Rockhounding ABCs – “Supplies to Battle the Mosquitoes and the Flies”

Rockhounding in Maine Mine

“Supplies to Battle the Mosquitoes and the Flies”

When you are out in the wild, down in a mine, out on a hike, exploring an outcrop, and run out of a supply, or realize you forgot something, depending on where in the country you are, there will not be a 7-11, Piggly Wiggly, or Buc-ee’s nearby to make a quick run. With preparation however, you can rockhound uninterrupted, and be prepared in advance for the most likely scenarios, as well as the less common scenarios or challenges you may encounter.

Imagine finding an outcrop with a concave structure, like a cave but only about 10 feet deep of an interior. We found this structure one time in upstate New York rockhounding in an area known for quartz and pyrite. We flashed our cell-phone flashlight in the crevice and saw walls of quartz crystals. We had hit a jackpot. Then, like something out of a Harry Potter movie, a thick black opaque form started to rise. A giant swarm of mosquitoes! Fortunately, we had packed a plethora of mosquito coils, and were able to light a triangle of coils inside the entrance that dissipated the mosquito swarm, enabling us to take a crack at the quartz crystals in peace.

  1. Plenty of mosquito coils are necessary no matter the locale, season, or weather. Once can form a protective triangle around the area where you are mining to clear the air of mosquitoes and other pests. Even if you are rockhounding during the day time, the brush and underbrush and foliage is likely full of mosquitoes.
  2. Matches! The mosquito coils require matches, and lighting them may take more than one attempt if the day is windy, so pack many packs of matches (no pun intended).
  3. Mosquito repellant is still needed to protect you from what could be very harsh and aggressive mosquitoes, not your suburban or city style mosquitoes.
  4. Sunscreen is another requirement as chances are very good you will be out in the open air, in the sun, or overcast, rockhounding is an outdoors activity, and like most outdoors activities, sunscreen is recommended.

The Golden Rules of Rockhounding

American Geode

The Golden Rules of Rockhounding: “Responsible Readiness Reaps Rockhounding Rewards”

One of our most successful rockhounding trips took place in the mountains of Colorado around Devil’s Head, which is near Pikes Peak. The drive from Colorado Springs was over 2 hours, and there were no conveniences, of any kind, up in the mountains. Being fully prepared in advance, planning ahead, and double checking before departing made this one of the most successful rockhound trips yet, and actually was just the start to the day. Rockhounding trips have little margin for error. An overlooked tool, forgotten supply, or missing gear can cut short a rockhound adventure. Through trial and error, improvement and correction, preparation and planning, the Colorado trip was wildly successful.

Colorado is for rockhounds, as rockhounding is allowed on public lands. We were invited to rockhound in Colorado by a friend who is a mineral dealer in Colorado Springs. The hiking trails in the mountains are great markers for rockhounding. We were going to follow the trails listed on the hiking maps readily available from on-line and from visitors’ centers. After driving for more than 2 hours up into the mountains, passing no other car or person the last half hour, we arrived at one of the Devil’s Head trail markers. I wanted to use my walking stick, we all were grateful for wearing hiking boots, and with the dry air at that altitude, we were grateful to have packed a gallon jug of water per person.

We parked along the side of the dirt road at the marker for the trail, and we were able to hop out, throw on backpacks, and start marching to find outcrops and stone exposure because we had planned and packed in advance. For this trip we did start following the trails, this was near the top of the mountain, lots of low overgrowth, and then we spotted some exposed rock and veered off-trail. We were expecting to find smoke quartz in pegmatite. This was a hand tool adventure as we did not know exactly where we were headed, and the igneous style pegmatite rocks where crystals are found is generally able to be broken up by hand. We set our sights on an exposure, set up our cell phones to start recording and taking pictures for provenance and posterity, sat down on the ground, thankful for wearing jeans, and using a hammer and chisel we started breaking apart pegmatites along the seams, crevices, and cracks, and started exposing arrays of smoky topaz.

We felt that some of the specimens looked best remaining in the matrix stone, for display. We used the smallest chisel to remove many topaz points with minimal matrix around the base, as we would clean up them at a later date. We moved from exposure to exposure, filling the cloth totes that we brought, that had been folded up in our backpacks. We took turns walking back to the car with our finds to make it easier to find the way back, and that way one of us was always digging and mining for more. We also kept taking pictures that we would review later as well to record this discovery, the location, the environment, the group, and the discoveries. When we all returned to the car, we decided to venture to another location on the mountain. We were prepared, and the adventure continued.

