Rockhounding and Gemology
Rockhounding helps gemologists and mineralogists hunt and discover minerals and precious gemstones like jasper, opal, agate, turquoise, geodes, zircon, black spinel, garnet, varieties of quartz, topaz and tourmaline and so on. People can choose either popular sites for rockhounding which normally have the ease of accessibility or can hunt and dig and then choose rare sites where there is possibility of getting better samples as they would not have been visited by all rockhounders. Fossicking is another technical term used to refer to the process of searching for gemstones and rockhounding which is used when looking for fossils, mineral specimens etc.
Rockhounding and Gemology
Rockhounding helps gemologists and mineralogists hunt and discover minerals and precious gemstones like jasper, opal, agate, turquoise, geodes, zircon, black spinel, garnet, varieties of quartz, topaz and tourmaline and so on. People can choose either popular sites for rockhounding which normally have the ease of accessibility or can hunt and dig and then choose rare sites where there is possibility of getting better samples as they would not have been visited by all rockhounders. ‘Fossicking’ is another technical term used to refer to the process of searching for gemstones and rockhounding which is used when looking for fossils, mineral specimens etc.
Rockhounding in the early days was done mainly for getting valuable minerals and gemstones that are later used for commercial purposes. But the popularity of rockhounding grew with time, and today many rockhounders do it even as a hobby and collect beautiful gemstones and minerals for recreational purposes.
Rockhounding and Gem Sources:
- Gem and Mineral Clubs:
The gem and mineral clubs resent in the area chosen for rockhounding or in the area of residence of rockhounders provide useful information on rockhounding sites based on people’s interest and preference of gems. They also organize group trips to rockhounding sites which help rockhounders share and learn more information from experienced rockhounders.
- Gem and Mineral Shows:
The gem and mineral shows in the rockhounders’ area act as excellent sources of published information for finding good gem and mineral clubs.
Tools Needed for Gems Rockhounding:
- Knowledge Gathering:
- Rockhounders who begin rockhounding as a hobby but do it consistently may go on to become avid collectors and would learn in the process to identify and classify gems. This process may later lead them to undertake and learn mineral and gemstone cutting and mounting. For carrying out the process of gemstone cutting and mounting, the equipments needed are rock saws and polishers. Rare and beautiful gems and crystals are generally found in very small samples. So for collecting and studying about this a good microscope is essential for rockhounding which would help rockhounders work efficiently with the specimens.
It is also vital to know the rules and regulations of the rockhounding site while hunting for gems. For instance, California state parks do not allow collecting of gems during rockhounding in these areas.
Rockhounding for gems is not generally a dangerous activity. However, there are a few safety issues to keep in mind. During rockhounding for gems, people should be mindful of the elements or hazards and how to protect themselves. Some of the common elements rockhounders must take care of while rockhounding for gems are:
It is essential that rockhounders study about the weather and wear clothes that best suit the weather. Rockhounders while hunting for gems during daytime can wear hats and sunscreen to protect against excessive exposure to the sun.
- Mobile Phone and Emergencies:
Proper steps and care must be taken to carry mobile phones and inform related people while rockhounding sites are out of town. Some areas are 4WD access only so if you have doubts, please check the suitability of the road for your vehicle before setting off.
- Physical Fitness:
It is very important for rockhounders to take much care of their physical fitness while rockhounding for gemstones. Proper care must be taken to avoid dehydration during very hot weather. Rockhounding for gemstones being a physical activity, it is vital that rockhounders take regular rest breaks as and when required and must check their own level of physical fitness at consistent intervals.
- Weather Conditions and Safety:
Most gemstones are found near water sources and so rockhounders must take care if they are not swimmers.
- Wildlife and Poisonous Bites:
Rockhounding for gemstones near or inside bushes have possibilities of venomous snakes or spiders. Rockhounders must take a first aid treatment bag in hand to handle such situations. Rockhounders must also generally avoid taking pets with them while rockhounding for gemstones as in many areas, pets are not allowed.
- Site Safety:
It is essential that rockhounders, after hunting for gemstones, must take proper steps to fill the environment back in original shape. That is, rockhounders must backfill all holes and must not tunnel into banks. This is because unfilled holes and unstable banks are potentially dangerous and could cause environmental damage. So rockhounders must take proper steps to maintain the environment and provide a friendly environment for other rockhounders. Also, some rock sites for gemstone hunting could be slippery and so rockhounders must take essential steps to handle unstable footing.
- Traffic and Road Safety:
If the sites for rockhounding gemstones are adjacent to roads, then rockhounders must be careful not to hinder or obstruct vehicles in the area.
- Fire Safety:
All fire regulations and restrictions must be followed by rockhounders and campfires must not be lighted if the rockhounding sites do not have permission to do the same.
Rockhounding for gemstones help gemologists in various ways and rockhounders must take responsibility for maintaining the environment. This would help the rockhounding process to be handled by rockhounders efficiently and pave the way for the discovery of many more rare and precious gemstones.
Each gem has separate methods and activities to be followed for rockhounding. For instance, rockhounding for sapphires would need rockhounders to wear old clothes for the activity as it can get muddy and dirty. Also, sapphire rockhounding sites would generally be located in areas some distance from the town and so rockhounders hunting for sapphire need to carry plenty of water and wear sunscreen or a hat. Zircon is another gemstone many prefer for rockhounding which is associated with sapphire and is available in most areas in variety of colors ranging from clear, light yellow, and a deep honey brown to the orange and red spectrum. Black spinel is one other gem that is usually found with the sapphire. An opaque black mineral, the black spinel works well as a cut gem.