A rock hound is an amateur collector of rocks and minerals. Although it’s not difficult to become a rock hound (just pick up a rock!), there are a few ideas and concepts that can help you get started on your rock collection.
WHICH ROCKS TO COLLECT
You can base your collection on many different factors, like color, shape, texture or anything that you find interesting. Many rock hounds try to collect all the related rocks from the area where they live. Others look for unusual rocks from every place they visit.
As your collection and interest grows, you can start to learn more about different rock classifications.
WHERE TO FIND ROCKS
Your rock collection can start with rocks you find in your own backyard or neighborhood. Look for stream beds or areas of erosion which can often reveal unusual rocks.
Interesting rocks can also be found in places where humans have cut into the earth, like quarries, ditches, road cuts and construction sites. Be careful when visiting those sites and always make sure to let an adult know where you’re going.
Remember, it is usually illegal to collect rocks in state parks, national parks or national monuments. If you are rock hunting on private property, make sure you ask for permission from the landowner.
ROCK COLLECTING TOOLS
A magnifying glass and a geologist’s hammer are the basic tools of any rock collector.
The head of a geologist’s hammer has two sides, a blunt end and a pick end. It can be used to break off rock specimens and trim them to display size. Always wear safety glasses when hammering rock to keep sharp chips from flying up and damaging your eyes.
Other useful equipment could include a field guide to rocks and minerals, gloves, newspaper to wrap rocks, labels and a felt-tip marker.
CATALOGING AND DISPLAYING ROCKS
As you collect rocks, it’s a good idea to keep a record of when and where you found it. You can make a temporary label with piece of tape and stick it to your rock. Record the details of your find in a field notebook.
Rocks don’t usually require special treatment. You can wash them in cold water and gently clean them with an old toothbrush.
Egg cartons make excellent containers for rock specimens, or you can simply store them loose in a shoe box. If you want something nicer, you can buy cases that have individual compartments and transparent lids.
HOW TO FIND MORE INFORMATION
Many cities have rock and mineral clubs that offer classes and workshops. Local rock and gem shows are another fun source of information and can be an excellent place to buy or trade specimens. Many natural history museums have rock and mineral displays, and also sell starter kits in their gift shops.