rock photo

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Rock collecting is a lot of fun and a hobby all ages can enjoy. If you’re new to the world of rock hounding, my hope is this post will help you learn everything you need to know to start collecting rocks and minerals.

While I can’t possibly fit EVERYTHING you need to know into one blog post, hopefully this will at least help you get on the fast track to start building your rock and mineral collection and give you a good guide for where to start!

I’ve learned a LOT more about rocks over the past few years, so if you are new to this hobby or simply curious to learn more, hopefully this guide to rock collecting for beginners will be helpful for you.

I wanted to try and make this guide to getting started as a rock collector for beginners comprehensive, so it did end up being a little on the long side. Feel free to use the table of contents below to navigate around different sections of this post.

Why Collect Rocks and Minerals?

There are so many reasons to start a rock collection, I decided to start this intro to rock hunting for beginners 101 with WHY it’s such a great hobby. Just in case you need to justify your decisions to someone in your life.

We all sadly know that one critical person who is going to say something like, “Rocks!? Why on earth do you care about rocks?” Having a list of reasons why will help you easily deal with that right from the beginning!

There are a LOT of benefits, so if you weren’t sure whether you should jump on in, surely one of these reasons will resonate with you!

why start collecting rocks

For the Sheer Fun of It

It’s always fun to go on an adventure to explore and find new things. It doesn’t matter what type of treasure hunter you are – the thrill of the hunt itself makes any sort of hobby like this a lot of fun!

If you love the idea of exploring, love making new discoveries, and really enjoy being outdoors, you will definitely have a lot of fun learning about the different rocks and minerals you might encounter.

I love to be outside, and I enjoy lots of treasure hunting activities. If I’m metal detecting near a creek or river already, there’s no harm in also looking for any rocks or minerals that might catch my eye!

For Educational Reasons


Rocks and minerals give you an unlimited amount of material to learn. If you love science and history, rocks serve as a wonderful way to explore the natural world around us.

In 9th grade, our earth sciences teacher gave us a box of rocks and minerals we had to identify. It was the most fun I ever had in school!

You can learn all sorts of educational things from rocks. Beyond science, you can study culture and history and even technology. Humans started using rocks and minerals thousands of years ago, and we still use them today!

There are so many different species and types of rocks, it is very hard to even scratch the surface. There are endless opportunities for learning new things and research.

For Monetary & Investment Purposes

uncut garnet stones
Some stones are quite valuable to different collectors.

Some rocks and minerals are very valuable. I don’t have to tell you that a diamond is worth a lot, nor do I need to tell you gold is valuable.

Believe it or not, you really can find naturally occurring diamonds all throughout the world. Our earth has a very rich history. Starting a rock collection can become a hobby that pays for itself.

Beyond these rare minerals however there are also many other types you might encounter that are valuable. Many gemstones such as opal, emerald and topaz are often used in jewelry.

For Relaxation, Metaphysics & Spiritual Purposes

zen stones

Many people find themselves drawn to rocks and minerals for spiritual and metaphysical reasons. Stones are often used for relaxation techniques, such as meditation and massage.

The use of crystals and gemstones as good luck charms, healing purposes, spiritual reasons and energy work around the world dates all the way back to ancient times.

Many crystals and gems are believed to have special properties that can be used for different purposes. For example, amethyst is believed to be beneficial for clearing negative energy from a space, uplifting your mood, or balancing your crown chakra.

Different gemstones and minerals also have symbolic meaning. This can be helpful to know if you’re ever looking to find the perfect personalized gift for someone.

For Exercise & Nature

nature walk finding rocks
Looking for rocks in nature can be a great way to exercise or even spend time with the whole family.

Walking around and hiking different trails can be a great way to get exercise – and find a lot of rocks while you are outdoors!

Many people who enjoy rockhounding also enjoy the health benefits of getting plenty of exercise.

Rocks have the added benefit of being sort of heavy, so even if you just practice picking up and setting down the rocks in your collection you are getting more exercise than you would sitting watching TV!

To Meet New People & Make New Friends

penguins use pebbles for mating
The way to a penguins heart? Pebbles!

