This super quick and easy tutorial will show you how to make a DIY Giant Gem Dig that is sure to impress and will keep even the most ambitious Excavating Adventurer busy for hours!
Excavating Adventures Pro Tip: Feel free to substitute gemstones with dinosaurs or any other item you think will be exciting and interesting to dig out and discover. Small plastic toys, coins, and real fossil are all fun ideas for excavation items!
  • Sand 
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Measuring cups
  • Water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon
  • Plastic beach bucket. The smooth sided buckets seem to work best as they are easier to remove the excavation from once it dries. Castle shaped buckets and other fun shapes are great but some of the detailed edges may crumble during the removal process. One trick is to add a little more Plaster of Paris. Just be aware this will cause the excavation to be harder and a little tougher to dig out. 
  • Gemstones. I prefer rough gemstones for this Giant Gem Dig because they are cheaper to buy in bulk and you are going to need a decent amount to make this oversized excavation awesome. You can also go on a nature stroll and collect an assortment of different sized, shaped, and colored rocks to save on the expense of purchasing gemstones online. Trust me, your Excavating Adventurer will be just as excited finding these treasures as they will for the store bought ones. Having a spray bottle available will not only help with cleaning of the gemstones, but moisture always helps bring out their natural beauty and colors. 
  • Excavation tools - Safety goggles, paint brushes, magnifying glass, small hammer, and a chisel, nail, wooden dowel or some other tool to use to chip away at the Giant Gem Dig.


Pro tip: If you are using rough gemstones, rocks, and minerals in your Giant Gem Dig, then try and have access to a rock tumbler. Your Excavating Adventurer will love discovering these specimens and then tumbling them to polished perfection. 


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  1. Place a layer of gemstones in the bucket.
  2. Dry mix one cup of sand with 1/3 cup of Plaster of Paris. You can increase this recipe as needed at a three parts sand to one part Plaster of Paris ratio if you are trying to fill your bucket a little faster. 
  3. Add 1/3 cup of water and mix until you have a pancake like consistency. 
  4. Pour the mixture over the gemstones. Gently tap the bucket to allow some of the mixture to move under and around the gemstones. 
  5. Wait about five minutes for the mixture to firm up and then repeat the above steps. You are adding layers mixture and gemstones throughout the Giant Gem Dig so the items are not discovered all at once. This makes the excavation a lot more fun and also allows the dig to go on over multiple days should the participant become tired or need a break. As you near the rim of the bucket, a layer of water may build up. You can pour this off to finish up your excavation. 
  6. Allow to dry for several nights. Due to the size of this excavation, it is best to place it in front of a fan. 
  7. Once the excavation is completely dry, find an area that can get a little messy and be easily cleaned up. Distribute the safety goggles and excavation tools and let your Excavating Adventurer dive into the DIY Giant Gem Dig!


Pro tip: This DIY Giant Gem Dig is great to share with siblings or friends. Just be sure that participants are digging safely and taking turns. A way to insure this is to provide only one hammer and chisel so the participants have to swap the tools, but all participants must wear safety goggles at all time due to dust and potentially flying debris. A bin of water can be set up as a wash station and specimen identification cards or books can be provided to keep participants entertained while they wait their turn to dig. 


I hope you enjoyed this super quick tutorial and had fun creating your own DIY Giant Gem Dig to investigate and explore. 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 about gemstones, rocks, minerals, geology, and more!
If you love rocks, geology, and 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!
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