I spent the past 2 weekends out at the Oceanview Mine in Pala, Ca. For those of you who may not know, here’s a quick history lesson. The Pala mining district consists of about 20 mine sites, however only one is still operating, the Oceanview Mine. While the gems were always prized by the local Native Americans, it wasn’t until the settlers came in the late 1800’s that mining the gems became a economical endeavor. The empress of China loved the pink tourmaline mined there so much that most of the material from Pala was bought and shipped to China for several years around the turn of the century.
What can you find? In addition to tourmaline, Kunzite, named after Tiffany’s chief geologist in the early 1900’s George Kunz, Morganite (pink beryl), named by Kunz in honor of his good friend J.P. Morgan and aquamarine are found there.
What to expect. Gem digging is work. If you go in digging like you mean it you will find valuable material, otherwise it will be just luck if whether you find anything of value or not. I do the former. From my gold prospecting days I learned it’s more about moving as much material as possible, rather than trying to find that needle in the haystack. So, I go full bore, concentrate on the 1/4″ and larger material, while lightly looking over the 1/8″ – 1/4″. Most people I see there spend their time looking through that 1/8″ screen too thoroughly, which really slows you down. You may find some small pieces of a gem, but what can you do with it? The quality & value are with the bigger material and it’s always there.
It’s a brutal 4 hours hauling buckets and sifting screens in the sun, but once you find one of the pieces like the kunzite to the left, it fires you right up. That adrenaline and the occasional red bull keeps you going till the end of the day. Just remember to drink lots of water and eat snack as you go.
My finds for the past two weekends put me a little up from what I paid. However, some of the specimens like the spodumene shown of the left, get to go into my collection which makes it all worth while.
See our shop on Etsy for some finds we have for sale.