shine on your crazy tourmaline (or whatever)
June 30, 2008 8:09 PM   Subscribe

When I was a kid living in La Mesa, California, my mother got to poke around in the tailings at local tourmaline and mica mines as part of weekend classes we took at the natural history museum. Are there any kinds of similar gemstone mines anywhere near where I live now - Sacramento, California - that offer similar opportunities?
posted by luriete to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well I don't know about gemstones per se, but the silver mines in Virginia City are pretty neat. We used to go there on day trips from Tahoe.
posted by radioamy at 8:49 PM on June 30, 2008

When I was growing up in Sac, school fieldtrips to the foothills to pan for gold were pretty common and I remember hunting for (huge) quartz crystals during a girl scout camp near Mokelumne Hill.
posted by jamaro at 9:30 PM on June 30, 2008

There are tourmaline and mica mines in La Mesa? Why did I not know this?

I have panned gold and been to silver mines in Nevada & Northern California, though. If you go to highway 49, you can do the whole mine tour dealybob in various places. Virginia City still has some underground stuff too, although their tourism is down a lot compared to the happening Cartwright Ranch 70s when my dad used to take us there.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:22 PM on June 30, 2008

Best answer: The tourmalines you were looking at were likely present in late magmatic pegmatite dikes that are found all across the very southern corner of California. We have some pegmatitic dykes in NorCal, but I don't think I have ever seen the assemblage of minerals that you are thinking of - tourmaline/garnet/muscovite. Up here in Sac it is mainly gold/other metals, some epidote, other rare minerals. There are some neat pyrite locales hidden in the Sierras, but they are usually very small and hard to find. The gold is all commercial/industrial, but several offer tours.

I have never been to the mines you are talking about, but I have heard a lot about them and have done a fair amount of field geology work in the Coyote Mountains east of San Diego where there was an abundance of tourmaline.
posted by Big_B at 10:04 AM on July 1, 2008

Best answer: Not Northern California, but if you are in the Southern California, the Pala Pegmatite is not to be missed. Quite impressive Pink tournaline and purple mica. They do the 'pay $X, mine for a day' thing. I can't remember how much it costs.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:20 PM on July 1, 2008

Also wondering where these mines are in La Mesa?
posted by ShootTheMoon at 7:56 PM on July 1, 2008

Gem Trails of Northern California, by James R. Mitchell will give you all the areas publicly accessible to find precious and semi-precious stones. If you're technically inclined, the GPS Guide to to Western Gem Trails by David A. Kelty references the entire Gem Trails of... series and makes things even easier. I've explored a handful of sites around the SF Bay using these two books, and come away with an interesting collection of photos/samples.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2008

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