About Us


The Collector is an unusual shop showcasing fine jewelry, mineral specimens and objets d'art. Its story is a fascinating one.

In 1968, gem and mineral connoisseur, William Larson, formed what later became Pala International and purchased three San Diego County Mines: the Stewart Lithia, Tourmaline Queen, and Pala Chief. Located in the foothills of northern San Diego County, these mines are part of a local mining history dating back to the 1800s.

The “Candelabra” Tourmaline This stunning specimen was mined by Pala at the Tourmaline Queen mine in 1972. Today it is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

The “Candelabra” Tourmaline
This stunning specimen was mined by Pala at the Tourmaline Queen mine in 1972. Today it is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. (Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt)

The most important gem mined here is tourmaline. Gemstone production during the 1900s exceeded two million dollars, with American, European and Oriental gem houses actively involved, including Tiffany's, who had part-time buyers in the Pala and Mesa Grande mining districts. Chines were particularly fond of tourmaline, and large quantities were shipped to China for use in carvings and on mandarin clothing.

With the emergence of Pala International in the late 1960s, organized mining was again on the upswing. Although the Stewart Lithia produced small pockets of tourmaline, it was not until 1972, with a strike a Tourmaline Queen, that the true potential was revealed. In what was one of the finds of the century, large gemmy tourmaline crystals were unearthed. The "Candelabra," an exceptional piece from that strike, is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.


Memberships

The International Colored Gemstone Association is an independent non-profit association that was founded in 1983 to represent the international gemstone industry.  Pala International is a Founding Member of the ICA.

Founded in 1981, the American Gem Trade Association is a group of US and Canadian professionals dedicated to promoting the natural colored gemstone and cultured pearl trade while maintaining the highest ethical standards among its members and within the industry.  Pala International is a Founding Member of the AGTA.

Pala International is a Registered Supplier of the American Gem Society.  The American Gem Society (AGS) has been protecting the consumer since 1934. An association of fine jewelers, its members are committed to the highest standards of business ethics, and practice truth-in-advertising and pricing.

The Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT) rates creditworthiness in the gem and jewelry trades.  Pala International has been a JBT member for over 20 years and has a 31 (“1st” or “high”) credit rating.

The Guide from Gemworld International is the best price guide to gems.  Pala’s own Josh Hall is a member of the Board of Advisers, whose members provide up-to-date pricing information to keep The Guide accurate.