The world seems like a lonely place sometimes, until you meet new people who share common interests and hobbies.

There are a number of clubs and groups for rockhounds and collectors all around the world. Most major cities have at least one club for rock collecting.

You can also check with local geology and gemstone organizations to learn about local chapter meetings near you.

Even if you don’t meet with others in person, the enjoyment of collecting rocks opens up the doors to meet new friends online.

There are a number of Facebook groups and other online communities where rock collectors can meet others who share a similar interest and passion!

Now that we understand some of the reasons why people love rock collecting, let’s get into the basics of everything you need to know.

how to start collecting rocks and minerals

Step 1: Research & Learn About Collecting Rocks and Minerals for Beginners

Before you head out in the backyard to look for rocks to start collecting, it’s a good idea to learn about the different types of rocks and minerals.

When you first start as a beginner rock collector, learning about rocks and minerals can leave you feeling overwhelmed. There are so many different sorts of rocks, crystals and gemstones to look for out in nature.

Whenever you go rock and mineral collecting the first thing you understand are the different types of rocks you might find. While it’s impossible to learn everything about every rock on earth instantly, there are some ways to fast track your knowledge!

Three Easy Ways to Fast-Track Learning About Rocks & Minerals

1. Start With a Rock Identification Kit

A rock identification kit is a great place to start as a beginner. Rock and mineral sample kits often include different samples where you can explore all sorts of different kinds of minerals and rocks.

Another benefit of the kits for beginners is they will teach you how to test the properties of rocks and minerals. This is very helpful for learning how to identify rocks in the field.

You’ll learn all sorts of things, such as how to determine luster, hardness, and more!

2. Get Some Good Books on the Subject

In addition to the free rock collecting resources we offer here on our website, you may also want to research by reading different books about rock collecting for beginners.

There are all sorts of different books to start with, but I recommend sticking with something simple. While a book called Rock Collecting for Kids might seem rudimentary, it’s a great beginner reference to help you learn a lot quickly and decide what areas you might want to explore more in-depth.

Check with Local Nature, Geology & Lapidary Organizations

Most states have a department of natural resources or department of conservation. These state organizations can be very helpful to quickly learn what is available to help learn all about rocks and minerals in your state.

Several states have dedicated geology departments. These are a wonderful resource not only to learn about laws and regulations, but also learn about different clubs, groups and organizations near you.

Often times different nature reserves offer beginner-level introductory courses. You can also check with local colleges to see what non-credit adult programs they may offer related to the study of rocks, minerals and gemstones.

Now that we know some good sources for learning things quickly, let’s talk about the different things that are most useful to know when you first get started.

Here are some things you’ll want to research first about rocks and minerals:

  • The Differences Between Rocks Vs. Minerals, Gemstones & Crystals
  • Types of Rocks
  • Characteristics for Identifying Rocks
  • What Makes a Rock Valuable to Collectors
  • Basic Rockhounding Terminology

Once you do your research, you will have a good understanding of what you like and what interests you most. There’s time to explore it all, so don’t rush yourself or feel panicked that you’re stuck with only one thing. The fun of having a hobby is being able to enjoy it simply because you love it!

After doing the initial research and discovery phase, you’ll be ready to start adding new rocks to your collection!

Step 2: Know the Laws! Practice Safety!

Once you do your research, you’re probably ready to go get some rocks, right? Well…before we do that I have to jump in with some important things to know first!

I don’t want to scare you off as a beginner rock collector, but it’s important to be aware that taking rocks from certain places might be illegal. I don’t want you to get in trouble!

So yes, we have to put a little bit about laws and safety in our beginner’s guide BEFORE we tell you how to start gathering rocks for your new collection.

Be Aware of Laws for Trespassing, Mining and Environmental Protection

Because rocks and minerals are potentially valuable, there are laws that protect both those who own the mineral as well as those who own the land where the mineral might exist.

