 421-1457 with questions.

    Find Our Gift Shop and Gem Mine

    Our Location

    We are conveniently located 5.5 miles north of Franklin, NC in the Cowee Valley of Macon County. We sit nestled against Mason Mountain along Hwy 28 North between Franklin and Bryson City.

    5315 Bryson City Road, Franklin, NC 28734


    (828) 421-1457

    (text only after hours please)

    5315 Bryson City Road, Franklin, NC 28734

    Drop us a line!