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“There’s something that, to this day, is super alluring about the idea of finding buried treasure… but what if you could go to a place where you were almost guaranteed to dig up something of value? Welcome to Pala Chief Mine in California, where you’re welcome to dig up and take home as much world-class kunzite, tourmaline, and aquamarine (among other precious and semi-precious gems) as you can carry… and these aren’t just little chips of stone; they’re massive hunks of gem!

The Pala Chief Mine opened in 1903, shortly after the gem deposits were discovered, and cranked out jewels until the collapse of the gemstone market in 1914. After that, it was only sporadically mined, and many smaller (but still good sized) specimens were overlooked by old-timey miners… so the odds of finding something are pretty good! Plus, they’re actually expanding the mines, always digging up new gems for visitors to take home. The tours run on assorted weekends from the fall through the late spring, so keep your eyes peeled on their website for dates!

It’ll cost you an up-front fee of $75 to get in, you’ll have to sign up for a scheduled tour which requires some hiking to reach the hillside, and you’ll need to bring your own equipment, but once you reach the mines, it’s a free-for-all on the stones. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find kunzite, which is usually a pale pinkish violet that was originally discovered here at Pala Chief (the mine used to provide Tiffany’s with their kunzite), pink and green tourmaline (much of which was shipped to China for carving) and even aquamarine and giant chunks of quartz. So pretty! You’re allowed two 5-gallon buckets to fill up and take with you, so get ready for some heavy lifting.”