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Tourmaline Queen Mine (MS 6458; Queen mine; Tourmaline Queen group; Tourmaline Queen No. 1 claim; Tourmaline Queen No. 2 claim; Tourmaline Queen No. 3 claim), Tourmaline Queen Mountain (Pala Mtn; Queen Mtn), Pala, Pala District, San Diego Co., California, USA

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 33° 23' 26'' North , 117° 4' 8'' West
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): 33.39056,-117.06889
Köppen climate type:Csa : Hot-summer Mediterranean climate

She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen.
—Alexander Pope (1688–1744), The Iliad of Homer, Book iii, Line 208.

The Tourmaline Queen mine consists of two contiguous patented mining claims, known as the Tourmaline Queen and Tourmaline Queen No. 3 lodes. The private surface area totals 29.19 acres, and the property is located just 1.5 miles north of the historic Asistencia de San Antonio de Pala, in the San Luis Rey River Valley of San Diego County, California. The primary mine workings are located at an elevation of 1617 feet along the steep eastern slope of Tourmaline Queen Mountain which rises 1922' AMSL. The deposit is a complex gem and rare earth element (REE)-bearing pegmatite which is continuous along a northern strike trend traceable for over 3000 feet, and ranges between 10 to 20 feet in thickness, dipping 10 to 40 degrees west, averaging 32 degrees.

In March of 1903, Pala general store owner and land developer Frank A. Salmons, together with San Diego City Jeweler C. W. Ernsting, formed a partnership to discover and market local colored gemstones. Salmons and Ernsting desired to locate a source for tourmaline prolific enough to compete with both New York Tiffany's Himalaya Mining Company, and the local San Diego Tourmaline Mining Company. At the time, both of these groups were mining in nearby Mesa Grande, supplying large amounts of material to a burgeoning eastern marketplace. Salmons and local resident John Giddens - employed the services of local Frenchmen familiar with the region named Bernardo Heriart and Pedro Peiletch.

The two Basque prospectors began to scour the mountain just north of the old Spanish Asistencia. Heriart and Peiletch soon discovered gem crystals of tourmaline eroding onto the surface from a well-defined pegmatite vein. With pick, shovel, and screen; several pounds of gem tourmaline crystals were quickly recovered. Salmons and Ernsting quickly decided to grubstake the venture, and together with Heriart and Peiletch, the group officially located a lode mining claim to the valuable mineral deposit on November 6 in the year of 1903.

In 1904 US Geological Survey Mineral Examiner - Waldemar T. Schaller, visited the site of discovery and noted the work occurring at that time. Schaller described the development as scalping in the nature of an open cut 60 feet wide which entered the vein to a depth of about 10 feet - which produced approximately 80 pounds of gem tourmaline crystals. According to his report, the tourmaline found occurred in many colors including yellow, green of several shades, light pink and ruby-red. It was said that many crystals recovered afforded beautiful faceted gemstones. This information was published in June, 1905 by Dr. George F. Kunz working with the California State Mining Bureau. The publication was entitled "Gems, Jewelers' Materials and Ornamental Stones of California, Bulletin No. 37.

In 1907, D. B. Sterrett of the US Geological Survey described continuing development work at the Tourmaline Queen mine in 1906, reporting "stones of a variety of colors and of unsurpassed quality being produced".

The Tourmaline Queen mine became one of the leading producers of gem tourmaline in the Pala region between 1904 and 1914. The mine gained an impressive record of production, and according to available reports - fine gem material was obtained from most of the surface and underground workings for a distance of nearly 250 feet. The total output from the deposit during this period is unknown. However, sales of gem tourmaline amounting to $48,000 were recorded for the year coinciding with the 16th Amendment to the Constitution which made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system.

Most of the Queen's production was marketed by Salmons and Ernsting in the form of rough gemstones, although retailing of locally cut and manufactured gemstone jewelry occurred in downtown San Diego. Much of the facet-quality tourmaline was sold to eastern consumers including Tiffany & Company and the American Gem & Pearl Company of New York City. Additionally, hundreds of pounds of tourmaline suitable for carving were sold to local Chinese jewelers, with one large pink crystal selling for $1,500. The single crystal weighed approximately 8 pounds, and was purchased to be cut into one piece bracelets in China.

