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Mountain Lily Mine (Emeralite No. 2 claim; Gem Mine No. 1 claim; Ware mine), Aguanga Mountain, Oak Grove, Aguanga Mountain District (Smith Mountain District), San Diego Co., California, USA

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 33° 19' 58'' North , 116° 46' 4'' West
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): 33.3327777778, -116.767777778

The Mountain Lily mine (Emeralite No. 2) is a patented lode mining claim, which is located about one mile east of the summit of Aguanga Mountain, at an elevation of approximately 4880 feet AMSL, 4 miles SE of Oak Grove. The mine workings are geographically identified by the US Geological Survey as the "Ware mine" (NW¼SW¼S½SW¼ Sec 3, T10S, R2E, SBM). The deposit has produced the largest blue topaz crystals ever recovered in San Diego County.

Workings & Production:
This gem-bearing pegmatite deposit was originally discovered by local prospector Bert Simmons of nearby Oak Grove in 1902. Simmons officially located a lode mining claim in June of 1903, being grubstaked by his partner Mr. Charles Gordon of San Diego. In his notably descriptive style, Simmons simply named the lode "Gem Mine No. 1". Simmons had initially prospected the mountain side due to an event that occurred when he was a small boy, just shortly after his family moved to the Oak Grove Valley. Simmons' uncle had been looking for a land survey section corner on what was then known as "Smith" Mountain. When his uncle returned, he had a greenish crystal 3 inches long and 1.5 inches thick. Simmons had always remembered that single crystal, and when news spread of the strike at Mesa Grande, he decided to look the mountain over for a similar occurrence.

Simmons' story of that original discovery was later conveyed to gem miner and lapidary pioneer Frederick J. Rynerson of San Diego - whom briefly worked the deposit for San Diego jeweler and mining financier, K. C. Naylor. In the late spring of 1904, Naylor purchased Simmons' mining claim, and soon thereafter sent a team of miners from the nearby San Diego mine in Mesa Grande, to investigate and develop the prospect. Using Bert Simmons' pack mules, Naylor's exploration crew set up camp below the mine in late spring of 1904 (Simmon's first camp site). Working the pegmatite exposure with hand tools, the miners Ben Boone, Fred Rynerson and Harry Dougherty recovered several pounds of gem-quality blue-green, and rose-pink tourmaline, and a few topaz crystals. Kunz also notes minor development and workers on site.

Around 1909, Dr. C. C. Valle of San Diego relocated Simmons' original lode mining claim, renaming it the "Mountain Lily". Little is known about workings made by Valle in developing the deposit during this period. Most likely, some small scale development occurred, associated with the legal requirement to make improvements needed to perfect discovery of the deposit, and maintain exclusive possession. Schaller credits the production of 30 crystals of bluish topaz during 1915 from the Mountain Lily mine, as reported by Mr. H. C. Gordon of San Diego.

Famous jeweler John Wesley Ware (1060 Sixth Ave., San Diego), moved to southern California in 1910 from upstate New York. Upon a prospecting trip to the region around 1913, he stumbled upon the glistening contents of an eroded gem pocket. Ware negotiated a lease from Valle, and purchased the mine outright in 1914. Subsequently, Ware located two lode mining claims on the deposit, naming them the Emeralite No. 1, and Emeralite No. 2 mines. Soon work was begun constructing several cuts along the northern exposure of the deposit.

Around 1915, Ware published a pamphlet promoting the mine, which included a poem that read: "A repository of radiant gems, In these ledges are displayed, Brought to light by ardent labor, With the shovel, pick and spade. There are Kunzite, Beryl and Garnets, The finest ever seen, With Emeralite, Quartz and Topaz, And the beautiful Tourmaline."

Between 1915 and 1939, Ware and his crew of 2-3 miners proceeded to honeycomb the flat-lying pegmatite, constructing two 6 foot high adits located approximately 30 feet apart. These adits followed the vein's gentle southwestward dip, and encountered several areas of exotic pocket mineralization. The primary or western-most adit extended into the mountain for nearly 200 feet, and contained over 250 ft. of branching tunnels for a total of approximately 2700 cubic ft. of underground drift. Other improvements included the construction of a 10 by 10 ft. wood plank tool house. Additionally, a 20 by 30 foot structure consisting of native rock and concrete was ultimately constructed, which served as the miners' bunk house during intermittent periods of underground mining.

In 1933, Ware was granted patent to the northwest trending 20.66 acre Emeralite No. 2 lode mining claim (US Mineral Survey No. 6110). Around this time Ware described a 10 X 20 X 50 foot chamber which was encountered - packed tightly with fine blue topaz crystals embedded in clay. In the State Mineralogist's report for January of 1939, W. B. Tucker and Charles H. Reed stated that the mine had produced gem minerals including blue topaz, tourmaline (green, blue-green and blue), and beryl (morganite, goshenite and aquamarine). Tucker and Reed described the vein as a badly faulted pegmatite occurring as a blanket averaging between 3 and 4 ft. thick, the strike of which trends northwest.

In 1935 Ware reported that under his supervision the deposit had been worked to the extent of about 2,500 feet of tunnels. The principal production was precious blue topaz, of which the mine netted several hundred pounds. Crystals of blue topaz ranging from about 1 carat in weight up to 3¼ pounds were reported to have been taken out. One crystal, which cut a 17 carat pear-shaped gem of an unusually beautiful blue color was pronounced by competent authority George F. Kunz, to be the finest blue topaz in the world. Ware also reported the production of pink, white, and golden beryls, as well as pink, green, blue, and colorless tourmaline, and what he termed "Emeralite", a beautiful Nile green tourmaline of most unusual and pleasing color, for which the mine was named.

