Learn Rockhounding

Get Started

By Dick Rantz

The purpose of this outline is to offer some advice about the rockhounding hobby and provide a checklist for newcomers to the hobby to help them to get started.

Join a club! On your own it will take 100 years, but in a club you can become a competent rockhound in just a couple of years by drawing on the experience and knowledge of the club members.  Get the big picture, an overview of the many facets of the hobby, before you specialize. Come to club meetings; read the club newsletter and participate in club activities and programs.  Plan to attend and participate in the club’s annual Rock and Gem Show.

Attend other rock and gem shows.  Observe the different facets of the hobby: lapidary, jewelry making, faceting, fossil and mineral collecting, etc.

Subscribe to a hobby magazine and use the Internet.  Rock and Gem is an excellent place to start for general rockhounding and lapidary information.  Often old, used copies are available at club meetings to buy or borrow.  The Internet provides a whole world of sources and information.

Visit the outstanding, extensive geology and mineral displays at the Geology Department, Environmental Sciences Building at Western University.

Read and consult the many books and publications in the club’s library.  It’s a goldmine of information, and it’s free.  Obtain a good rock and mineral book and refer to it frequently.

Seek out and talk to the more experienced club members to see what they do.  Visit their shops to see their equipment and their collections.

Should it become available again, take the basic lapidary class.  The club provides excellent instruction in the basics of cutting and polishing rocks. 

Go on club field trips.  Learn what to look for and collect from experienced members.  See what they do and how they do it.  (“Go With The One Who Knows!”)  

Get good field equipment.  Ask advice, then, get rock hammers, chisels, bars, gloves, boots, safety and first aid stuff, camping gear, etc.

Decide to develop your personal specialty.  Learn advanced skills, start a collection, determine your shop and equipment needs. 

Before you buy shop equipment, see what others do and visit their shops. Obtain and study lapidary equipment catalogs; look for good used equipment. Plan your shop layout and equipment purchases carefully, consistent with the work you intend to do.

ALWAYS label and document your growing collection in notebooks or computer files.  Your collection and items are worth far more if they are fully documented.  Record: Item, I.D. number, description, date, source and cost.  Have a reference number or name on each item.

Finally, Ask Questions!  Consult club officers and old timers.  Network with recognized experts in the club and in other clubs. You can become an accomplished rockhound in the shortest possible time.

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