Abstract This study aims to assess whether luminescence emission from fault gouge samples from the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) can be used to determine the age distribution of distinct deformation microstructures. Such age determination could help constrain some of the proposed micromechanical models for shear localization in fault gouge, in addition to providing more accurate time constraint on the seismic cycle itself. The mechanism by which previously trapped charge is reset in minerals in fault gouge is thought to be a combination of frictional heating and mechanical deformation, and these processes may be localized to grain surfaces. An added dating complexity specific to deep samples is the high ambient temperature conditions, which act as a barrier to charge storage in lower energy trapping sites. In this work luminescence experiments are being conducted on minerals from whole-rock samples of intact fault gouge from the SAFOD Phase III core. Initial studies indicate (i) the thermal and radiation history of the mineral lattice can be assessed with TL, (ii) trap resetting is evident in both TL and IRSL data, (iii) a small charge-trapping window between drill hole ambient temperature of ∼112 °C and higher energy lattice excitation via rupture events is evident in TL data from ∼300 to 400 °C, and we tentatively link the source of IRSL to TL within this 300–400 °C region, (iv) IRSL data have low natural intensity but good luminescence characteristics, and (v) SAR IRSL De data have high over-dispersion but demonstrate ages ranging from decades to centuries may be measured.