Guide For Rock And Mineral Collectors

Rock and mineral collecting is an educational hobby that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Rock collecting is a hobby that provides a valuable learning experience. Many amateur rock collectors develop further interests in areas such as geology. While rock and mineral collectors range from the amateur to the geologist, all collectors need to have a basic understanding of how rocks and minerals are formed. All rocks are composed of minerals. A rock can be formed from only one mineral but most often a rock is composed of two or more minerals. Minerals are formed from elements. An element is a simple substance that cannot be broken down any further. Rocks are classified into three majors groups according to how they were formed.

Three Types of Rocks

Igneous Rocks

Igneous rocks are formed as magma cools and hardens. Igneous rocks are classified as either extrusive or intrusive. Extrusive rocks are also referred to as volcanic rocks since they are the result of volcanic activity and form at the earth's surface. Intrusive or plutonic rocks are formed from magma within the earth. Since the magma is encompassed by other rock, it cools at a much slower rate. This slower rate of cooling produces rocks that have a rough course-grained texture. Basalt, granite, obsidian, pumice, and scoria are all example of igneous rocks.

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks are rocks that were once classified as igneous or sedimentary. After experiencing changes in heat, water, and temperature, these rocks changed their form. Marble and slate are both metamorphic rocks. Marble is created from limestone and slate is formed from shale.

Sedimentary Rocks

Sedimentary rocks are formed when pieces of the earth are eroded by wind and water. These particles are deposited at the bottom of lakes, rivers, and oceans. As layer upon layer of particles are deposited, rocks are formed. Sandstone, shale, and gypsum are all sedimentary rocks. Sedimentary rocks generally have a softer composition than igneous or metamorphic rocks.


A good rock collection will consist of numerous samples from the three major groups. You will most likely have to do some traveling to acquire a collection of this type. It is not common for one area to contain several different types of rocks from all three groups. If you are unable to travel, you can still obtain a desirable collection by exchanging rocks with other collectors. You can locate other collectors by joining a rock and mineral club. It is much less expensive to mail a small rock sample from your area to another collector than it is to travel across the country to obtain one desired specimen for your collection. Trading rocks is also less costly than purchasing rock samples from a company. A good way for beginners to view a wide variety of rock samples is to visit a museum. Museums contain quality specimens that can be viewed without the work of collecting. A field guide can provide photos but actual samples are always better when learning to identify rocks.

Before going out to collect, you will want to choose a well-suited area. Quarries, outcrops, cliffs, and hills are all good places to collect samples. You may want to purchase a geologic or topographic map to help in locating an area for collecting. After collecting a sample, you should label it immediately. Assign a separate number to each item and record the area where found. If you are able to identify the item, record this information also. You will want to break down samples to a manageable size.

Equipment Needed

The following items are suggested to aid in collecting and to ensure safety:

1)Goggles- Goggles should be worn when extracting rock samples.

2)Proper footwear- Wear shoes that enclose the entire foot. Steel-toed boots provide the best protection.

3)Knapsack- Use a knapsack to carry samples.

4)Newspaper- Wrap samples in newspaper to prevent damage.

5)Hammer or chisel- Use a hammer or chisel to break rocks down to a manageable size.


7)Hand lens or pocket magnifier

8)Notebook- Keep a record of where the rock was found and use a number system to identify it.

9)Plastic bags- Use plastic bags to store and tag samples. You can also use small glass containers.

Rock collecting can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. Just remember to keep proper records of your collection and wear the proper safety equipment.

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