Geology is the study of the earth, its layers, rock formations, and fossil records. Amateur geology, on the other hand, or “rockhounding,” which consists of collecting crystals and rocks, has little to do with the science behind Geology as a whole. Rockhounding can be whatever you want it to be.
Essentially, rockhounding is the collection of rocks and mineral specimens. But after that, it’s up to you where you want to take this hobby. You can specialize in the collection of a certain kind of rock such as quartz or pumice. You can collect only naturally formed crystals and rocks or polish and shape them the way you want them to be. You can even get into carving your stone collection into your favorite shapes. The hobby of collecting crystals and rocks is whatever you want it to be, and with the sheer amount of rocks out there, it is sure to be great fun.
Where Did Collecting Crystals And Rocks Come From?
Amateur geology presumably came from ambitious amateur prospectors who were looking to make a killing by finding gold or gems. Once the commercial fever died out, people found that it was just as much fun to collect crystals and rocks that had little or no value, just for the sake of collecting them. With the advent of commercialization in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, people began to look for new opportunities to increase production levels with machinery.
Although these machines were used to collect and move large amounts of rock, special attention to rocks was given during the Gold Rush in California during the 1840’s. As people began to look for gold, they would take special care to analyze and categorize other minerals and rocks based on their ability to predict the nearby presence of gold.
With the advent of modern architecture, modern machinery, scientific advances and increases in specialized education, geology has taken large strides as a supporting industry. Geology supplies information for architects, engineers, builders, businesses, and so much more. Additionally, being able to analyze and categorize the rock is incredibly important to a successful development of a new apartment complex or home.
Did You Know?
- The most helpful tool you can have while rock collecting is a flashlight. It can get very dark when looking for crystals and rocks, even in the daytime.
- Geologists classify rocks into three main groups: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
- Today, in the Guadalupe Mountains of western Texas, one can stand on limestone – a sedimentary rock – that was at one time a coral reef in a tropical sea.
Getting Started With Crystals And Rocks
You can begin your career as an amateur geologist by simply bending over and picking up a rock. This is one reason for its rise to popularity as an amateur hobby – it is so easy to undertake. Rocks are everywhere! Any place on earth is a veritable paradise for the amateur geologist.
The main piece of equipment you will need is called a geologist’s hammer. This tool is slightly shorter than the length of your forearm and has a perfectly flat hammer-like head, which tapers out on the other end into a pick. Both of these sides will come in handy; the one to dig into crevices to get to that beautiful jewel and the other to break rocks open and see what they have inside. Geologist’s hammers can range from around $15 to $50, depending on their strength, length, and grip.
If you really want to get into it, you can invest in a complete rockhounding kit for around $70. Besides a basic geologist’s hammer, this kit will include a belt to hold the hammer, a magnifying glass, and a pair of safety goggles. Safety goggles are especially important when striking at a rock with your pick, as tiny slivers of rock can break off and damage your eyes.
There is no set amount of time that must be spent on this hobby. It can be done wherever and whenever desired, although sometimes getting to a location that is rich in a certain kind of rock or crystal can require a considerable amount of time in transport.
How To Collect Crystals And Rocks
The first step is to decide what kind of crystals and rocks you wish to collect. Will you pick up anything that looks pretty to you, or will your collection only consist of semi-precious or precious stones? Will you specialize in the amethyst crystals that grow on the inside of certain rocks or the white quartz crystals that grow inside caves? Will you invest in a polishing machine to make the surface of your treasures perfectly smooth, or will you only select rocks that already have a pleasing natural shape? Answer these questions up front so you can focus your rockhounding time accordingly.
Once you have decided what type(s) of crystals and rocks you want to begin collecting, it is time to assemble your rockhounding tool kit. You will need to make sure you get your hands on the basic tools of the trade, but you may also want to consider options, such as cleaning supplies or polishing tools. These will prove especially helpful if you plan to clean and polish your rocks yourself. You will also need to consider where you plan to stage this process, as this may require quite a bit of table space so that you can really lay everything out and examine the rocks as you work.
Once you have decided what kind of a rockhound you plan to be, do a bit of research into the closest place that the rocks you want can be found. There may even be a club of amateur geologists with similar interests in your area that you can join who already know all the tricks of the trade. Joining a club is particularly rewarding, as you can compare the crystals and rocks you have collected with other like-minded hobbyists.
Some of the most unique rocks can be found in abandoned mines, and construction sites. Because machines have already done the hard work of tunneling into the earth’s surface, all that remains is for you to come along and reap the benefits. Rocks can be found in these locations that are like nothing you’ve seen gracing the regular surface of the earth.
Displaying your rock collection is also an important factor to consider as you get underway in your rockhounding hobby. As with bug collecting, you can purchase cases, tags, and labels for the rocks, which will make your collection look professional. If you can’t afford a display case or additional items, a rock collection can be displayed in just about anything including jars, plastic containers, and even small Ziploc bags.
Identifying where and how you got the rocks is an important part of the collection process. Take a journal with you so that you can recall where, when and how the items were acquired so you can recall the facts at a later time. Those facts can make a personal rock collection even more meaningful
Rockhounding Tips and Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you get the most out of collecting rocks and crystals as a hobby…
- Don’t be too concerned with the exterior of the rock; some of the most interesting features of rocks are within the interior.
- Instead of looking for unique and valuable rocks, great collections can be found by looking for large quantities of a specific kind of rock.
- Basic geology goes a long way in helping to understand more about your rocks, and yes there is a difference between igneous and sedimentary rocks.
- Keeping all the rocks isn’t always a requirement, as some great collections can be monitored through high-resolution photographs and notes.
Ways to Grow the Hobby
Once you have moved beyond simple rock hunting methods and understand more about your hobby, it is time to take it to the next level. The following ideas can help…
- When you have become familiar with your hobby, it’s time to start calling your collection “specimens” and classifying them geologically. There is a wealth of knowledge in the fields of mineralogy, geology, and petrology that can be gained from simple rockhounding. Aim to become an expert at classifying the rocks you see, and share your knowledge with your friends.
- Many amateur geologists create beautiful display cases and mounts for their prized specimens and show them off at fairs or even museums. A simple display can be made from an old drawer filled with white cotton. Place the rocks inside the cotton filled drawer at regular intervals, and create a nametag for each one.
- Collecting by yourself can sometimes be a lonely experience, so seek out people with similar interests. There are tons of websites that list other rock collecting groups and great locations for you to go hunting for a new rock. Participating in a group also allows for one person to utilize a reference manual while others gather and label their findings. Field trips are great opportunities for rock collecting and can even work out a great amount of energy while climbing over mounds looking for rocks.
Check out the following online resources for even more information on how to start collecting crystals and rocks…
Geology.com – comprehensive site that provides a wealth of information about Earth Science current events, articles, satellite images, reference maps and even geology career opportunities.
BestCrystals.com – an extensive website of crystals and minerals. This site has a ton of products and useful information for the amateur rockhound.
Black Cat Mining.com – cools site that provides equipment for gold prospecting, rockhounding and metal detecting.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.