Exploring the Unique and Stunning Big Sur Jade

Introduction to Big Sur Jade

Jade Cove in Big Sur, California
Jade Cove in Big Sur, California. Treacherous ocean-side cliffs lead down to small coves where the observant have the chance to find these precious stones.

Jade Cove in Big Sur, California, is a treasure trove for jade enthusiasts. Treacherous ocean-side cliffs lead down to small coves where the observant have the chance to find these precious stones. With a rich history and an array of stunning colors, Big Sur Jade is truly one of a kind and one of the most special types of California Jade.

The Origins of Big Sur Jade

Big Sur Jade is the only concentrated underwater deposit of quality nephrite jade found in the world! Since the 1960s, rock hounds and divers have been exploring the cobble beaches and underwater landscape offered by Big Sur’s dazzling coastline. Don Wobber spearheaded the jade diving movement, which led to giant jade boulders being floated from the sea floor and later carved and polished into some of the most unique and rare jade specimens.

Today, there are laws limiting the amount and extraction techniques used for Big Sur jade. However, anyone able and willing to navigate the jade coves can take out high-quality Big Sur jade as long as they follow the rules. Locating Big Sur jade is difficult, as many rocks in the area, such as serpentine, agates, or sandstone, can be mistaken for jade.

Types of Big Sur Jade

Big Sur Bubble or “Botryoidal” Jade

Bubble Jade from Big Sur
A wonderful example of quality Botryoidal Jade from Big Sur. Picture credit to Pacific Jade Art


Big Sur Botryoidal, also known as Bubble or Grape Jade, is a high-quality nephrite jade and is one of the rarest types of jade to find in the Big Sur area. It often has a serpentine or talc matrix, which can be removed to reveal the bubble-like structure underneath. This type of jade can come in various colors, from shades of green to whites and even the reds, yellows, and oranges of vulcan jade.

Serpentine and soapstone never exhibit this bubble-like trait. Botryoidal jade was first discovered in the Jade Cove area in the late 1950s and has since been found in other locations, such as Mendocino County, California, Cultus Mountain, Washington, and the Trinity Mountains of California.

Big Sur Green Jade

Green jade is the most common color found in Big Sur, ranging from dark spinach to bright emerald. Some jades are incredibly translucent, while others are dull and opaque. The variety of colors in Big Sur jade is astounding, with each piece being unique, individual, and ocean-shaped.

Big Sur Blue Jade

Green Big Sur Jade with Chromium and Graphite
An example of a large piece of greenish blue jade from Big Sur. This piece of jade contains both Chromium (the neon green color) and Graphite (black).


Big Sur blue jade, or Pacific Blue Jade, is another rare Big Sur jade. Most specimens come from Jade Cove. This jade resembles the mystical and magical waters of the Big Sur coastline and can be found in shades ranging from light blue-green to a rich deep blue color.

Vulcan Jade

Vulcan or Vulcanized jade is a fascinating type of Big Sur jade. This jade naturally erodes out of the ancient seabed located about 200 feet above sea level. The iron-rich soil “stains” the porous nephrite jade with vibrant oranges, reds, yellows, and browns, creating stunning hues. Vulcan jades are some of the rarest forms of jade found.

Exploring and Collecting Big Sur Jade

Beginners and out-of-towners should be aware that Jade Cove is not a place to get rich. Big Sur jade is often kept as a natural souvenir rather than a valuable treasure; very few people have the connections, tools, jade hunting skills, and supply to sell and carve Big Sur’s jade. If visiting Jade Cove, please follow and respect all rules regarding the taking out of jade. Also, be aware that the trails to Jade Cove are steep and dangerous, and the tides and waves need to be constantly monitored while jade hunting on the beaches.

Big Sur Jade Festival

Once a year, the Big Sur jade community gathers for a 3-day festival focused on local carvers and some of the most exceptional jade works. At the Big Sur Jade Fest, these pieces are on display and for sale.

Big Sur Jade Hunting Tips

Although laws have been passed limiting the amount and extraction techniques used for Big Sur jade, anyone able and willing to navigate the jade coves can collect high-quality Big Sur jade, as long as they follow the rules (the coves are monitored!). Persistent Big Sur jade hunters can train their eyes to locate jade underwater or on the cobblestoned beaches. With patience, they may find a rare piece of fine Big Sur jade. However, keep in mind that most rocks in the area are serpentine, agates, or sandstone, which can be easily confused with jade.

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