Why Rock Collecting?
Rock collecting is a hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone and takes very little of anything to get started! A rock collection can be started by simply gathering rocks you see when you’re out and about in nature. Lots of young kids love bringing home special rocks they find at school, the park, or just out in the front yard. Before they know it, they have their very own rock collection! For those who want to take their rock collecting to the next level or have a taste for the finer things in life, there are queries and mines scattered around the country where anyone can look for gemstones (and keep what they find!). There are emeralds and rubies in North Carolina, turquoise in Nevada, sapphires in Montana, opals in the Pacific Northwest region, and smoky quartz in New Hampshire. But rock collecting takes patience. Some days may yield just a few common rocks that you may or may not want to add to your collection, while other days may produce the most stunning specimen in your collection yet! With a little know-how, a few tools, and some creativity, you can collect some pretty amazing rocks that you’ll be proud to show off.
Three Main Types of Rocks
As a rock collector, it’s important to know the three main types of rocks that you’ll find when you’re on the hunt for fascinating new rocks.
Igneous rocks begin as melted rocks (lava/magma) deep within the Earth’s surface. The liquid magma flows toward the Earth’s surface or can even be catapulted out of a volcano. It then cools at a gradual rate and becomes an igneous rock. Granite, basalt, and obsidian are common igneous rocks.
Sedimentary rocks are formed on the Earth’s surface, either in the water or on land. These rocks are essentially grains of sand, pieces of other rocks, and other organic matter that is cemented together to form sedimentary rock through a process call lithification (involves weathering, transportation, deposition, compacting, and cementation). Limestone, sandstone, and shale are sedimentary rocks.
Metamorphic rocks form when existing rocks (igneous or sedimentary) undergo a change, or metamorphosis, due to extremely high temperatures or intense pressure deep within the Earth’s crust. They don’t melt. Rather, the makeup of the rock changes either from liquid that permeates it or rearrangement of the mineral components. Marble and slate are metamorphic rocks.
Tools of the Trade
When heading out for a fun day of rock collecting, you should approach it like a seasoned rockhounder. Having the right tools and equipment will increase your chances of finding unique, interesting rocks that will become standouts in your rock collection. Don’t leave home without these rock collecting essentials:
Large Sledgehammer (to break up large boulders into more manageable pieces)
Crack Hammers or Geologist’s Hammers of different sizes (to break up smaller rocks)
Chisels of different sizes (to get into tight spaces)
Sieve (to separate smaller material from the larger material)
Leather Gloves (to protect your hands from cuts and blisters)
Magnifying Glass (aim for a 10x magnification so you can really study the rocks you’ve found)
Bucket/Bag (to carry all your tools/treasures)
Wrapping Paper (to wrap your treasures in)
Hardhat (for serious rockhounds!)
Safety Glasses (to protect your eyes when you’re breaking up larger rocks)
Water (you’ll work up a sweat swinging the sledgehammer)