With the decline of Imperial Chinese government purchases after the Boxer rebellion, sales began to consist of previously mined materials marketed as copper and silver jewelry featuring tourmaline cabochons, and other objects of adornment and display.

Around 1914, daily underground mining by the Basque team and Pala Indian laborers had virtually ceased. At this point in time, over 1100 linear feet of mine workings consisting of interconnected inclines, irregular drifts, and numerous low rooms had been developed. These workings ultimately extended to a maximum westerly depth of 200 feet from the surface contours where work had initially begun 11 years earlier. Seasonal weather began to assist with the permanent closure. Within a few years, many portions of the subsurface workings were sealed due to a major collapse of the highwall rising above the main entries, and subsequent underground flooding.

Geologist Richard H. Jahns began a thorough study of the Pala district during occurring during the period of July 1946 through March of 1948. Jahns inspected and mapped the geology of the Tourmaline Queen mine - which was then owned by Mr. and Mrs. Monta J. Moore of Pala; and Mrs. Frank A. Salmons of La Jolla. Development work undertaken by Moore at the time consisted of extending a short, gentle sloping decline which was located just south of the Main adit which had previously caved. During the course of this work, many good pockets containing crystals of quartz and deep-blue tourmaline were discovered. A total of 29 weeks were devoted to field work by Jahns, who was joined for 10 weeks by Lauren A. Wright.

Jahns and Wright, together with the US Geological Survey and the California State Division of Mines, compiled what is considered the foremost published report on gem-bearing pegmatites in the region. This report was published by the Division of Mines as Special Report 7A in June of 1951 - and entitled the "Gem and Lithium Bearing Pegmatites of the Pala District".

On May 18, 1949, instructions from the US Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Los Angeles Land District - directed Glendale based Mineral Surveyor Edward L. Haff to perform Survey No. 6458 of the Tourmaline Queen and Tourmaline Queen No. 3 lode mining claims. The property at this time was held jointly by the daughters of Frank A. Salmons, being Margaret S. Moore and Mildred S. Wear, both of Pala. Haff's survey describing the property location and mineral land improvements commenced on July 5 and was completed on July 10, 1949. Haff certified his survey on November 14, 1949. The Acting Office Cadastral Engineer in Sacramento approved the mineral survey on October 13, 1954. On February 18, 1955, Patent was granted to Moore and Wear for the Tourmaline Queen Lode by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was recorded March 22, 1955 in book 5576, page 501 of the official records.

On September 24th, 1968, Edward R. Swoboda of Beverly Hills purchased the mine property from Moore and Wear. Swoboda and his business venture with William F. Larson of Fallbrook - Pala Properties International (PPI) developed plans for future underground exploration. In 1971, a 3/4 mile roadway was created using a small track dozer. The route created the ability for mechanized travel from the Stewart mine property to the south where the company had been successfully mining pink tourmaline for several years. The group reconditioned the old Main portal site which had suffered caving over the decades, and soon minor underground drifting in search of gem tourmaline was underway.

John C. McLean was placed in charge of mine engineering, and assistance with work was provided by Jose Montes, a miner from Mexico whom had earlier worked at the Stewart mine. The face of an existing 160 foot drift was chosen as the point from which to begin more serious efforts. Work consisted of pneumatic drilling and rock blasting, and arduous labor of mucking with shovel and wheelbarrow. Approximately 20 feet further back and slightly down dip, the crew encountered a 2 foot pocket containing gem tourmaline and quartz crystals. This pocket produced several fine pink and blue bicolor tourmaline crystals which measured up to 3 inches long.

For a period of two months, over 40 feet of exploratory drifting through fine grained pegmatite produced very little evidence of lepidolite or pocket enriched pegmatite. Approximately 230 feet into the mountain, a 3 foot pocket was discovered which produced a 2 inch bicolor rubellite tourmaline, unique because of a bright and vivid blue termination. A series of small pockets produced several 4 inch tourmalines of equal color, indicating to the possibilities of large-scale pocket development nearby.

On January 19, 1972, a large pocket was encountered measuring over 12 feet in length. This would become known as the "big blue cap pocket" which produced many extremely large single crystals of rubellite tourmaline with bright blue terminations. Essentially, this was the first rubellite discovery of any commercial significance at the mine since the Basque operations ceased in 1914, with the quality tourmaline resembling that of the finest materials consumed by the Chinese marketplace. Several outstanding matrix combinations of clear quartz and pink beryl associated with tourmaline were also produced.

