Love gem mining but don't have a gem mining location nearby? Have no fear because we have you covered with this super cool DIY gem mining activity. This excavation activity is an excellent substitute for the real thing. The DIY gem mining excavation you create will have your excavating adventurers begging to dig in and discover the amazing specimens you have hidden inside.
This DIY gem mining tutorial is a few steps up on the awesomeness scale over the standard tutorials that simply have you pouring water over sand filled with gems but is just as easy to create and enjoy! 
  • Sand
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups
  • Gems - You can easily find large bags of assorted raw gemstones, rocks, and minerals online. I prefer to purchase the assorted bags of tumbled gemstones which are awesome in this DIY gem mining excavation. 
  • A container in which to pour the DIY gem mining excavation. This will need to be big enough to fit the amount of gems you plan to include. Plastic trays or containers work well.
  • Spray bottle filled with water.
  • Optional - Colored sand, small gravel (colored aquarium gravel is really cool!), or some other material to sprinkle across your excavation to give your excavation a little character. You can even use gold glitter (biodegradable kind if available) to make the gem mining excavation really sparkle.
  • Excavation tools. Wooden dowels and other blunt instruments work well. Sharp tools are unsafe and not necessary as the excavations are reasonably brittle and excavate easily. 
  • Safety goggles
  • Small brush


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  1. Put one cup of sand in your mixing bowl.
  2. Add one-third cup Plaster of Paris.
  3. Use the wooden spoon to mix the sand and Plaster of Paris.
  4. Add one-third cup of water and mix.
  5. Keep adding small amounts of water until you reach a pancake like batter consistency. 
  6. Scale the recipe up if more mixture is needed to fill your chosen container. 
  7. Add your gemstones to your container.
  8. Pour a layer of the mixture into the container to cover the gems.
  9. Gently tap the sides of the container to remove any air bubbles. This will also allow a little mixture under the gems. 
  10. Optional - sprinkle the colored sand or gravel across the wet surface of the gem mining excavation. 
  11. If room permits, add another layer of gems or two if available and cover with more mixture.
  12. Set the gem mining excavation in a safe location to dry undisturbed overnight. I like to put the excavation in front of a fan.


Pro tip: Get a mixed bag of fossils and create a DIY fossil dig!


Now the gem mining excavation is ready to be enjoyed. Find an area that is easy to clean up, distribute the safety goggles, spray bottle, and excavation tools, and let the excavating begin. Encourage this use of the spray bottle to simulate the sluicing action from a real gem mine. The water will soften the excavation and help reveal the treasures inside. 

I hope you enjoyed this super quick tutorial and enjoyed making a DIY gem mining excavation. These excavations are very easy to make and a lot of fun!
Pro tip: Use this activity to create some excitement around discussions or lessons regarding geology, gemstones, rocks, minerals and more!
If you love excavating as much as we do, be sure to check out our Excavating Adventures monthly subscription by clicking the link below and get an awesome new excavation delivered each month loaded with rocks, minerals, gemstones, fossils, and more!

Happy Excavating!