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Gems of Pala, California

Walking up the dirt-and-gravel path from the parking area, you’re greeted by a Buddha and two rusted truck corpses. Wooden bins of large rocks stand next to the stairs leading up to the store’s entrance. A pile of other rocks in disarray rests to the right, adjacent to the sifting area where visitors search for gems. The facility has a working-mine feel of function over form.

Gems of Pala contains gems from the local Stewart Mine, Brazil, China and other gem-producing nations across the world. The variety and rarity of the gems and geodes on display belie the humble exterior of the business, which looks like a Western general store.

“I found another one!” says 10-year-old Johanna excitedly, showing her parents a translucent pink chunk of tourmaline. The pellet-sized gem is her new prized possession. As one of the 23 gem hunters in the Saturday PM shift, Johanna searches for precious, elusive tourmalines with her parents and brother.

With instruction from Lin-Lin, ersatz miners shovel mine tailings into plastic buckets. In the shaded work area, the contents are transferred in stages to rectangular sifters for shaking. Loose pieces of sand and dirt are screened out, leaving larger bits of rock to examine. Spritzing the remaining rocks with water cleans the surfaces and displays the multicolored results. White quartz jumps out at the eyes; pink and green tourmaline dazzles.

That day, enough sparkling quartz, tourmaline, and pyrites were found to entertain virtually all the kids (and adults). However, kids seemed to find more precious stones than their parents.

Operated for over 130 years, the Stewart Mine is one of the few working gem mines left in the western United States. After working the mine for over 20 years, owner Blue Sheppard says that only 30% of the gem-bearing layers have been touched. Many more discoveries lie ahead.

Located on Magee Rd, 7½ miles east of I-15 off of Route 76, Gems of Pala operates on weekends on a reservation basis. Two shifts of miners are hosted, 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM. For reservations, visit mmmgems.com. Cost is $20 cash per bucket. You bring your own luck, but shovels, buckets and screens are all supplied. Lin-Lin’s instructions are entertaining.

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Walking up the dirt-and-gravel path from the parking area, you’re greeted by a Buddha and two rusted truck corpses. Wooden bins of large rocks stand next to the stairs leading up to the store’s entrance. A pile of other rocks in disarray rests to the right, adjacent to the sifting area where visitors search for gems. The facility has a working-mine feel of function over form.

Gems of Pala contains gems from the local Stewart Mine, Brazil, China and other gem-producing nations across the world. The variety and rarity of the gems and geodes on display belie the humble exterior of the business, which looks like a Western general store.

“I found another one!” says 10-year-old Johanna excitedly, showing her parents a translucent pink chunk of tourmaline. The pellet-sized gem is her new prized possession. As one of the 23 gem hunters in the Saturday PM shift, Johanna searches for precious, elusive tourmalines with her parents and brother.

With instruction from Lin-Lin, ersatz miners shovel mine tailings into plastic buckets. In the shaded work area, the contents are transferred in stages to rectangular sifters for shaking. Loose pieces of sand and dirt are screened out, leaving larger bits of rock to examine. Spritzing the remaining rocks with water cleans the surfaces and displays the multicolored results. White quartz jumps out at the eyes; pink and green tourmaline dazzles.

That day, enough sparkling quartz, tourmaline, and pyrites were found to entertain virtually all the kids (and adults). However, kids seemed to find more precious stones than their parents.

Operated for over 130 years, the Stewart Mine is one of the few working gem mines left in the western United States. After working the mine for over 20 years, owner Blue Sheppard says that only 30% of the gem-bearing layers have been touched. Many more discoveries lie ahead.

Located on Magee Rd, 7½ miles east of I-15 off of Route 76, Gems of Pala operates on weekends on a reservation basis. Two shifts of miners are hosted, 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM. For reservations, visit mmmgems.com. Cost is $20 cash per bucket. You bring your own luck, but shovels, buckets and screens are all supplied. Lin-Lin’s instructions are entertaining.

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Comments
1

been there done that ....a gigantic consumer rip off kids love rocks especially when they are placed on top of your speciman bucket....... funny they never offer reciepts for cash only participation????

Feb. 18, 2010

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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