Invitations to over 100 individuals and museum curators were made in order to celebrate the great discovery, just one week prior to the annual gem show in Tucson, Arizona. Private viewings of the finest tourmaline matrix specimens and single crystals were given to many prominent collectors and scientists, including Dr. Peter Embrey, Paul Desautels and Dr. Pierre Bariand. Desautels thoroughly examined the piece destined to grace the halls of the Smithsonian Institution, now known as "The Candelabra." Two weeks later at the shop in Fallbrook, the curator of the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Vince Manson - described the recent Tourmaline Queen discovery to be in terms of color and degree of perfection, the find of the Century.

In 1973, a very detailed underground map of the existing workings was near completion by Dr. Richard Jahns, then Dean of Earth Sciences for Stanford University. This map was originally started by Jahns and his associate Lauren Wright in 1946. Jahns continued surveying the following year, and occasionally thereafter. Visits occurred in 1959, and again in 1972. In 1974, Jahns was assisted by E. E. Foord, D. H. Hamilton and P. E. Long whom together collected the remaining data needed. The finished map now provided a contoured horizon showing the general boundary between perthite-rich zones and underlying finer-grained albite-rich zones units, located approximately 0-4 feet below the pocket zone.

From 1974 to 1978 underground drifting encountered additional gem pockets of smaller proportions, although many large tourmalines crystals were recovered. By 1979, a 375 foot underground haulageway was connected to existing development workings by Pala International with the assistance of Mining Engineer Oscar Nukka of Oceanside. The new portal was located just north and adjacent to the caved entries of the old workings dating back to 1906.

While the completed tunnel provided increased ventilation and proficient waste rock removal, it did not encounter any significant gem pockets and was ultimately abandoned. Approximately 1000 feet of interconnecting drift and rooms were completed when commercial mining operations by Pala International ceased. Production over 8 years had yielded hundreds of pounds of fine tourmaline, including the fabulous deep pink and bright blue tipped crystal matrix specimens of premium quality. Additionally, a few large blue tourmaline crystals were ultimately obtained by the high-profile and competitive international gemstone collectors of the day.

For a few years afterwards, some minor production occurred by individuals during small-scale exploration ventures into previously unexploited sections of the enriched pegmatite. These enriched areas served as roof control pillars which were left during the early Basque development. Although many existing areas of the mine had already suffered caving, much of the old workings were further backfilled and sealed off as a result of these ventures.

In the spring of 1993, Roland Reed of El Cajon secured a lease on the property from Swoboda Inc., and began working the pegmatite just south of the Pala International's main adit. An existing 1 mile section of roadway was reconstructed from a private homestead north of the mine, which traversed south across public domain to the site of development. This roadway was originally constructed by fire crews using a small dozer during an intense regional wildfire which occurred around 1971.

Reed, working together with partners Michael Lopez, James Brown, and Helmuth Rohrl - subsequently developed a new underground adit and drift heading westward. The group's intention was to reach proposed extensions of the original pocket zone at a point further down dip from Pala International's area of success. Near-surface conditions and rock jointing caused frequent caving of decomposed granite and large xenolithic granitoids. Work was eventually abandoned by Reed's group at this location, and new exploratory declines were begun at two areas south of the main workings. These exploratory drifts and declines heading west and north were developed for a total distance of over 100 feet, yet encountered only small pockets primarily consisting of quartz and feldspar. Work adjacent north of the old Main adit produced a few rubellite crystals, the largest measuring up to 3 inches long. Ultimately, a significant discovery proved elusive to the group, and the lease was relinquished in 1996.

In 1997, geophysical exploration experiments were conducted by a team of Canadian scientists from the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Initially Richard Liddicoat of the Gemological Institute of America contacted Edward Swoboda, whom subsequently arranged access to the mine for Frederick A. Cook, Jeffrey E. Patterson, and Robert Scarborough.

