In 2000, while mining a tunnel below the Naica Mountain in the Chihuahua, Mexico desert for Industrias Peñoles, two brothers unintentionally stumbled across what Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, of the University of Granada in Spain, called “the Sistine Chapel of crystals.”

The Cave of the Crystals is buried a thousand feet below the Naica Mountain and contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found, measuring up to 36 feet and weighing as much as 55 tons.

Researchers believe the brothers stumbled upon 500,000 years of growth.

García-Ruiz studied tiny pockets of fluid trapped inside the crystals in hopes of figuring out how the mineral gained its massive size. He found that the crystals were submerged in mineral-rich water and subjected to temperatures of 136°F. The combination was perfect for the mineral anhydrite within the water to dissolve into gypsum, a soft mineral that takes the form of crystals.

The conditions, while ideal for crystal production, are threatening for people. Those entering the cave are required to wear a cooling suit and limit time within the cave to a mere 45 minutes.

The cave is not accessible for tourists and mining is at a standstill as the water is rising and the cave is returning to its untouched conditions.

Don’t allow the cave restrictions to prevent you from getting intimately close with one of the crystals. The Astro Gallery in New York City has a 32-inch crystal on display.

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