Collectors Corner: Rocks, Minerals and Gems
By Michele Alice
Anyone who's seen The Weather Channel's reality series Prospectors knows that digging through rocks can be a profitable occupation. Of course, the specimens being sought in the series are minerals and gemstones like rose quartz and aquamarines - gems are mineral crystals with ornamental value. But even what appear to be ordinary rocks can form the basis of a collection.
Budding rockhounds often begin by picking up interesting-looking stones from gravel driveways or from gravel piles at construction sites, and a rudimentary collection might contain specimens from each of the three basic rock groups: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.
Igneous rocks like granite are formed when magma cools, allowing minerals to crystallize and resulting in a coarse or fine-grained rock depending on the rate of solidification.
Sedimentary rocks like sandstone and shale often exhibit layering due to the gradual deposition of organic and inorganic materials. Note that shale is a particularly rich source of fossils. Force the layers apart and you could find the imprint of a Mesozoic fern leaf or the remains of a trilobite.)
Metamorphism results when a rock is subjected to high pressures and temperatures deep within the earth. The material does not become molten, but is transformed into a different rock, such as when shale becomes slate, or limestone is turned into marble.
Most collectors soon graduate to the most popular area of acquisition: minerals. (Fans of television's Breaking Bad series will remember Hank Schrader caught the collecting bug when he was recuperating from an assassination attempt.) Minerals are elements (like carbon) and compounds (like salt) that exhibit a crystalline structure. Crystals grow if provided adequate material, but in most rocks, crystals are so compacted that they can't grow without deformation or even grow much at all and can only be appreciated under a magnifying glass. Collectors are always seeking mineral specimens that display well, and mineral clubs, shows, retail shops and auction sites are generally better sources than going out in the field. Mineral clubs and shows, in particular, provide the added benefit of putting you in touch with other collectors
For those who are more adventurous, there's always the prospecting route. Many online collector sites provide information to mineral locations in their areas. You can also mine the internet by typing your state or country and the words mineral localities into your computer's search engine.
Planning a vacation? You might want to consider a trip to a pay-to-prospect mine such as Arkansas's Crater of Diamonds State Park.
Interested in finding out more about rocks, minerals and gems? Search the resources listed below, and
A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (Peterson Field Guides), by Frederick H. Pough, Roger Tory Peterson, and Jeffrey Scovil
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals, by National Audubon Society
Nature Guide: Rocks and Minerals, by DK Publishing
Simon & Schuster's Guide to Rocks & Minerals, by Martin Prinz, George Harlow, and Joseph Peters
Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals, by Chris Pellant
American Federation of Mineralogical Societies - Newsletter provides dates for upcoming regional conventions; downloadable mineral classification list; extensive state-by-state list of links to club sites.
Amethyst Galleries' Mineral Gallery - Billed as "The First Internet Rock Shop" - they've been online since 1994 - this site describes over 600 minerals, rock types, physical characteristics, more.
Bob's Rock Shop- Great resource includes searchable Rock & Gem magazine database, Rock Identification Key, Mineral Identification Key, more.
Collecting Rocks - This page at the U.S. Geological Survey website provides a good introduction to the hobby.
Geology.com - Provides lots of interesting information about rocks and mineral collecting and on geology in general. Great photos, especially of different gems.
John Betts - Fine Minerals - Check out the Mineral Museum and Educational Articles for some great tips for collectors.
The Mineral & Gemstone Kingdom - Site includes Glossary, Mineral Guide, Gemstone Guide, links, more.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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