Sections

Man with beach rock

Finding your own rocks will put a smile on your face.

 

 

Woman digging in the forest

For fine digging, many people use small garden tools.

 

 

Beach rocks

Rock hunting needn't be dirty; looking for pretty pebbles on a beach is often rewarding.Which ones to pick up? Whatever strikes your fancy.

 

 

Carnelian stone in a copper setting

Even a simple beachstone, like this carnelian agate, can be used in both rustic and fine jewelry, especially after they've been tumbled.

 

 

Obsidian rocks on Glass Mt., OR

Rockhounders are often amateur geologists, being interested in how rocks form along with appreciating them. This large rock face of obsidian is among several formed through vulcanism at Glass Mt., Oregon, USA.

 

 

Man and girl digging for rocks in a stream

 

Some rockhounds search in creeks and streams for agates, jaspers, and coprolites.

 

 

Coprolite rocks with wierd shapes

Wierd shapes and odd textures are as fascinating to rockhounds as sparkling crystals, such as with these odd coprolites (fossilized animal dung).

 

 

A faceter explains how he cuts gemstones.

A man with a faceting machine shows how he makes gemstones from crystaline rocks.

 

 

Woman touching boulders in wall

Rocks have been used as building material for thousands of years. The different textures of rocks are highly varied.

 

 

Twin quartz crystals

Standing only an inch high, this twin quartz crystal is a special for the rockhound who dug it up.

 

 

Grinding rocks into cabochons using a wheel

Working with rocks on a lapidary wheel can turn them into attractive shapes suitable for jewelry and belt buckets. You can learn to do this at your local rock club society.

 

 

Carnelian agate in a copper setting

Hard rocks like agates can be worked into polished, domed stones called cabochons that work well in jewelry.

 

 

Man (his back) digging in a hole

Some rockhounders love digging on their backs in a hole; one never knows what treasures lie in the dirt.

 

 

Woman with spray bottle and rocks

Spray bottles or wet sponges are used to bring out the color of rocks, both in the field and at home.

 

 

Crystals for sale at a rock show

Amazing display specimens from all over the world, like crystals, can be purchased at rock shows.

Geodes are roundish blobs that reveal spectacular crystals inside.

 

 

People at a rock show

Rocks shows are a kind of "indoor field" trip, where you don't have to search for a fine specimen.

 

 

Why hunt rocks?

People who hunt for rocks usually identify themselves as "rockhounds". They find pleasure in collecting their own natural objects. While the most valued rocks among collectors are shiny (or hard enough to be polished an shiny) have interesting shapes, or biological history (e.g. fossils), a "good rock" is any stone that attracts your eye. Once collected, the rock is entirely yours; you can hold it, stroke it, display it, throw it --- whatever.

For some rockhounds, the search for rocks satisfies a desire to explore the unknown, something like fishing – you never know what you will find. It is perhaps a type of prospector's fever. Hunting for rocks can involve backcountry navigation, maps, compasses, dead-reckoning, and the truth in a special rock site that an old codger told you about. In the age of electronics, mobile phones, instant information, and man-made environments, rock-hunting is a throw-back to the basics.

Rock hunting can be clean, such as looking for pretty pebbles on a beach or the surface of the land. It can be downright dirty, muddy, and wet, requiring hours on your side or back in a hole you've dug. A hunting trip may include rain,snow, freezing temperatures, or be brilliantly sunny and hot. It can involve heavy-duty shoveling, swinging a heavy sledge hammer, and hazardous conditions, depending on how crazy you are and whether you have no scruples hanging off of cliffs.

For most, rockhunting involves both a private joy and a more public display of geological booty, and it's all yours. Bragging rights are important and "trophy" rocks are displayed in the home. There's also the stories about "the one that got way – it was too heavy, too deep, or too attached to other rock to get out".

Finally, there are many things that can be done with rocks besides diplaying them, ranging from polishing to jewelry, from collage to mosaics. There's nothing like making a creation from a rock you collected yourself.

What to Wear

Getting together suitable clothes for being outdoors is an important part of enjoying an outing, and may be a deciding factor in your survival if you can't come home right away. Depending on the type of collecting you decide to do, you should be well prepared for the weather. This includes:

What to bring

Plan to bring tools and supplies suitable to the type of rock collecting you plan on doing. This includes not only digging or hammering tools but also maps, food supplies, and water.

Getting There

What kind of transportation will you use? Consider the limits of passenger cars versus trucks and 4-wheel drive vehicles. What type of terrain and roads do you expect to travel? Will you be walking or hiking any distance from a car? Some thoughts:

The Wheres and Whats of Hunting

Select a rock collecting site consistent with what you're prepared to do, be it digging, hard-rock mining, or stream collecting. Once you get to the proposed area:

Cleaning your Catch

Cleaning your rocks when you get home is essential, whether you plan to display them, cut them into slabs, or tumble them.

Trips, Shows, and Like-Minded Folk

There are rockhounding enthusiasts almost everywhere. A search on the internet or your local library will reveal rock clubs in your area where you can learn about collecting, go on field trips with others, and learn how to polish rocks for display or jewelry.

There may be several annual rock shows (not rock and roll, but "trade" shows with rocks) where you can "collect" rocks for a few dollars, see examples of collections, and learn how to polish, facet, set, or otherwise use rocks in your own creations. Your local rock club will know about these shows. The internet is also useful in this respect.

Rock shops are also found in many cities and towns where you can purchase rocks, chat up the proprietor in search of secret rocks sites in the area, and buy supplies, from tools to lapidary equipment and jewelry settings.

Links of Interest

Bob's Rock Shop   Rockhounds Info Page    Rock Show Dates