San Diego Mineral & Gem Society

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1770 Village Pl Mosque Exhibit, San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
Daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
Offering shows, events, workshops & more, the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society is an unexpected experience. Discover a world of precious minerals at SDMG!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
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Fossils, Gems, Workshops & More

San Diego Mineral Gem SocietySign to the San Diego Mineral Gem Society

Rockhounds rejoice! We’re calling all earth science lovers to The San Diego Mineral and Gem Society. It may just be the best local San Diego hidden gem you’ve never heard of - see what we did there?

This Balboa Park based museum boasts hundreds of gems, minerals, and other specimens from around the world. Nearly 90 years’ worth of collecting, as a matter of fact!

Since 1935, SDMG’s number one goal has been to continue the study of mineralogy, stone shaping, and the earth sciences. This thriving club goes further by connecting other enthusiasts through organized events, field trips, and more.

They also offer a variety of classes and workshops filled with friendly and knowledgeable staff, so you can create your own stunning pieces.

Besides specimens from across the US, the museum features artwork by current and former students. In fact, the store within the museum houses incredible one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.

They say the best things in life are free and SDMG is no different. One of the reasons I personally enjoy this museum so much is that it’s completely free!

Traveling with little ones? Perfect! Kids get a free rock upon visiting, making the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society a fun, family-friendly attraction, perfect for your next trip to San Diego or local’s afternoon outing!

Local Tips
Guided Tour a Must
When visiting the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society in San Diego, California, a helpful tip would be to inquire about any guided tours or educational programs they offer. These can provide valuable insights into the exhibits, collection, and the world of minerals and gems.

What to Expect When Visiting the SDMG

San Diego Mineral Gem Society is in the Art Center
San Diego Mineral Gem Society is in the Art Center

The museum is home to the shiny, colorful, and unique. SDMG is full to the brim with a variety of gems, minerals, fossils…you name it.

The museum may be small when compared to others in the Balboa Park, but that gives you the perfect chance to take in the carefully curated collection without feeling like you’ve missed out. This makes the SDMG the perfect mini outing while in the area for the San Diego Zoo or just passing through the park enjoying San Diego’s incredible weather.

You can expect to see displays filled with custom lighting in order to highlight the natural colors, hues, and vibrancy of the stones. And don’t overlook the fossils! From leaves, shells, and skeletal imprints - they’re a glimpse into bygone eras.

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The Go City San Diego pass gives visitors the ability to save up to 55% on attraction admissions.

Combine our exclusive 5% discount to save even more and consider the All-Inclusive pass to maximize your savings. Plus the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

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SDMG Exhibits and Attractions

In 1934, the San Diego Mineral Society and the San Diego Gem Society came together. In 1935, the City of San Diego constructed the SDMG building and the Spanish Village for the 2nd California Pacific International Exposition.

Once the event was over, several local artists petitioned the city to convert the buildings into working art studios. The society has thrived ever since!

The Collections

Assembled and curated across the last 85+ years, through both purchases and donations, you will find the SDMG’s collection neatly and carefully displayed.

Specimens range from fossils, to polished crystals, metals, and intricately carved dioramas.

Discover both natural and handmade pieces within the display cases, including fine examples of the lapidary arts.

Paul’s Glowing Balls

The Paul’s Glowing Balls exhibit is fan favorite display and one of my favorites as well! These ethereal globes combine expert craftsmanship with lights to create a dazzling exhibit.

This quartz display showcases these impressively sculpted spheres and words just don’t do it justice. The sculptor carves each sphere to highlight its own unique beauty. And when surrounded by light, there’s no denying why this is a local favorite.

The Beauty in Fossils Exhibit

Keep an eye out for a detailed 120-125 million year old fossil, Confuciusornis Sanctus, a primitive crow-sized bird.

You’ll also find an impressive Jurassic Patagonian pine cone nestled between an ammonite from Peru, and one from a lot closer to home, South Dakota.

Another fan favorite is the fossilized Right or Bowhead Whale head from the Pliocene epoch, around 1 to 11 million years ago. It’s almost impossible to miss this large fossil.

The Glow-in-the-Dark Room

Experience minerals in their true shining colors!

It’s been my experience that kids love the walk-in, glow-in-the-dark room. Filled with fluorescent minerals glowing with bright neon yellows, blues, oranges, and greens, this room delights visitors of all ages.

