Mineral collecting as hobby
The best source for collection of mineral specimen are the mines and quarries. The other places of interest you could explore, could be mountains, where landslides have occurred, rock exposures near cliffs, lake shores, sea shores and stream beds.
Minerals are naturally occurring, inorganic substances formed through geological processes. A true mineral is solid and has a crystalline structure. There are around 4000 minerals, ranging from pure elements and simple salts to complex silicates. For many, mineral collecting is a fascinating hobby. Mineralogy, the study of minerals, can help us understand how the Earth was formed. Its study is an outstanding introduction to Physics and Chemistry. Though there are no hard and fast rules, the hobby of mineral collecting entails:
• Collection for personal interest and pleasure
• Collection of samples to be part of a personal collection
• Collection is not for the purpose of sales
• Collected samples can be swapped with fellow hobbyists as a part of boosting your personal collection
Where to look for Minerals
The best source for collection of mineral specimen are the mines and quarries. The other places of interest you could explore, could be mountains, where landslides have occurred, rock exposures near cliffs, lake shores, sea shores and stream beds. Care needs to be exercised while exploring abandoned mines and quarries. You may require permission to enter certain quarries and mines that are private property.
To indulge in your hobby, equip yourself well while exploring sites. Shoes/boots should have steel toe caps and soles with a good grip. They should be comfortable for long hikes. Any clothes suitable for hiking would be fine for your excursions. If you are exploring mines, you may need a sweater or two, incase of lower temperatures. Personal safety dictates the use of goggles, sturdy gloves and hard hats. Of course, do not forget to carry along a first aid kit.
For collection of samples, you will need the following:
• Geological hammer
• A chisel for shaping/trimming specimens
• A prospector’s shovel
• A normal all-purpose two pound hammer
• A rock chisel for separating imbedded specimen from rocks
• A crow bar, for dislodging larger pieces of rocks
• Miscellaneous equipment, such as a gold pan, metal detector, a lamp and a knapsack
The above equipment is not exhaustive and you may include others like, a magnifying glass, pocket knife, a magnet, a camera etc. Trim your specimens to a practical size and wrap them individually. To avoid destruction of fragile and/or small specimens empty egg cartons can be ideally used. A good and conscientious hobbyist would always label the collection, albeit temporarily on site, with details of locations from where they were collected. These details are easily forgotten at a later stage, especially on a busy expedition.
When you get back home, clean the specimens with water and a soft brush, especially when the samples are soft minerals. If need be, use detergents. Care should be taken in the case of minerals that are water-soluble. Alcohol can be used to clean such minerals. Once done, label the specimens finally, prior to storage. Alternately, you can number the specimens and enter the number in a journal giving details regarding its name, location from where excavated and any other information you may wish to impart.
As your collection grows, you may need to devise better methods of storage and information. Storage could be based on location, crystal structure or whichever method you may decide.
Mineral Collecting – Is it a Hobby in Decline?
As an amateur hobby, mineral collecting – especially field collecting – seems to be on the decline. Post WW II; with America actively seeking uranium ores, people started to explore for uranium to get rich. There were few successes but it got them hooked on mineral collecting. After its peak in the late 1950s, its popularity was on the wane. How did this happen? There was nothing new to spur their interests. There is a decline of mining industry in America. The mines and quarries, the erstwhile ‘gold mines’ of mineral specimens, have closed down. They have either ‘exhausted’ or there are cheaper foreign sources available. A few of them that are active do not allow individual collectors and have contracted out to private companies to collect and market the specimens. The sources of collecting free specimens to augment one’s hobby have all but dried up and have put it beyond the reach of average collectors.
There is less likelihood of amateur hobbyists going out on weekends and come back with quality specimens. Those days of field collection have long gone past. Collectors today are more concerned with the economics of collection. There is a marked lack of knowledge about the science of mineralogy and crystallography when compared with the hobbyists of yore. There is no curiosity about the wonders of minerals and how they were created within the Earth. Armchair mineral collectors shop for specimens and buy the best available to augment their collections.
Mineral Collecting – How to Stop the Decline?
One serious question facing concerned hobbyists and collectors is how to develop interest in minerals in young people. How do they explain their fascination with these objects? Mineral collection has become a professional business and is no longer amateur.
There must be a dedicated effort to make mineral collecting a popular hobby as soon as possible. Collectors, dealers and such hobbyists must get together to interest new recruits into the fold. Two possible ways would be to:
• Get them started without much expense.
• Expose them to relevant activities, repeatedly.
Local mineral clubs can recruit new collectors and whet their interest by organizing shows displaying generous selection of minerals specimens. Hobbyists can approach schools and interest them in developing a section on mineralogy. They could organize a guest lecture at school, where the hobbyist or the collector can show interesting specimens. Field trips can be arranged, where children are taken on expeditions to collect specimens. Invite the teacher and the children to your home to check out your complete collection of mineral specimens. Volunteer to take them on a trip to the Natural Museum and take them through the mineral displays. Give them a lecture on these displays with complete background of the minerals.
Hobbyists and collectors will have to get together to awaken the interest of young people in this fascinating hobby.
Take your Hobby Further
Once you have amassed a sizable collection of minerals, you may wish to use your collection to earn a livelihood. With your knowledge of the basic fundamentals of mineralogy and crystallography, it is apt to convert your hobby into your profession. Before putting your collection up for sale, ensure that:
• Your specimens are properly photographed, without touch ups, especially when posting them on your website.
• You describe your specimens accurately and make note of damages, if any.
• All your specimens are priced fairly.
• You are able to answer all questions from prospective customers accurately and promptly.
In case you are unable to respond to a query, you should be able to let them know from where they can get appropriate information. One such place is The Mineralogical Society of America (MSA). As a person who is interested in mineralogy and crystallography it would be advisable that you too seek membership in such an organization. The Society encourages the general preservation of mineral collections, among other things. You can learn more about this organization by visiting its website at http://www.minsocam.org.