Hundreds Gather at This Remote California Lakebed in Search of Buried Treasure

Mesmerized by crystals.

Since 1941, treasure hunters have descended on the small town of Trona between Sequoia and Death Valley to get digging. They’re not looking for gold or silver. They are after crystals, hidden beneath the mud and brine of Searles Lake. The coveted items at the annual Gem-O-Rama include hanksite and pink halite.

According to the New York Times, “The rich sediment at Searles Lake has been millions of years in the making. Volcanic activity upstream produced mineral-laden rocks. Glaciers ground up the rocks, leaching their minerals and dissolving them in water. The runoff flowed down from the mountains and into the lake. As the earth warmed, the water largely evaporated, leaving layers of brine that the desert sun bakes into crystals.”

“Crystallization is the only place in nature where you see straight lines,” Mr. Peterson, the gem dealer, said admiringly. “Everything else is wobbly, round and wiggly. I think that we are innately drawn to order and organization in the midst of all this cosmic chaos.” Or perhaps more simply: “Human beings like shiny things.”

Sadly, this year’s Gem-O-Rama was canceled due to damage from the July earthquakes, but you can relive the magic here.

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