Europe,  Germany,  Travel

Germany Day Trips: Gem Mining (Edelsteinminen Steinkaulenberg) in Idar-Oberstein

**** Be sure to check their website prior to your visit for Covid update and/or closures****

Who knew we’d find a hidden gem of an adventure that consists of “mining” for gemstones and rock crystals in the heart of the Rheinland Palatinate region of Germany? Living abroad in Germany and missing out on travel adventures within the past year (thanks, Covid), we have been taking advantage of day trips. Little did we know we lived near the gemstone capital of the world known as the city of Idar-Oberstein.

** Quick fact about Idar-Oberstein, a small town two hours southwest of Frankfurt, is one of the world’s well-known cities for mining and the processing of precious stones. The town has a history of mining and gemstone cutting dating back hundreds of years and is the leading cut-gem trading center globally. It is situated on the Nahe River banks, which provided energy for the machines used to cut these precious gemstones. As late as the 1400s, the most popular stones mined here were agate, jasper, and quartz.

The town also has a history of precious stones and jewelry industries of more than 500 years old. Additionally, the town is the base for several schools and universities for gemstones, diamonds, and metallic materials. It is also the base for several schools for jewelry designs.

Edelsteinminen Steinkaulenberg

Our main visit to Idar-Oberstein for the day was to visit the ONLY gemstone mine in Europe open to visitors, the Edelsteinminen Steinkaulenberg (Steinkaulenberg Gem mine). This gemstone mine is open to visitors from March 15- November 30. It is also open daily, including Sundays! It is a 400-meter long mine cave- tunnel that uses spotlights to showcase the gems and rocks mined in this region. These precious stones and gems include agates, crystals, amethysts, smoky quartz, calcite, and many others.

To visit, we had to book a date and time for the tour in advance. I booked our tour via the telephone (don’t worry they have English-speaking staff members), but you can also book online by emailing them. It’s only recommended (due to Covid) for a group of no more than 10 in a group.

For booking, they offer a 1-hour guided tour and, if you desire, they also offer a Gemstone mining camp (separate fee) where you can go on an easter egg hunt for gemstones in a field for up to 2 hours! I booked the 1-hour guided tour and also the gem mining camp for the kids and adults. Payment is not required until you check-in on the day of. Credit Cards and Cash are accepted.

The Tour

Upon arrival, we parked here and walked five minutes to the entranceway. It’s best you arrive early to get to the mining entrance and pay as the tour begins on time. Once we arrived, we paid for our tickets (the tour and the gem mining camp are separate); I have listed the prices below.

Main Entrance/Shop/Cash Register
Outdoor eating area with a view
Outdoor trail that leads to the Mining Camp and a perfect map for Gem Stone Mining Land

Our tour started with our tour guide handing us each an audio tour device (included) and hard-hat helmet (there is a station for disinfecting your hat) that everyone must wear during the tour. Upon entering the mine, the tour guide took a family photo of us (can be purchase after the tour) and proceeded to guide us through the caves and tunnels. There were stations where we were able to listen to our audio tour device that provided us information about the rocks and minerals we were viewing. The tour guide was also able to provide us with additional information.

Statue of Saint Barbara inside the Cave, Patron saint of Artillery and Mining, protectors of miners.

The tour lasted about an hour and was very informative. Photos and videos are allowed during the tour except when the tour guide takes your group/family photos by the entryway at the beginning of the tour (can be purchased after the tour for 5 Euros). You can also download the audio tour through the Hearonymus App on your smartphone, find the Idar-Oberstein location, and download the “Precious Stone MInes Idar-Oberstein” and listen in on tour.

Gem Stone Mining Camp

After the tour, we returned our audio device and hats and were then guided to a trail that took us to an open field of dirt and rocks. Here the staff provided us with pickaxes and shovels; we were recommended to bring a bucket or bag to place our gems/rocks that we find. We spent a total of 2 hours (the allotted time given to you) shoveling and using the pickax to find our gems.

