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You can't go anywhere without stepping on them. You look for flat ones to skip across the water. As a kid, you stuffed them into your pockets. Rocks are fascinating to collect because they are unique and because there are so many things to do with them.

Lapidary, the cutting and polishing of colored stones, is a lifelong hobby for many people. Lapidists, the people who do the actual cutting and polishing, are passionate about their hobby.

Many treasure hunters were lapidists who were looking for gems, gold or silver. Some dreamed of getting rich, but most dreamed of discovering that one special find.

The biggest and most expensive rock (diamond) ever found was in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106 carats, which is over one pound. After the rough diamond had been cleaved (split), cut and polished, it became nine large gems and 96 smaller stones.

The largest stone weighed 530 carats and was named the Cullinan, or Star of Africa. It remains part of the British crown jewels, a gift from South Africa to its monarch.

Even if diamond finds by individuals are rare, they are not impossible. Diamonds can be found in North America.

Kimberlite, a rare rock that forms pipe-shaped bodies and once filled the throat of some volcanoes, has been known to have diamonds form inside itself. Kimberlite has been found in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan and Montana.

Some collectors look for specimens unique to the area in which they live. Others bring back rocks as vacation or travel souvenirs.

Regardless of how or why rockhounds collect their finds, they want to display their treasures. There are almost as many ways to display rocks as there are rock collectors.

Collectors have two primary collections: the rough rocks they have found on the field before they have been cleaned and polished, and the finished stones. The rocks are divided and stored in boxes, crates and piles. They are placed on shelves, floors and in closets.

It is a hobby that will easily expand to fit all available space. The finished, polished stones are often mounted in cases on light-absorbing material, like velvet. Crystals are often mounted on pedestals so the play of light can highlight the facets.

Some rockhounds don't collect stones at all. They collect fossils, searching for dinosaur bones and artifacts. The passion and the principles are the same, although the treasure is different.

Regardless of whether you collect interesting shaped rocks, beautiful stones or fossils, rock hunting is a lifelong adventure.

People who love collecting rocks may enjoy a career in mining, geology -- or any other rockin' field.

Getting Started

If collecting pretty stones isn't your style, rockhounding can still be fun.

You can pan for gold or search for silver in any number of abandoned mines using maps and geological surveys. You must remember to check the sites you plan to explore carefully.sub-section

Many sites have been claimed. People, organizations and companies have paid for the right to search, keep and sell the minerals they find on and in the area they have described in the claim document.

The claims are often poorly marked, and it would be easy for a rockhound to accidentally pick over an already claimed property.

This can be avoided if you join a local rock and mineral club. There are clubs in most cities. Dues are often minimal and the help you receive is invaluable. Your local university will have one as part of their geology department.

Government departments of natural resources also carry information about the geological profiles of areas. They are also great sources for maps and data regarding specific locations, if you are planning to treasure hunt at a particular site.


Geological Society of America
P.O. Box 9140
Boulder , CO   80301-9140
E-mail :


The Mineralogical Record
Brain Press Books


Bob's Rock Shop
An electronic bulletin board and a collection of articles
A library of articles on jewelry-related topics

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