Provenance and its Importance to your Gem, Mineral, or Fossil Collection

American Geode


When is a box of rocks not a box of rocks?

                As the term goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  It takes an openminded person with a keen set of eyes to see the beauty of a rock prior to cleaning and polishing it. But what if we were to tell you the true story behind that rock?  Where it was found?  The mine it came from?  The adventure, story, and challenges that lead up to finding it? The true value of a rock goes much deeper than may first be obvious and it is critical to the hobby of rockhounding.

The origin and history of ownership including background story adds to value and collectability. Provenance is a term most often used in the Fine Art and Antiques markets as one of the determinants of value. The term and logic can be applied as well to stones, minerals, and crystals to help value a Rockhound’s collection.

                Let’s take a common example: Quartz. Lustrous purple quartz that most people refer to as Amethyst is found in many parts of the world and people love to browse the glossy cathedral pieces often found in gem shows. These are mostly commercially mined in bulk predominantly in China and Brazil, and are often augmented by various heating, coloring, and gluing techniques. Their retail price point fluctuates greatly but ultimately the piece you are looking at is a version of quartz and one of the most common minerals in the world. Now what if we also told you that in Arkansas, USA you can mine a magnificent piece of clear quartz by hand with perfect scepter points to place as a centerpiece that would simply make your dinner friends jealous. Even better yet, we could all go grab a great bottle of pinot red together and drink a few glasses while reminiscing about the day you found it. Then browse through the photos of triumphantly lifting the mineral with a huge smile while you were absolutely covered in dirt due to obsessively digging with a custom pick axe carefully for hours. How much would that be worth in comparison to the generic Amethyst piece from unknown locale you were considering purchasing over eBay?

               When rockhounding, how do you ensure your collection retains its provenance? Luckily, modern technology and tools make labeling and documenting your collection much easier than in the past, much more organized, and easier to share. First off, take real-time pictures of your findings to record your rockhound discoveries (old cell phones work great). It is amazing how pieces and stories can get lost so quickly when going from a dirty field bucket to a cleaned-up treasure.

  • Geolocate! Geolocate! Geolocate!  Modern day cell phones allow you to accurately identify the coordinates of your findings. Even if you consider the location to be a secret for all eternity, one day you may forget your path and landmarks change.
  • Videoing a discovery is skill that sets apart modern-day rockhounds. It’s a good idea to buy a 1080p low price video camera with hard outdoor plastic case to film discoveries.  Cell phones work in a pinch but just remember that rock fragments and dirty hands scratch surfaces very easily. As you film while you dig, clear dirt, or brush off a specimen and narrate what is going on around you.  You may just get lucky and capture the delight and joy of your first Herkimer Diamond pocket discovery, or the agony and defeat of just “another rock” or worse yet, cracked and broken treasures.

  • Rockhounding often involves going to multiple mines, trekking though woods, or galivanting over hills and through creeks, and if you are finding the same mineral or crystal throughout, then documenting each find is even more important to complete with your phone. Take photos of the area in which you are rockhounding, the mine, the walk up to the area, and narrate it or write notes to make sure you document the date of this rockhounding adventure, and perhaps who is rockhounding with you, in order to record the “story” behind your discoveries.

  • Another benefit to documenting the whereabouts of your discoveries, beyond a story, is the help the information may offer when you are identifying your minerals. If you find an unusual stone you were not anticipating, or stumble upon a fossil for instance, we suggest saving these and identifying it later at home. Many minerals and stones are can be identified by their locale. A green stone found unexpectedly in Washington state is likely a variety of serpentine because it is common in Washington state. A green stone found in Indiana can not be jade because Indiana does not produce or generate jade. For the post-rockhounding ID analysis from home, your search will be whittled down when you can begin with geographic location of the stone.

  • What to do when you bring your collection and finds back home? We suggest, after cleaning, treating, and preparing them (covered in another chapter), to keep your stones in plastic bags that can be labeled in marker with the information you have scrupulously been recording: location, locale, date, who was with you (was this a group field trip for instance, and ID (if you know it).

  • Other easy options for storing and keeping records about your rockhound finds in the field include egg cartons and small bubble envelopes upon which you can write down all the details about your find with a Sharpie marker.

Now imagine a scenario in which your grandson or granddaughter inquires about your mineral collection, and you are able to share stories about trips to Maine, Colorado, or Texas, and how you uncovered these specimens during a family trip. Imagine the conversation with a jeweler or auction professional, about setting values on your crystals and semi-precious minerals when you can share that they came from a mine that is now closed. Provenance requires additional work during and after your rockhound adventure, but your cell phone can make it very easy, and provenance pays off in sentimental dividends in the future, as well helps generate a potential financial return for your collection.