And don’t forget that kids get a free polished rock when they try out the sandpit-shaking system.

Educational Programs at the SDMG

The SDMG offers a range of classes and field trips for all ages, abilities, and interests. From the lapidary arts, to jewelry making, to mineralogy - there’s something fun for every rockhound!

The array of classes at the SDMG is quite impressive, but do be aware that classes, terms, and availability can change. So please confirm with the museum’s educational programs directly about availability when you find the class that’s right for you!

Cabochon Cutting & Polishing

These classes are the first step to creating beautiful cabochons. You’ll learn basic shaping and polishing skills in this hands-on workshop.

Not only will students learn how to cut and sand their cabochon, they’ll also learn about different minerals, gems, and rocks while selecting materials for cutting. It’s your introduction to the lapidary arts and the prerequisite class for ALL other SDMG classes.

Faceting

You’ll create flat, angled surfaces perfect for jewelry setting in this class. The art of cutting gemstones, or faceting, will have students rough-cutting gems, mounting them, and finally arranging and polishing the facets.

Students will learn how to create facets that will allow their stones to display unique colors to their fullest. Advanced students “graduate” to learning how to make intricate cuts on more valuable stones.

Metals Fabrication & Casting

These beginning, intermediate and advanced metal classes allow students to create setting for their polished stones in order to create custom, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces!

Beginners learn how to solder and saw, while more advanced students go deeper into basic metalsmithing and how to add depth to metal pieces. Lost Wax Casting classes teach students how to create wax models for silver and gold work.

Wire Wrapping

ewelry making doesn’t always require torching, soldering, or drilling! The art of wire wrapping can secure your cabochon in an intricate and secure piece.

In this class, students will also learn how to create rings, bracelets, pendants, and more with wires made in copper, silver, and other metals in a variety of colors and gauges.

Rock Carving

Students learn how to use a variety of tools to carve, chisel, and polish stone. They can expect to first learn how to carve a textured peanut and leaf, before moving on to pieces of their choosing.

Students will also learn how to create and work on a wet carving station.

Sphere Making

In the sphere making class, what begins as a stone cube will be cut and have its corners ground down and rounded. Students will then place their stone into a sphere machine to create their polished spheres.

Junior Division

Students hone their skills in the lapidary arts in the Cabochon Cutting & Polishing class. As they progress, the students will learn to solder, wire wrap, and more.

The Junior Division also gets to join in on field trips and events, plus gets a chance to exhibit their work at the San Diego County Fair.

Prerequisites

All students must be SDMG members in order to take part in classes. Juniors, 17 and younger, are welcome to join in the Saturday Junior Division classes. Juniors 11 and younger are welcome to join after instructor approval.

Be aware, students must also register for classes ahead of time. Classes are normally paid in advance via cash or check, however, individual classes and instructors may require different payment schedules.

Field Trips

If you love precious stones, jewelry making, or are inspired to learn how to carve your own gems, not only can you partake in workshops and classes, members also can join field trips to gemstone mines and more.

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What to Know Before You Go

SDMG has everything your rockhound heart could ever want. But before your visit to The San Diego Mineral and Gem Society, below are a few things you should know.

Directions

You can find the San Diego Mineral & Gem Society building in the northwest corner of the Spanish Village in Balboa Park. You can find access to the museum via Village Place.

For your GPS, the address is 1770 Village Pl., Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101.

Please note, the road between Otto Center and Spanish Village is an alley. It reads “No Pedestrians.”

Free Tours

Get to the museum early for the free tour and get an insider’s view of the exhibits. Tours begin daily at 12:30 PM.

Where to Park

Parking for the Spanish Village can be scarce. We recommend visiting the museum earlier in the day whenever possible and walking from the perimeter of the park.

Make the Most Out of Your Visit to SDMG

The San Diego Mineral and Gem Society is between both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Natural History Museum, making it a lovely stopover on your way to either.

To make the most of your visit to the Balboa Park area, we recommend purchasing an All-Inclusive Go City San Diego pass ahead of your visit. Get discounted tickets to both the zoo and the NAT, as well as a dozen more attractions, museums, activities such as harbors cruises and more.

Use the activities such as discount code GVSD5OFF for further savings and spend the day making the most out of your Balboa Park visit - all without breaking the bank.

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