Treasures Above and Under
A Treasured Experience Gem Capital of the World
I can’t help it. I love things that sparkle and shine! So naturally, I planned a trip to Western North Carolina. You may be laughing, and think I’m totally off my rocker, but quaint Franklin, NC is known as the “Gem Capital of the World”! Gems are still being mined here, and they host the renowned “Macon County Gemboree” twice a year with incredible jewelry and gems.
Upon my arrival in Franklin, I headed straight to Ruby City Gems & Minerals, the largest gem store in the state. This unassuming shop from the outside completely transforms as you walk inside and see literally thousands of gems and diamonds, both beautifully designed and ready to buy and cut and customizable. Not only do they have amazing items for sale, but they house a museum containing incredible gems, thousands of years old fossils, and ivory carvings. The true gem in this story, however, is Ernest Klatt, founder of Ruby City, who quite literally built the business from nothing but hard work. The business is now run by his grandson with the same work ethic and desire to awe visitors with the natural treasures carried.
My love for the sparkly and shiny comes naturally, when I was 8, I received a rock tumbler for my birthday. There could not have been a better gift, my friends and I would dig around in our clay backyard in East TN all day discovering “geos” and “gems’. Fast-forward to present day and my dreams of actually finding a precious stone came through in Franklin, NC thanks to Mason’s Ruby & Sapphire Mine.
Mason’s Mine is a native dig your own gem mine where you put in your own sweat equity, and it pays off every time—whether in actual treasure or treasured memories. The set-up is simple after arriving at the mine I examined the sample tray to learn what to look for, grabbed a bucket and crossed over a beautiful stream, loaded the bucket with dirt from the dig area, and brought it back to the flume where I washed the dirt off the stones in the screen frame and looked for treasure. Before I dumped out my screen, one of their knowledgeable staff came to check and make sure I hadn’t missed anything, and without his expertise I would have missed a 3-carat ruby! I can’t wait to get it cut and set.
Mining for Memories with a Side of Rubies
The Friendliest Stop Along the Appalachian Trail
Although Franklin sparkles with its gems, I was impressed to see the way this town cares for the dirty and grungy (and I mean that in the best possible way!). You see, Franklin sits just 10 miles off the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail that hundreds hike through from Main to Georgia each year. It was the first town designated as an A.T. Community, and hikers are treated with admiration and respect at the local shops, churches, and restaurants, and the town even offers a shuttle service from the trail into town.
The vibes that the A.T. adds to this town make it so unique. The two outfitters in town, Three Eagles Outfitters and Outdoor 76 are always stocked with the best gear, and stories are swapped with thru-hikers about what’s going on in ‘civilization’ and what’s going on along the trail. I enjoyed my own short hike intersecting with the A.T. at Wayah Bald Lookout Tower. I took the advice of others and went at sunset for a 360-degree view of pristine mountains and lakes from the top of a restored fire-tower that was originally built by the CCC in 1937.