Starting a rock collection is very simple and inexpensive. Studying the rocks collected one can obtain a wealth of knowledge about the earth and its history. Rocks can be collected anywhere at anytime. Rocks are broken up into three classification systems: Igneous, Sedimentary, and metamorphic.
Igneous rocks can be found in places where the earth has melted the area and the rock has cooled to become a hard substance. Obsidian and basalt are two examples of an igneous rock. Sedimentary rocks are rocks that have formed from other materials, such as minerals. These rocks are constantly being formed in the world around you. Shale is a common sedimentary rock. Metamorphic rocks are exactly what the name suggests. They are rocks that have been transformed by climate or environmental changes drastic enough to alter their appearance.
You can begin collecting rocks right outside your front door. Look for unique shapes in gravel, sand from a beach, or laying on the ground in your front yard. Study the rocks for appearance, shape, and weight. If you want to learn more about the rock or enjoy the rock, put it in a sandwich bag to study. There are many places you can visit to collect rocks, but there are a few areas where there are laws forbidding rock collection. Avoid state and national parks and monuments as it is illegal to harvest the rocks there. If it is possible, get the proper permission of the property owners before you trespass in hopes of obtaining a new rock for the collection.
There are a few things you are going to want to pick up when you first embark on rock collecting. These items will help you learn about your collection and identify which type of rock you have found. The first thing you will want is a magnifying glass or loupe. These will help you study the rocks for identification. Look at that sparkly, glittering rock with a magnifier and see if you can identify what minerals or substances are causing the glittery appearance.
You will also want to pick up a book, such as Rocks and Minerals by the Smithsonian Institute. This book offers photos and descriptions to help you classify the rocks you acquire. There are several other books available as well, the beginning collector may want to choose two or three different ones as they start out. There are some with excellent graphs and charts to help you identify as well. Books may also provide you with some ideas about where to find rocks.
The third thing you will want to purchase for your new hobby is a rock hammer. These look slightly different from a household hammer and endure much better. They are fairly inexpensive to pick up and can last for years. These are necessary if you hope to go exploring natural rock formations, such as caves to acquire your specimens.
Since you are just starting your collection, you will find that ziploc storage bags will come in handy to store your new finds. You can label each bag with a marker to help you keep them classified and sorted. If a particular rock or stone strikes you as beautiful or special, you may want to display this upon a shelf or desk. Your rocks can be cleaned tenderly with some dish soap and water if they are dirty or dusty.
The Internet can help you find articles and information relevant to your area or the area you are visiting. There are several guides available to help you find unique or special rocks to add to your collection. Rock Collecting Around the USA can be a valuable resource to begin exploring. This site has links to other sites, alphabetized to make things a bit easier. There are forums and discussions available to answer questions and connect with others who have experience in rock collecting. You can also share photo's of your finds within some of the communities.
Once you begin to grow your collection, there are other resources and tools you may want to consider having. There are magazines about rock collecting with photos. There are other means of storing the rocks such as backpacks and display cases. Down the line, should this become a serious hobby you may find yourself carrying a small notebook to make notes as you find rocks. There are also different hammers and safety equipment that may be necessary.
If you have children you can involve them in this activity. They will find it entertaining to help you look for pretty rocks when you take an evening stroll. Make a game of your next dive in the lake by having them scuba to the bottom for rocks. Invite your little boy to play pirates and put him to work hunting gems and treasures in the backyard. Allow them to assist in the identifying and studying of their finds when they return home. This will help engage them in a fun, learning activity. It may also help build their appreciation for some of the earth's natural resources.