The GemStone mining camp is for both adults and kids (there is a fee for each). You could also book the Gemstone camp for just the kids as they have a separate area for the kids while adults can observe from the outside of the field. I thought it was more fun to be able to dig with the kids and find our loot together.

Mining Camp Area for kids
Open field for families (we were allotted 2 full hours to dig and find our gems)! So much fun!

This is legit ya’ll! We thought we were going to find mini “stones” just thrown everywhere. Boy, were we wrong! We got more than we anticipated and much, much more! You are pretty much digging and finding your gemstones in this field, and what you find, you take home with you at no extra cost! My husband thinks these rocks/dirts are the actual dump trailings from the mine itself while the miners were mining for large Geodes (which is what they were looking for.). Additionally, in the end, the staff member offered a bucket of unopened Geodes that you can choose from, and he was able to crack them open for us (using a machine), and you can check out if you picked a good Geode and it’s yours to keep! Check out the photos for more details.

You can find tons of Amethysts and other gems peeking through the dirt

Our entire bucket of our gems and stones! Going to clean these up at home! We found Jaspers, Amethysts, Quartz and more

Final Thoughts

Do this if you are in the area and have a love for gems and precious stones! This is an experience like no other! Not only was the tour quite fun, but also neat to be able to tour the only accessible mining cave for visitors in Europe! It is very kid-friendly, and I don’t think you could go wrong adding the Gemstone mining camp to this adventure (adult included). We found several stones (especially my favorite, Amethyst)! The price is very reasonable for a full day of fun for the family (for our family, it cost about 50 Euros altogether for the Mine tour and GemStone Camp)! The staff members were kind and welcoming (a plus that a few spoke English). My girls truly enjoyed this experience, as well as my husband and myself! Bonus, you can add exploring the gemstone capital of the world, Idar-Oberstein to your list for the day!

Good Information and Tips

  • Address:
    • Edelsteinminen Steinkaulenberg
      Im Stäbel
      55743 Idar-Oberstein
    • (GPS: 49°43´36″N7° 16´43″O)
  • Hours: 
    • Open daily from March 15- November 30 (10am-5p); last tour is at 4p 
  • SteinKaulenberg (the Mine) Tour: 
    • 1 hour guided tour includes an audio tour device in English (also offered in French, Dutch, Danish, Polish, and Chinese).
    • Tip: Book Reservations on the phone or email in advance; it may be quicker on the phone. Be sure to ask “Sprechen Sie English” for an English-speaking operator. No more than 10 people per group.
  • Cost for the Steinkaulenberg (The Mine tour): you can also find it here
    • Adults (single ticket): 7 Euros
    • Adults (single ticket) in groups (min of 10 people): 6 Euros
    • Disabled Students, unemployed, military community members with ID (not sure if this includes American U.S. military members- worth asking): 5,50 Euros
    • Kids from up to 16 years of age: 4 Euros
    • Children under 6 years of age: Free
    •  
  • Cost for the Gemstone Camp and Mining Fields:
    • Adults: 10 Euros 
    • Children under 16 years of age: 7 Euros
    • Tip: Sturdy footwear recommended (non-slip resistant is best for the mine tour).  Pickax and shovels are offered for the Gem Mining Field but bring your own bucket/bag, hammer, protective glove, goggles, sturdy shoes.  
  • Covid Measures:
    • You must wear medical-grade masks at all times
    • A group of 10 in two family household is allowed for the mine tour
    • There are hand sanitizer stations and a bathroom at the location
    • You must fill out a form for contact tracing

I hope this helps you plan your trip to this unique gem mining experience!  As a bonus, don’t forget this area of Idar-Oberstein is huge on museums and histories not only relating to gemstones but also castles and a church (Felsenkirche) perched on atop a rocky, steep mountain wall… more blog posts on that in a bit.  

Till next time adventurers!  Bis zum nächsten Mal!

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