How to Start Rockhounding?

Are you interested in rockhounding? If yes, then let me tell you that you will not regret this decision. As a matter of fact, rockhounding is a hobby with many functionalities in every field.  For instance, jewelers filter rocks to find gemstones, gold, and even precious stones, archeologists dig rocks to find hidden treasures and uncover history. Furthermore, rockhounding is also an important part of carrying out the geographic survey before the start of any engineering project. 

Hobby or profession, rockhounding is the best way to explore nature and literally find treasures. However, many people often seem confused because they have no idea How to start rockhounding. Therefore, in this article, I will explain everything about rockhounding for beginners.

What is Rockhounding?

Before we get started with rockhounding supplies, it is essential to know the basics of rockhounding. Otherwise, you will never be clear with your goals about what to expect from your adventures.

Rockhounding is an ancient art that literally means to filter through rocks to find something valuable. Now, the value of the rock depends on who is rockhounding. For instance, a jeweler may find gemstones or gold valuable. A geologist considers the different rock formations valuable. In contrast, an archeologist will give anything to find an ancient fossil preserved in rocks.

Therefore, before you start with your adventure, you need to be very clear and specific about what you are looking for. However, it doesn’t mean that you should only focus on one thing and decline all other treasures that nature has to offer. Hence, it is recommended to perform complete research about rockhounding, its requirements, and all the possible material that you can find.

Things you Need to Start Rockhounding:

As I said, rockhounding is a vast field with valuables for everyone. Therefore, the equipment you need to find, test, and evaluate the different specimens also varies accordingly. However, there are some essential rockhounding tools that everyone needs to make the trip effective and comfortable. For the sake of simplicity, I have categorized the basic tools you need for successful rockhounding:

  • Hammers:  You will need a rock hammer or rock pick for prying and chipping rocks to extract the desired mineral. Moreover, you will also need a crack hammer to open up the closed rocks and look inside them.
  • Accessory kit: It is a pouch of hand tools that many experts often hang by their belts. These tools include a sieve, colander, smaller picks, trowel, and a small knife. A successful rock expert always keeps this kit close to his body.
  • Hardware: If your plan is to dig at a large level, you are going to need some serious hardware tools. These tools vary from a pry bar to help move stuff to a sledgehammer to break large rocks and even a shovel for the time you need to displace material. You can even pick some electronic gadgets to further enhance the efficiency of your work.
  • Safety tools:  Safety is the number 1 priority no matter what you are doing. Therefore, it is obvious to take safety goggles, safety shoes, safety gloves, a first aid kit, and a safety helmet whenever you go on a trip. These gadgets will ensure that you remain safe from all work hazards.
  • Identification tools: Some deposits are tiny and need magnification to identify. Hence, a magnifying glass will help you look at stuff usually hidden from the naked eye. Similarly, you need a magnet to differentiate between magnetic and non-magnetic minerals. Finally, you need a comparison standard usually found in field guides to help you identify the specimen under observation.
  • Cleaning: Rocks are covered in dust for millions of years; you need to clean them before revealing their true color. Therefore, you will need cleaning tools like a water spray bottle, bucket, broom, or brush and some wiping clothes to clear things out.
  • Sampling: If you are conducting research, the studies dictate that you take several samples with you from the site. Therefore, you will need to carry with you some test tubes, containers, and air-sealed boxes to carry around the samples without damaging them.

Personal Accessories:

Last but not least, you need to take some personal luggage according to the area and your plan. For instance, if you are traveling in a sunny area, you need to carry sunscreen, sufficient water, shade, and also a backpack to put all your accessories.

Similarly, if you are going for several days, you need to take sufficient luggage to make the trip as comfortable as possible. For example, take sufficient drinkable water, some MREs, two to three clothes, a tent for camping, rock hounding tools, and all the equipment suggested before for the day. In short, always go prepared for every situation to make sure that your rockhounding is as efficient as possible.