By 1945, over 3800 cubic ft. of underground workings had been developed by Ware. Work on the property abruptly ended in 1946 upon Ware's death at the age of 80 years. The mine was sold in 1947 to Alice Wiesendanger (3660 Puesta del sol, Santa Barbara), whom later leased the deposit to Norman E. Dawson of Escondido. Dawson did some development work in the late 1960's, constructing a third portal and some minor drifts, yet reported only small amounts of material recovered. With results less than satisfactory, Dawson subsequently relinquished his lease to the mine.

In 1983, a speculative venture known as the Pala Mining Company, of nearby Pala, attempted to re-open the mine - although little work of any consequence actually occurred on the site. Primarily, work was done with a small backhoe and explosives near the existing portal sites, which ultimately caused the collapse of the easternmost adits. In 1989, a preliminary mineral report was prepared by geologist Kam Zarrabi, based on a three day field investigation during the last week of April. The three page report produced by Zarrabi detailed the work done to date on the property.

Zarrabi's report described the main workings at that time as mostly blocked by collapsing debris, and recommended re-opening the caved underground workings utilizing heavy equipment. Zarrabi concluded that existing tunnels and drifts would provide sufficient access to develop an accurate geological model and complete an economic analysis needed to determine the future commercial development potential.

In March of 1998, the San Diego Mining Company investigated the property to determine the potential of any future surface and underground development. Field survey was conducted to assess transportation and haulage logistics and support, surface contour adaptability, position of proposed underground portal, and extent of proposed deposit development. Underground examination of the northwestern or main haulage tunnel allowed for inspection of approximately 30 linear feet of drift within the complex pegmatite. Although the underground exposure was small in extent, the location within the pegmatite provided excellent examples of the unique characteristics of the coarse gem-bearing zones of mineralization.

Within the coarse central units of the pegmatite, remnants of exploited miarolitic cavities, ranging in size from 2 inches, up to several feet across were visible. Within the outer margins of previously exploited gem pockets, remained several small iron-stained clay filled cavities. Clay contents consisted of small light blue topaz crystals measuring up to 21mm, some being suitable for faceting small stones weighing up to 5 carats; and many quartz crystals both loose within the clay, and attached to their pegmatite host matrix.

The property was acquired by Pala International of Fallbrook, California, on March 22nd, 2012 - under a joint venture with RPL Mining Limited LLC, based in Delaware. The final planning phase for renewed development of the deposit was well underway by mid April. Future work involving surface exploration and concurrent reclamation of the near surface portion of the existing underground workings will be coupled with modern underground exploration efforts. Day to day operations will be conducted under the direction of Casey Jones, with underground work performed by John C. McLean, and Benjamin Castillo Meza.

Mindat Articles

Gem Mining in San Diego County by J. W. Ware 1935 by Scott L. Ritchie

Mineral List

12 valid minerals.

This page contains all mineral locality references listed on This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Kunz, G. F. (1905), Gems, jeweler's materials, and ornamental stones of California. California State Mining Bureau bulletin 37: pages 123-124.

Merrill, F. J. H. (1914), Geology and Mineral Resources of San Diego and Imperial Counties: Gems. California State Mining Bureau, San Francisco, Cal. California State Printing Office. Chapter 1, pages 72-73.

Schaller, W. T. (1916), Mineral Resources of the United States, Gems and Precious Stones, 1915, Part II. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey: (pgs. 843-858); Topaz, p. 855; December 11th.

Ware, J. W. (1935), Gem Mining in San Diego Co., California: Precious Blue Topaz; Gems & Gemology, Vol. I, No. 8, March-April, pages 218-219; 240pp.

Tucker, W. B. and Reed, C. H. (1939), Los Angeles Field District, Mineral Resources of San Diego County - Gems. California Journal of Mines and Geology. Quarterly Chapter of State Mineralogist's Report 35, January, 1939, No. 1. State of California, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mines: Page 40.

Weber, F. H. (1963), Mines and mineral resources of San Diego County, California. California Division of Mines and Geology, County Report 3: page 102.

Murdoch, Joseph & Webb, Robert W. (1966), Minerals of California, Centennial Volume (1866-1966): California Division Mines & Geology Bulletin 189: 79.

Rynerson, F. J. (1967), Exploring and Mining Gems & Gold in the West; Ch. 3, pages 14-19: Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., Happy Camp, California.

Pemberton, H. Earl (1983), Minerals of California; Van Nostrand Reinholt Press: 317, 431, 447, 454, 504.

Zarrabi, K. (1989), Preliminary Report: Results of a brief investigation of the Emeralite Mine No. 2 mining claim, North San Diego County; April: 3 pages.

Sinkankas, J. (1997) Gemstones of North America. Tucson, Arizona: Geoscience Press Inc. Historical notes of Mable Ware Mullineaux; Alice Wiesendanger; Norman E. Dawson of Escondido; Lapidary Journal, 1961, Vol. 15, No. 4, p. 467; Lapidary Journal, 1983, Vol. 37, No. 5, p. 779: pages 458-459.

Cordova, E. M., Ritchie, S. L., Polk, M. T. (1998), Emeralite No. 2 (Ware) mine surface and U/G field analysis: March; San Diego Mining Company.

Fisher, Jesse (2011), Mines and Minerals of the Southern California Pegmatite Province. Rocks & Minerals: 86: 14-34.

Stephenson, Jason (2012), Of Bluffs and Bees: The Mountain Lily Mine. May 4th, at

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