Support our mission
 
The walk from the parking lot to the Steinkaulenberg mine takes visitors through a beautiful forest trail, ideal for hiking or bird watching. The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours.
The walk from the parking lot to the Steinkaulenberg mine takes visitors through a beautiful forest trail, ideal for hiking or bird watching. The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
The walk from the parking lot to the Steinkaulenberg mine takes visitors through a beautiful forest trail, ideal for hiking or bird watching. The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours.
The walk from the parking lot to the Steinkaulenberg mine takes visitors through a beautiful forest trail, ideal for hiking or bird watching. The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
Gates to the Steinkaulenberg mine can be seen on the trail in Idar-Oberstein, Germany.
Gates to the Steinkaulenberg mine can be seen on the trail in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
A display at the end of the tour of the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, shows the types of gems that can be found there.
A display at the end of the tour of the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, shows the types of gems that can be found there. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors can dig for gems themselves at the gem camp at the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany
Visitors can dig for gems themselves at the gem camp at the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. For guests who don't speak German, headsets in English, French, Dutch, Danish, Polish and Chinese are available free of charge.
The Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, is the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. For guests who don't speak German, headsets in English, French, Dutch, Danish, Polish and Chinese are available free of charge. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
A tour guide shows the size of the Steinkaulenberg mine on a map at the entrance, in the town of Idar-Oberstein, Germany.
A tour guide shows the size of the Steinkaulenberg mine on a map at the entrance, in the town of Idar-Oberstein, Germany. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
A cove pond in the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours.
A cove pond in the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
A large amethyst gem hangs from the ceiling in the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours.
A large amethyst gem hangs from the ceiling in the Steinkaulenberg mine in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the only gem mine in Europe that is open for tours. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)
A display shows how miners long ago illuminated the Steinkaulenberg mine, in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, with a candle to dig for gems.
A display shows how miners long ago illuminated the Steinkaulenberg mine, in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, with a candle to dig for gems. (Brian Ferguson/Stars and Stripes)

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.

ferguson.brian@stripes.com Twitter: @BrianFerg57

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

Migrated

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up