Location: Pala (53 Miles / 55 Minutes North of Downtown San Diego)
Hours: Panning is on most weekends by Appointment Only
Cost: $20 for a Bucket of Pilings
Features: Tourmaline Mining at the famous Stewart Mine; Gem Store
Gems of Pala Highlights: You will find the Gems of Pala store at one of the most widely recognized tourmaline mines in the world, the Stewart Mine. It is in the San Diego County community of Pala, which provides one of the world’s richest deposits of pink tourmaline. Rockhounds and gemstone enthusiasts come from all over the world to find Pala tourmaline.
The Stewart Mine holds the record for being the largest pegmatite mining operation in the history of the U.S. This took place in the late 19th century when the last Chinese Dynasty sought to aquire all of the pink tourmaline in California. The Stewart Mine is also famous for its lepidolite, which comes in lilac, lavendar, and pink colors. Plenty of pink tourmaline and green tourmaline, which the Chinese did not desire, can be found.
Although you will not be allowed to enter the Stewart Mine, buckets of mining dirt are brought out to their Gems of Pala store where enthusiasts can sift through the buckets of gem filled dirt. Prices vary depending on the source of the tourmaline. You will be shown a 5-minute video and given the tools to sift through the dirt. Anything you find is yours to keep.
Learn more by visiting the Gems of Pala web site. You are required to call ahead before visiting to ensure buckets are currently available. Otherwise, you will only get to buy tourmaline and other gems available in their store, which is generally open 10AM-4PM on weekends, except one month during winter when the mine closes.
Preparing for Your Visit
Dress appropriately since it can get hot in Pala during the summer. Check the Inland Forecast to learn more. Wear something you don’t mind getting dusty, a hat, and sunscreen. Bring gloves (the kinds you would use to clean kitchens or bathrooms) if you don’t want to sift through wet pilings with your bare hands. Also, bring containers to carry your gems home.
Information on Visiting the Gems of Pala
Traffic – It is relatively easy to reach the Gems of Pala during its normal store hours. It is only 7 miles east of highway I-15.
Transit – There is no transit service to the Gems of Pala.