For sentimental value, a large quartz crystal is worth more to the family and descendants if Granddad and Grandmother acquired it during their honeymoon to the Grand Canyon, than it would be were it unmarked, unlabeled, without story, without provenance.  Remember, Provenance!

Delaware Mineralogical Society Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show

Mineralogical Society

Delaware Mineralogical Society Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show

WHO: Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc.

WHAT: 57th Annual Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show

WHEN – Saturday, March 7, 2020 – 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Sunday, March 8, 2020 – 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.

WHERE: Same Location as 2019

DoubleTree by Hilton

4727 Concord Pike (Rt-202)

Wilmington, Delaware 19803

PURPOSE: To foster interest in geology, mineralogy, paleontology and the lapidary arts

HOW – Tickets available at the door: Adults $6.00, Seniors $5.00, Juniors $4.00, and children under 12 and scouts in uniform free with Adult.


Interesting and educational exhibits of mineral, lapidary and fossil specimens
Displays from regional and university museums
Outstanding dealers of minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry and lapidary supplies.
Quality specimen raffles
Free door raffle
Lapidary demonstrations
Children’s booth where youngsters may purchase inexpensive minerals, fossils
A symposium of Related Topics

For further information, contact:


· Elaine Kipp (E-Mail- 410-392-6826 (Show Chair)

Info and Discount coupons at

Gene Hartstein – Show Publicity Chair

Text Version

Saturday March 7, 2020 and Sunday March 8, 2020

The Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc. will hold its 57th Annual Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show at Same Location as 2019 — DoubleTree by Hilton; 4727 Concord Pike (Rt-202); Wilmington, Delaware 19803. Hours Saturday are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m.

The show features educational exhibits of mineral, lapidary and fossil specimens, displays from regional and university museums, a roster of fine dealers of minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry and lapidary supplies, demonstrations of gem cutting and polishing and a children’s table, where youngsters may purchase inexpensive mineral and fossil specimens. In 2020 we will resume the symposium on related topics which was very popular in previous years.

Admission is $6.00, $5.00 for seniors, $4.00 for youngsters between 12 and 16, and free for children under 12 and scouts in uniform when accompanied by an adult.

The Delaware Mineralogical Society is a non-profit organization, affiliated with the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies, and dedicated to learning and teaching about the earth sciences, rocks, minerals, fossils and the lapidary arts. Membership is open to all who are interested in these areas. Info and Coupons at or contact or Elaine Kipp (show Chair) 410-392-6826 .

If you would like more info on local Mineral shows and rockhound clubs click on the American Geode News page for up to date listings and links to Gem Show, Mineral Show, and Fossil Show announcements. American Geode updates our rockhound news twice an hour and showcase the top mineral shows and rockhound news in the USA and the World. Also, follow American Geode on Twitter for even more rockhound events, commentary, and laughable quips from American Geode.

Oregon Agate & Mineral Show

Mineral Show

69th Annual Oregon Agate & Mineral Show

FREE EVENT | 9:30AM-5:30PM

Explore the wonders of nature at the Annual Oregon Agate and Mineral Show. Enjoy a wide array of beautiful cabochons (cut, shaped, and polished rocks) including agate, jasper, and obsidian from the northwest. Presented by the Oregon Agate and Mineral Society (OAMS) 30+ exhibits will be on display.

Special features include: the Oregon State Seal made from a large variety of Oregon stones including the Sun Stone, the Oregon State gem; a food table, which showcases rocks that look like food; an active Kids’ Corner; and hand-crafted jewelry and window hangings made by OAMS club members.

OAMS members will be on-site demonstrating the equipment and process used to prepare rocks for display. These include a big saw used to cut slabs, a trim saw used to create a design, a grinder to shape the specimen and a polisher to put the finishing touches.

The OAMS has been a long-time partner of OMSI and proceeds from the Show are donated to OMSI’s Hancock Field Station located in Central Oregon’s John Day River Valley, an area world renowned for its fossil-rich rock formations and fosters geology learning.

If you would like more info on local Mineral shows and rockhound clubs click on the American Geode News page for up to date listings and links to Gem Show, Mineral Show, and Fossil Show announcements. American Geode updates our rockhound news twice an hour and showcase the top mineral shows and rockhound news in the USA and the World. Also, follow American Geode on Twitter for even more rockhound events, commentary, and laughable quips from American Geode.