Collecting rocks is a fascinating hobby, enjoyed by people of all ages, cultures and social classes. Because rocks reveal what happened millions of years ago, telling the Earth's story, they not only make attractive displays, but are also informative. They continue to change, as elements such as wind and water affect their appearance. By collecting and studying rocks, even an amateur hobbyist can gain a richer appreciation of the Earth. Rock collecting also is exciting because it shows how long some rocks have been in existence, as the oldest rock dates back to 3.9 billion years ago (see Resources).
Rocks can be defined as a combination of one or more minerals found in nature. Unlike minerals (which are made up of definite physical qualities), rocks do not have special chemical compositions.
Metamorphic rocks are usually found in hot locations, as well as areas where much pressure has been applied. Derived from the Greek words that mean "change" and "form," metamorphic rocks are formed where high temperatures and significant pressure, as well as chemical reactions make rocks convert into other kinds of rocks. Marble, slate (which was originally shale) and quartzite are some common metamorphic rocks.
Sedimentary rocks are another popular rock among collectors. Formed from larger rocks that erode, sedimentary rocks can be found in water, including streams, rivers and lakes. The sediment turns into stone, as the resulting sediments travel through water to a natural basin. A few sedimentary rocks popular with beginning rock collectors include claystone, shale, siltstone, quartz and sandstone.
Igneous rocks are found on islands because that's where magma cools and harden. An excellent source of igneous rocks is the Hawaiian Islands. Basalt, felsites, pumice and scoria are examples of some igneous rocks.
Some collectors only gather minerals. Unlike rocks, which do not have specific chemical composition, minerals have a characteristic chemical makeup with definite physical attributes. A few favorites among collectors include quartz (the most common mineral), as well as mica, olivine, calcite, iron and magnetite.
Rock collecting is a hobby that's available to everyone. Just as wealthy people can buy rocks for collecting, people with less money can find rocks just by taking a walk.
Collecting rocks teaches you how to do research and how to organize information and specimens.
Rock collecting is also an excellent hobby for traveling. When you take a vacation, you'll always have something to do by searching for new rocks in various areas of the country.
Tips and Considerations
Start out small. Rather than investing considerable money in a large collection, begin by only buying a few that are the most common.
Besides organizing rocks by kinds, you can also organize them according to texture, size and colors.
But however you organize your new rocks, make sure to separate them into categories. By keeping groups of rocks separate, it's simpler to place them in categories once you're home. If you wait to organize your rocks, it's easy to forget what they are and their special characteristics. While details are fresh on your mind, record interesting facts about each new rock you find.
Thoroughly clean your rocks when you return home from a search.
Choose rocks for learning rather than admiring, keeping in mind that a size of around 1.5 inches is a useful size for a rock specimen. These good-sized rocks allow for chipping and scratching so you can study them without ruining their appearance.
Some rock collectors mistakenly believe that they can take any dull, ordinary rock or pebble and turn it into a sparkling jewel just through polishing. However, some rocks are suitable for polishing and some are not.
Another misconception is that fossils are always fragments of dead plants or animals. However, they can also be traces of tiny organisms that lived years ago. What's more, it's a myth you can't find fossils in dry or cold areas. Most often, fossils are found in sedimentary rocks.
Don't waste money on a box that contains a rock collection. Instead, use your own box. Also, don't invest in collections glued to a card as this prevents close examination. Most geoscientists will hank off the rocks anyway to study them.
- Photo Credit Kevin Rosseel
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