Headquarters for the Gemological Institute in Carlsbad, CA
If you love gemstones and fine jewelry- you definitely have to check out the Gemological Institute of America located in Carlsbad, CA.
This is the place where students come from all over the world to learn gemstone analysis and grading. Many of the graduates have become famous jewelers. One such graduate, Kara Ross, was the artist commissioned to make jewelry from a fallen magnolia tree that was planted by Andrew Jackson for his wife at the white house. The Obamas own a few pieces and others are given to visiting heads of state and their spouses as gifts. You can learn more here- http://capitolfile-magazine.com/style/articles/wood-stock
The GIA offers a free tour to the public. You will need to call ahead and make reservations. Security is tight, so you will need a form of picture identification to enter the premises and you are only allowed on site at certain times.
The tour is a walk through of the hallways where exhibits display magnificent specimens of all kinds of gemstones, as well as the description of how and where they are mined. You will also learn about the classes offered there at the institute.
After the tour, check out the huge mineral specimens near the cafeteria. In this photo is a 3-4 foot long piece of rutilated quartz that hangs in front of a window.