A Trip to Jade Cove
Jade is quickly becoming a SKYDOG signature stone, and founder Jordan has been heading out to source and explore this gemstone for himself. Here he describes gem-hunting in Jade Cove…
“This October I’m headed to the Big Sur Jade Festival. I’m pretty excited to be returning to the region after last April’s trip with my girlfriend to Jade Cove.
This is a shot headed south on PCH, it's impossible not to stop.
Big Sur is renowned for its beautifully scenic coastline that has an ancient and mythic reputation. Having been, I know why. Looking out over the cliffs and sea, I had a feeling this part of the earth probably looked exactly this way in prehistoric times. It was a place that had been there long before humanity, and will be there long after us too.
Very behind the scenes. When I'm on a rockhounding mission there is little time for other activities. I cooked breakfast in our cabin each morning both to save time and because I'm particular about food quality.
We stayed in Carmel, and each morning drove south to Jade Cove to hunt for jade at low tide. To get to the coves you hike along the coastline, past wildflower patches, through brush and briar, and down to the rocky beaches.
From the trailhead down to the cliff, maybe a 20 min walk
Wild blackberries on the side of the trail
Me and Tifany taking turns down the muddy trail into Jade Cove
Jade Cove has been mined for hundreds of years now, so most of the remaining gems are underwater. As such, it can be pretty hard work for very little reward. If you’re lucky though there are small pieces to be found along the cobbled shores.
A quick walk over to the first cove where we searched for jade
Here I am at the second jade spot, trying to avoid the waves. Moments later we met a man named Ken who told us someone had been swept out and died a week earlier after wading too far into the water in search of the jade.
On our hunt one morning we met this amazing jade-hunter called Ken, who showed us the ropes and exactly what to look for.
The green hues of the cliffs are mostly created from serpentine, which is a similar shade to Jade. You have to watch out for mistakenly collecting serpentine, along with a few other rocks present in the area like agates or sandstone. Ken talked us through a few different ways of spotting the difference between these stones and the jade we were searching for.
Ken showing us how the jade is sometimes encapsulated in other rocks. He picked up this stone after thinking I was going to snag it. Ultimately he gifted it to me after seeing my excitement.
Ken is a great guy. He's a gardener in Cambria and rock hounds in his free time.
These are a couple chunks I fished out of the water. Ken was the winner of the day with a beautiful fist-sized black jade stone. Of course I forgot to take a photo.
Most of the stones there are quite small compared to the large deposits on the seabed, so if (like me) you’re looking to make jewelry from the stones, you want to make sure they’re of a big enough size for cutting. You also want to check the stones are not cracked. This will make them porous and too fragile to last in a piece of jewelry.
Of course, one of the biggest things I look for in a stone is color! The hue of a stone is what first ignites my design inspiration. The shades and inclusions contained within a stone will depend on the conditions in which it was formed and the minerals that are present in it.
Because of this, jade is not just the green-colored stone you may think of it as. Jade is usually made up mainly of nephrite or jadeite which give the classic emerald shade. But the presence of other elements can completely change its color or appearance. For example, the more chromium present the more neon green the color will be. In contrast, the presence of graphite will make the stone almost inky black in hue. The formation process creates unique stones that are reflections of the earth history in which they were formed.
A large specimen collected by a local diver. Anything this size will only be found under the water.
Other specimens from the same seller. When you pass through town on your way south there's usually one or two people selling what they've collected.
The most common colored jade found at Big Sur is green jade, but this can range drastically in color from a vibrant emerald hue to a dark botanical tone.
Its color can also be heightened or dimmed by its opacity - some green jades are translucent, whilst others are cloudy. Big Sur jade is much rarer to find and, as the name suggests, can only be found in this region.
We were lucky enough to find a few pieces of jade that I plan to make into small pendants and rings.
If you’ve kept up with our blog posts you’ll know I love to source my own stones for my jewelry, even going to the mines when I can. Keeping the pipeline small ensures that all the stones I use were mined ethically and with reverence and appreciation for the earth from which they came.
We managed to grab a room for one night at Glen Oaks before leaving town
Sorting through the small pieces we had found on the first day
This is an entire days worth of jade...
If you are ever near Big Sur, do yourself a favor and stay at Glen Oaks
For me, this isn’t just an ethical motivation but also a spiritual and emotional one. I have always been awe-inspired by the earth magic of gemstones - the way their formation over thousands of years creates spiritual stones imbued with the history of the earth and the powers of the universe.
Sourcing jade with my own hands meant I could see the incredible conditions and the environment in which it was formed. Jade has been renowned by civilizations across time for its powers of forceful protection and gentle tranquility. And I can see why.
One home, I cut into this piece of jade I collected. Not to shabby IMO
Wild flower collage by Tifany
Every piece of Jade I found seemed to contain within it the power of the ocean in which it was formed. It was a really special trip that only heightened my appreciation for gemstones and connected me to our earth.
Bring on the Big Sur Jade Festival!”