Underground surveys using georadar were conducted for two days in July. Utilizing contracted labor, Swoboda excavated four prominent anomalies identified in the western portion of the northern haulage tunnel. Additionally, two prominent anomalies were also excavated adjacent to the new main tunnel which produced lepidolite, quartz crystals, indicolite and black tourmalines. Additional field work was conducted in December, and the results were outlined in a report provided in May of 1998.

Investigations of the Tourmaline Queen mine by the San Diego Mining Company consisted of surface reconnaissance and underground inspection of the old mine workings which occurred between October and December of 1998. By October of 2000, several new areas of silica enrichment were also discovered, characterized as layered pegmatite bulges which measure up to 20 feet thick.

Sub-surface mineral recovery within the downward projection of the survey endlines beyond the surface property constraints was provided within the estate deed granting patent for the two lode mining claims, and the greatest portion of the deposit remained exploitable beyond the western land boundary. Underground examinations by the company concluded that the pegmatite remained continuous down dip, and appeared to significantly increase in thickness in certain areas at even greater depths. Additionally, unexploited portions of enriched gem-bearing pegmatite were located within the exposures left from previous underground development activities - increasing the potential for future discoveries of commercial significance during surface site development.

A gem-bearing pocket was discovered in a section of abandoned and backfilled workings in October of 2000 that measured over 2 feet across upon excavation. This pocket produced several nice specimen and gem grade tourmaline crystals in colors of blue and pink, some with blue terminations and exteriors. Chemical analysis identified the tourmaline to be 'elbaite', colored in part by varying amounts of manganese, iron and zinc. An exclusive purchase option was secured in November of 2000, and plans were drawn to explore the possibilities of commercially viable colored gemstone production utilizing modern surface excavation and underground drilling and tunneling tools and techniques.

In June of 2001, a 169,800 lb Hitachi 750 series hydraulic excavator (backhoe) was used to make repairs to the roadway, which required widening marginal sections of the existing roadbed, and creating safety berms with drainage design elements, for a distance of over 5000 feet. Once the property was reached, work began exposing the pegmatite from the quartzite/gabbro contact at the north end of the property southward. In July a large pocket was discovered while exposing an underground roof control pillar immediately adjacent to the area of lithium enrichment, close to the spot where tourmaline was first discovered almost 100 years earlier. This pocket, and several others of equally large proportions, produced fine rubellite crystals measuring over 10cm tall, and some attractive specimens of pink beryl and indicolite on albite, quartz and lepidolite matrices.

Mindat Articles

TGMS 2008 - The Tourmaline Queen Mine by Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Mineral List

Mineral list contains entries from the region specified including sub-localities

19 valid minerals. 2 erroneous literature entries.

Regional Geology

This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.

Click on geological units on the map for more information. Click here to view full-screen map on

66 - 252.17 Ma

ID: 2704797
Quartzite and quartz conglomerate

Age: Mesozoic (66 - 252.17 Ma)

Description: Quartzite, quartz conglomerate and meta-arkose.

Reference: Kennedy, M.P., and S.S. Tan. digital prep. by Bovard et al. Geologic Map of the Oceanside 30’ x 60’ Quadrangle, California. California Department of Conservation California Geological Survey. [131]

Cretaceous - Triassic
66 - 252.17 Ma

ID: 2776321
Mesozoic gabbroic rocks, unit 2 (undivided)

Age: Mesozoic (66 - 252.17 Ma)

Stratigraphic Name: Cuyamaca Gabbro; Elk Creek Gabbro; Gold Park Gabbro-Diorite; San Marcos Gabbro; Summit Gabbro

Description: Gabbro and dark dioritic rocks; chiefly Mesozoic

Comments: Mostly small exposures of gabbro and diorite scattered in western Klamath Mts., Sierra Nevada, Coast Ranges, Mojave Desert, and Peninsular Ranges

Lithology: Major:{diorite,gabbro}

Reference: Horton, J.D., C.A. San Juan, and D.B. Stoeser. The State Geologic Map Compilation (SGMC) geodatabase of the conterminous United States. doi: 10.3133/ds1052. U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 1052. [133]

Data and map coding provided by, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Localities in this Region

  • California
    • San Diego Co.
      • Pala District
        • Pala
          • Tourmaline Queen Mountain (Pala Mtn; Queen Mtn)
            • Tourmaline Queen Mine (MS 6458; Queen mine; Tourmaline Queen group; Tourmaline Queen No. 1 claim; Tourmaline Queen No. 2 claim; Tourmaline Queen No. 3 claim)

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.


