Geology And Geophysics

Rock Collecting

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"Rock Collecting"
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The first rock I remember seeing was when my dad plopped a blob of sparkling quartz onto the kitchen table. "Look at this," he said. My heart skipped a beat and my mind danced with possibilities.

Now I understood why my parents hauled boxes of rocks from one house to the next. I looked through some of them, found beauty, wonder in mere stones, and wanted to start my own collection. Feldspar, silver, lead, obsidian, and others impressed me but the colorful shimmering rings of agate astounded me.

Get Started

You do not need much equipment to start collecting little hunks of the fabric of the earth.

A good book with many pictures of raw minerals and some of polished stone helps you identify finds. You need a sturdy bag or knapsack to carry specimens home.

A geologist's hammer comes in handy for chipping off rocks and for freeing treasures hidden inside of them. A magnifying glass affords a closer look. For serious hunting, you need a sturdy pair of shoes, long pants, safety glasses and sunscreen. Carry a pen and notebook to record what you found and where.

You can keep your collection in a small box, a shelf, or a shadow box. Be sure to label each one. As your collection grows, substitute good examples for poorer ones.
Important note: always ask for permission to hunt on private property. Never disturb rocks or fossils on federal lands. Violation of this rule results in fines or arrests. New stricter laws are pending.

Where to Look

Great places to look include quarries, places where a road is cut through, outcrops, and hills. When you travel, take the opportunity to find rocks not available where you live. I once found a box of cut and polished rocks in a thrift shop and paid $1.50 for museum quality pieces.

In the Field

When you see an interesting looking rock, pick it up and put it in your pocket or tote bag. Then find one that looks different. When you return home look in the book to see the names of your acquisitions and how they formed in the earth.

In rock hunting expeditions of my childhood, my dad, with the tap of a hammer, freed semi-precious gems and geodes from ugly looking rocks. Geodes are hollow inside and sparkle with quartz. I thought of all of them as tiny presents left by God for us to find.

Where Rocks Come From

The three rock groups are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic

Igneous rocks form from melted rock called magma, the same stuff that volcanoes spew out during an eruption. Magma forms from the heat and pressure of the earth. When it cools, it solidifies.
Sedimentary rocks, formed near the Earths surface, consist of many types of sediment, pieces of rocks, minerals, and remnants of animals or plants.

Metamorphic rocks result from sedimentary or igneous rocks under intense pressure and extreme heat changing them completely. Instead of melting rock, metamorphosis changes them into denser, more compact rocks.

Going Deeper

As your interest increases, you can find rock hound clubs, newspapers, catalogs and items for sale that whet your appetite and make you into a hopeless addict. "Hello, my name is Blank and I am a rock collector."

You may want to explore lapidary and make stunning jewelry. Once, we lived on a friend's property. Sally was a lapidary and I watched in fascination as she sliced, ground, and polished pieces of rock and transformed them into beautiful necklaces, earrings, and bracelets and custom made pieces that people traveled many miles to buy from her as her fame increased.


Perhaps some day you may show a child a rock that captures his imagination and sets his mind dancing with possibilities, thus creating a new recruit to the rock hunting army. Happy rock hounding!

More about this author: JoAnne Windsinger

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