Get an up-close look at a working gem site at Steinkaulenberg mine near Baumholder
By BRIAN FERGUSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: June 11, 2020
Like a scene from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” gems line the cave walls in Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, where visitors can get an up-close look at the only open gem mine in Europe.
About 20 minutes from U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder and an hour from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the mine includes glittering rock crystals, amethysts, smoky quartz, calcite, and other gems and colorful rocks.
Upon arriving, my oldest daughter and I parked at the lot about 500 meters from the mine site. The walk to the mine takes visitors through a forest lined with wooden birdhouses.
Not having a reservation, we inquired about a tour of the mine. Luckily, they had space, but it’s advisable to make reservations.
Donning our hard hats and coronavirus masks, we headed toward the cave. There were only six of us on the tour. A small radio helped us translate the tour in English as we went.
The cave was cold and unfortunately we didn’t bring jackets. At one point, my daughter tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that she could see her breath.
The low ceiling and dripping water made me happy to have the hard hat. Gemstones clustered along the walls, and as we navigated our way through, the tour guide provided insight into the mine’s creation and excavation.
Spotlights illuminate the visitor tunnels and many of the larger gemstones, so taking photos was easy. The tour lasted about an hour, which was plenty of time to see almost everything in the icebox of a mine.
Visitors to Steinkaulenberg mine can also reserve a time to do a little digging and treasure hunting themselves in the gem field. As I didn’t call ahead, all the spaces were full for the day. My daughter was disappointed, but my back was somewhat relieved. A visit to the gift shop and about 40 euros later, all was well. The shop provides an array of stones and jewelry for purchase.
When planning a trip to the mine, don’t be like me — call ahead to make a reservation. The mine, which closed for a while due to coronavirus restrictions, reopened May 15 with social distancing measures in place.
DIRECTIONS: Address: Edelsteinminen Steinkaulenberg, Im Staebel, 55743 Idar-Oberstein
TIMES: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; last tour 4 p.m.
COSTS: Between 4-7 euros depending on age for the mine tour; military discounts available. A price list is on their website.
FOOD: Snacks are available at the gift shop.
INFORMATION: Translation headsets in English, French, Dutch, Danish, Polish and Chinese are available for free. Phone: 06781 47 400 (for reservations) Online: weiherschleife-steinkaulenbergwerk.de/index.html