California Mineral Trivia

California Geology; California Division of Mines and Geology

Lithosphere (April 1994); Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.; Fallbrook, CA

Do you know . . .

  1. What is California's official State Mineral?

  2. What is California's official State Gem?

  3. What is California's official State Rock?

  4. What is California's official State Fossil?

See the answers below . . .

  1. On April 23, 1965, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. signed legislation designating native gold as California's official State mineral. In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill on the American River. California became the 31st state of the Union in 1850 because of the gold rush and the influx of settlers. The gold brought California fame and gave it the title "The Golden State." The aesthetic and practical uses of gold pre-date history. Gold's physical and chemical properties make it desirable in art and industry. Its color and luster have stimulated its use in monetary transactions for thousands of years. The most important use of gold today is in electronic devices, particularly in computers, weaponry, and spacecraft. It is ductile and its resistance to corrosion and tarnish is unequaled. Therefore, gold is used where consistent, reliable performance under all conditions is essential.

  2. On October 1, 1985, benitoite was designated the official State gem by the California legislature. Benitoite crystals are usually rich blue and can be cut into gems as striking and flawless as the finest sapphires. Gem-quality benitoite is found only in a small area of San Benito County, California. The scarcity of this gem makes it primarily a collector's item. A minor amount of high-quality benitoite is used in aligning electron microprobe beams. Benitoite was discovered in 1906 by J. M. Couch at the now well-known Benitoite Gem mine in San Benito County. Jewelers, unable to identify the mineral, requested the expertise of George Davis Louderback, a mineralogy professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Louderback determined that the mineral was a new species and named it benitoite after the river, mountain peak, and county where it was found.

  3. Serpentine is a colorful and distinctive altered igneous rock that has characteristic shiny surfaces in various shades of green and blue. Abundant in central and northern California, it was designated the official State rock in 1965. It is sold by gem and mineral dealers and is the host rock for valuable deposits of asbestos, chromite, and other commercial mineral commodities.

  4. The sabre-tooth cat, Smilodon californicus, still roamed North America 11,000 years ago. In January 1974, the extinct lion-size cat became the official State fossil of California. Most of its fossilized remains in California are found at the Rancho La Brea pits in Los Angeles.

The preceding article was published in the April 1994 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).

The material is in the public domain, and may be republished freely.

Last updated: 18 September 2002