Rock Hounding for Rubies, Sapphires, and Good Times

Studio Notes: Part 1 — Rocking Rubies

In the old days, Lapidary Journal devoted many issues to rock hounding. The idea was that it is fun to find gemstones of your own, then cut and set them in your own jewelry.

Rock Hounding Today

In North Carolina, it’s now open season on rubies and sapphires. Even emeralds. In the far western nub of the state is the town of Franklin. Head north from there and the Appalachian Mountains are sprinkled with ruby and sapphire mines open between now and October. Pick a mine. Buy a bucket of gravel, pour it in a screened box and sluice it in a channel of flowing water to look for gems.

For more information and museum grade examples, stop in at Ruby City Gems & Minerals. C. Kevin Klatt’s family store at 130 East Main Street is loaded with rocks, gem displays, jewelry and equipment. Those are his hands in the picture above, holding a 162.8 carat piece of gem rough that, if cut properly, could yield a star ruby.

Klatt recommends these mines (but if you go on your own, be sure to call ahead!):

  • Mason’s Ruby & Sapphire Mine,
  • Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine,
  • The Sheffield Mine,

You can also check out the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum in the old jail at 25 Phillips Street, where rock hounds like to hang out.

For information, go to

Betsy Lehndorff came across this ruby patch in North Carolina while teaching pearl carving at the William Holland School of Lapidary. She has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010.

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