Rockhounding Rules for Beginners:

Like every other adventure, rockhounding also has some basic rules. These rules ensure both your safety as well as the safety of nature and property. Furthermore, there are some designated authorities that ensure that your trip remains legal at all times. Therefore, beginner or professional, you are always bound to these three rules:

  • Site approval: When you are in the process of identifying your rockhounding location as well as the purpose. You need to contact the local management authority (LMA). It is their duty to inform you about the suitable locations for the specific type of rock-hunting you are going to perform. Furthermore, the LMA will also assist you in determining whether the selected area is open for rockhounding or is it private property and requires the owner’s permission. 
  • NOC: When rockhounding, you need to take NOC for collecting a specific type of rock or minerals from the area. The LMA will inform you about the type of rocks and minerals that you can collect as well as the size and quantity that you can take. If you try to cross these limits, you may be fined, and all your equipment and sample may get seized. Therefore, consider the LMA and other authorities before conducting rockhounding in any area.
  • Landowner: In some cases, your desired location for rockhounding is private property. Going inside the boundaries is considered trespassing and may be dangerous in some cases. Therefore, when rockhounding on private property, always seek the owner’s permission. In case the owner is not available, it is best to avoid such areas at all costs.

How to Plan the first Rockhounding Trip? 

Now that you know the basics about rockhounding, it is time to start planning your trip. The trip plan is based on your research, the rock preference, the equipment at hand, and the duration for which you are willing to go on the journey. Before you set out on your adventure, you need to answer these questions:

  • What to look for when digging for crystals?
  • Where to dig? For how long will I be digging?
  • Which equipment to bring along?

Once you have answered these questions and have the appropriate equipment, you will be all set to start your rockhounding adventures. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will explain how you can answer these questions without getting confused:

What?

The ‘what is the basic question of any rockhounding trip. For instance, what you are looking for also gives the answer to the remaining two questions. If you are looking for gold or quartz, you should go to riverbeds or creeps or even head to the mountains with known availability of the rocks. Therefore, you need to determine what type of rocks you are looking for when planning your rockhounding trip.

Where? 

The ‘where’ question can be slightly tricky as there are multiple locations for a single material. For instance, gold can be found in riverbeds or creeps or even between rock deposits on the mountains. Similarly, archeologists need to head towards a location whose history is known. For the sake of simplicity, you can head to museums, rock shops, local clubs, and rock societies. These organizations have experienced diggers who can help you move on with your research by pinpointing the area of interest.

Which?

The final question is also the simplest one. As a matter of fact, you have probably answered this question by now. Which equipment to take depends on where you are going, how the weather is, how many days you will stay and what you are trying to find. If you know the answer to these questions, you can choose the standard equipment for the job and some additional gadgets to make your work even easier.

Finding Your Local Rocks and Rockhounding Areas:

Unlike the ancient methods, most of your rockhounding research will be conducted through your laptop on the internet. Especially during the pandemic, the LMA also prefers to work online to solve all the issues you face. For instance, when rockhounding in the granite state, you get this result. A popular spot on the rockhounding trail is Grafton’s Ruggles Mine. According to the rock-hound books, it was a former mica mine on Isinglass Mountain with its pit and tunnels. Similarly, you can search for your surrounding areas to pinpoint locations and seek help from the members of rockhounding societies. 

  • When searching for your options of rocks and minerals, it would be best to look through the region’s geography as well as history. Furthermore, look for the official state rocks, minerals, and gemstones of your state and neighboring states. A mineral is declared official only if it is found in abundance in the region.
  • Contact the LMA to assist you with pinpointing your location. They will help you out by providing a detailed map of where you can find the desired mineral. Furthermore, they will also help you identify the public and private areas as well as the public areas open for the rockhounding. On the contrary, the private areas can be accessed by taking appropriate permission from the landowners.
  • There are also options for free and paid-to-dig sites depending on the nature of the region. Furthermore, there is sometimes a limit on how much material you can take with you from the site. Therefore, always make sure that your rockhounding job is not exceeding any limits or breaking the laws.

With these instructions in mind, you are all set to go dig for your fortune in nature. Who knows what the rocks are hiding underneath their dusty surface or inside the hard shell. 

Conclusion:

Rockhounding is both a hobby and a profession. Your requirement about the digging determines the level of rockhounding you are going to perform in the selected area. However, many people get confused with how to get started with rockhounding. Therefore, I have included everything in this article that you need to know before starting your adventure.

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