A good friend and I took a day trip to go mine our own gemstones at the Benitoite Mining Company. Many of the photos below are hers.
Deep in the oak savannah of San Benito County, California, the mine is tucked in the hills at an old prison work camp, built about eighty years ago to provide workers to build the roads out there (according to the very nice owner).
We were checking it out to see if my kids would enjoy it. They are just not quite ready for six hours of mining! There were other kids there, about 8 years and older. We had such an amazing time; my kids will love this when they mature enough.
The activity is sifting through mine tailing piles for the extremely rare gemstone, Benitoite. It is the state gemstone of California. Benitoite only comes in gem quality from this mine. 💎 It fluoresces blue/white under UV light.
You get some dirt on your sieve, shake it out so stones remain. Wash it as well as you can, then don your UV protective goggles and head into one of the old buildings. Inside, it is dark and you sit at a UV light and sift through your stones looking for glowing things.
The weather in November was ridiculously perfect. The drive out and back was long, but flew by due to lively conversation. When we arrived, we were greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff and even friendlier dogs.
There was a surprisingly decent restroom and picnic tables but you'll need to bring your own food and water and such.
Before leaving, the staff looked through your discoveries to explain about your best finds and took a picture for their social media pages. I had found Neptunite, Benitoite in both gem and rock forms, Natrolite (fluoresces bright red under the UV lights), pretty serpentine stones, and interesting blue schist (a little girl there called it bubbly rock). Find out more about the stones here.
Definitely read through the website for hours of operation, what you need to bring, and other FAQs. Go! It is a wonderful (but a bit expensive) experience: Dig for gems!
Some of my finds: