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Searching for adventure, and a gemstone

Miryam Benito Angel traveled to San Benito County to search for her namesake gemstone.
James, Miryam, Andrea and Athina Angel stopped in Hollister to tell the story of their road trip to find the Benitoite gemstone. Photo by John Chadwell.
The Benitoite gemstone Miryam picked out for herself. Photo by Leslie David.
Looking through gemstones at Benitoite Gem Mine near Coalinga. Photo courtesy of Miryam Angel.
Miryam stopped by BenitoLink to share her story with reporter John Chadwell. Photo by Leslie David.

Miryam Angel is a 60-year-old woman who dreams big, loves long road trips and is a consummate teller of tales, especially when she can weave them into her family life. Her latest adventure brought Miryam, her husband James, and her daughters Athina and Andrea to San Benito County in search of a blue treasure: the rare barium titanium silicate known as benitoite. 

While benitoite can be found in places around the world, gem-quality benitoite crystals can only be found in San Benito County. Many in search of the brilliant blue gem travel to the Benitoite Gem Mine near Coalinga in southern San Benito County. Closer to home, it can also be found in San Juan Bautista at Jan's Rock Shop, and in Gilroy at Littlejohn's Fine Jewelry. 

Miryam said she could have easily ordered the stone, but wanted to make a journey of finding it.

“I would have loved to have dug it out of the ground, but that’s not always practical,” she said. “I bought it at the mine near Coalinga. I’m going to make a ring of this to remind me of this adventure and the road trip with Athina, Andrea and James.”

What set Miryam and her family off on this latest road trip was the mother of all coincidences.

The Angel family has a tradition: at some point in their lives, each of Miryam’s seven daughters receives a ring with three small diamonds that stand for past, present and future. But one daughter, Catarina, was born on Miryam’s birthday and said she wanted something different for one of the stones. Miryam began searching for a special stone, and what she found was a gemstone connected to her name. Her full name.

Angel is just one of four surnames that Miryam can claim. Her entire name is Miryam Robertstad Garcia Benito Angel. It’s that third surname that turned out to be the impetus for picking not only the benitoite for Catarina’s ring, but setting the family off on an adventure from their Florida home to Los Angeles by plane. They then drove up to San Benito County on their quest for brilliant blue benitoite and to celebrate Miryam’s 60th birthday.

Miryam was born on Valentine’s Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Her father was Spanish-Portuguese and her mother Norwegian. When she was 13, the family moved to Norway. She is one of seven daughters and two sons. She met and married her husband James there, and after 22 years the entire family with their own seven daughters moved to Wellington, Florida.

A stay-at-home mom, Miryam also studied art and film.

“What I liked best about film school was storytelling,” she said. “Now that the girls are older, I’m thinking of rocking the world, starting with the benitoite stone, which was my quest for my 60th birthday. What a coincidence. I didn’t know this was the California state gem, and it’s named after me, so how could I not come?”

The family wasn’t sure where to find the benitoite gem, but set off for San Benito County the day after Miryam’s birthday to find it. She searched the internet for any “Benito” connection. She said it was confusing, but eventually found the Benitoite Gem Mine near Coalinga, and in another coincidence she discovered BenitoLink. Being the storyteller she is, Miryam reached out and after finding her gem, the family dropped in to tell BenitoLink of their adventure.

She joked how her daughter Catarina thinks she’s special not only because she was born on her mother’s birthday, but because she will soon receive a special gem for her ring. But having finally seen her namesake gem, Miryam said she doesn't have favorites, each of her daughters will receive their own benitoite gemstone.


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John Chadwell's picture
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to:

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