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Schaller, W. T. (1904), The tourmaline localities of southern California. Science 19: 266-268.
Sterrett, D. B. (1904), Tourmaline from San Diego County, California. American Journal of Science: 17: 459-465.
Kunz, G. F. (1905), Gems, jeweler's materials, and ornamental stones of California. California State Mining Bureau bulletin 37: 127-129.
Waring, G. A. (1905), The pegmatyte veins of Pala, San Diego County. American Geologist 35: 356-369.
Sterrett, D. B. (1907), Precious stones. Mineral Resources U.S., 1906. Department of Interior, US Geological Survey, Government Printing Office, Washington: 1213, 1239-1241.
Merrill, F. J. H. (1914), Geology and Mineral Resources of San Diego and Imperial Counties: Gems, Lithia Minerals. California State Mining Bureau, San Francisco, Cal. California State Printing Office, December. Chapter 1: 61-110.
Schaller, W. T. (1919), Gems & Precious Stones. Mineral Resources U.S., 1916, Part II - Nonmetals. Department of Interior, US Geological Survey, Government Printing Office, Washington: 896-898.
Tucker, W. B., Reed, C. H. (1939), Los Angeles Field District - Mineral Resources of San Diego County. California Journal of Mines and Geology, quarterly chapter of State Mineralogist's Report 35; January: p. 38-42, Illus., maps.
Jahns, R. H. (1948), Gem deposits of southern California. Gems and Gemology 6(1): 6-30.
Haff, E. L. (1949), Field notes of the survey of the mining claim of Margaret S. Moore and Mildred S. Wear, known as the Tourmaline Queen and Tourmaline Queen No. 3 Lodes, in Sec 14 & 15, T9S, R2W, SBM. USDI, Office of Cadastral Engineer, Mineral Survey No. 6458: 11 p., 1 plat.
Jahns, R. H. and Wright, L. A. (1951), Gem and Lithium-bearing pegmatites of the Pala District, San Diego County, California. California Division of Mines special report 7A: 38, 40-42.
Rynerson, F. J. (1967), Exploring and mining for Gems and Gold in the West. Happy Camp, California: Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., 204 pages.
Larson, W. F. (1972), The Queen Reigns Again. Lapidary Journal Magazine, Volume 26, Number 7, 9 pages, color photographs.
Pemberton, H. Earl (1983), Minerals of California. Van Nostrand Reinholt Press: 186, 312, 325-326, 435, 452.
Bancroft, P. (1984), Gem and crystal treasures. Fallbrook, California. Western Enterprises/Mineralogical Record, Inc., pages 98-110.
MacFall, R. (1984), Josephine Scripps: California collector extraordinary. Rocks & Minerals 59(2): p. 80.
Jacobson, Mark I. (1988), Collections and Displays: The Proctor Collection, Colorado Springs; Colorado. Rocks & Minerals 63(1): p. 48.
Bancroft, P. (1989), Gem Mining in San Diego County. Environment Southwest, San Diego Natural History Museum, Number 525: 14-20.
Larson, W. F. (1991), Sino-San Diego trade relations, and the role of New York's Tiffany & Co. Lecture given at the Gemological Institute of America, International Gemological Symposium, Los Angeles, California.
Sinkankas, J. (1997), Gemstones of North America. Tucson, Arizona: Geoscience Press Inc. Personal communication with William F. Larson, 1/14/94; Roland Reed, 1/30/94; pages 461-481.
McLean, J. C. (1998), Personal communication with Scott L. Ritchie, San Diego Mining Company. The Collector - Pala International, Fallbrook, San Diego County, CA.
Laurs, B. M. (2001), Gem news international. Recent gem discoveries in Pala, California. Gems & Gemology, 37 (3), 228-231. Quarterly journal of the Gemological Institute of America.
Swoboda, E. R. (2001), Tourmaline Queen case files (1968-2000); personal communication with Scott L. Ritchie, San Diego Mining Company, 2000-2001. Swoboda Inc., Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, CA.
Fisher, J. (2002), Gem and rare-element pegmatites of southern California. Mineralogical Record: 33: 378-381.

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