Most states have laws against trespassing, as well as laws regarding mining and environmental protection. Laws can vary greatly between state to state, and so for this reason we cannot tell you what is legal or not. {We also aren’t lawyers!}

In most parts of the United States, mineral rights are sold separately from surface rights. This means even if you own the land where you live, unless you own the mineral rights, you may not be able to remove any type of minerals or rocks legally.

Even if you have permission from the owner to go searching for rocks, that owner may not even be able to give you that permission if they do not own the mineral rights.

Most of the time learning who owns the mineral rights can be found through public record searches. Your local county real estate courthouse and recorder of deeds may be able to help you with your research.

It’s also wise to learn about the rules regarding public lands. Most state parks and federal lands also have rules and regulations pertaining rock hunting. Rivers, lakes, and creeks are especially regulated in certain parts of the country.

Always be wary of any laws and regulations that may apply to your rock collecting and hunting. If necessary, you may need to apply for a mining permit. This isn’t as scary or difficult as it may sound – some owners may even be thrilled to grant you one, provided you of course pay a fee first.

While these laws may seem annoying, the good news is there are plenty of ways to still go rock hounding completely legally and without worrying about causing damage to the environment.

Stay Safe! Learn the Basics of Rock Hounding Safety

Rockhounding is a LOT of fun, and generally safe for all ages. However, like any sort of outdoor activity, there are risks associated with nature.

Most basic outdoor safety tips are common sense. If you’re prepared with a good first aid kit, never go hunting alone, and are aware of any environmental or weather hazards, you’re probably going to have a great time.

Still, there are always horror stories of people who go out rock collecting alone, get trapped in a mine, fall into a creek, get bitten by snakes or scorpions, etc. etc. I don’t want that to happen to you!

Always remember the safety basics for treasure hunting! Knowing the laws and how to stay safe while rock hunting will help you avoid any trouble.

Once you’re aware of the laws for where you live, know how to stay safe and where you want to look for rocks, you’re ready for the next step – searching for them!

Step 3: Start Hunting for Rocks

There are two main ways to obtain rocks for your collection: Go out and search for them or buy them. Fortunately, if you don’t have a large budget, finding rocks is pretty easy to do, no matter where you live.

My favorite thing about hunting for rocks is you can find them almost anywhere. You can start in your own backyard. You might even find some great rocks in your own driveway.

While the rocks lurking in your own backyard might not be especially valuable or exciting, this is a great way to begin practicing how to identify different rocks you find.

driveway gravel for learning about rocks quote

For example, in my driveway, I have a lot of limestone gravel. Limestone isn’t particularly collectible, but it’s definitely useful to know how to identify it.

This is especially a fun hobby to do with kids and your family members. They’re already close to the ground and able to find some nice interesting things!

If you research the types of rocks you want to collect, you can learn a lot about where these types of rocks occur naturally. Researching topographic geology maps can save you a lot of time in narrowing down where to look.

If you love to travel, rock collecting is one of those great hobbies that can take you all across the world if you want it to. You could plan a trip to Brazil to find agates or even visit different gemstone mines that offer public tours. Maybe you’ll even head down to Arkansas and search for diamonds in the the Diamond Crater state park!

My favorite places near my own house to currently to look for different rocks are along creeks, rivers and streams.

I’m not always able to keep the rocks I might find due to different laws in my state {especially concerning the rivers!} – but I’m usually at least able to snap a photo of the ones I find interesting.

What Rock Hounding Tools & Equipment Do You Need?

While you can get started just by looking at rocks on the surface, eventually you are probably going to want to start digging. A basic pick axe, shovel or metal sand scoop are really all you need to get started.

Be sure if you dig any holes it is a place where no one minds you digging and you very carefully fill them back up!

You do not want someone to accidentally trip or sprain their ankle. You also don’t want to ever, ever dig holes in state parks or other public lands.

It’s OK to Virtually Hunt for Rocks

Going out in the field and searching for rocks is very fun and exciting for some people, but that’s not the only option. There are many collectors who hunt for rocks right from their laptop.

Browsing popular sites like Etsy, eBay and even Amazon you can find some very beautiful specimens of rocks.

This is a great way to add a few choice pieces to your collection, especially if you know the likelihood of actually finding the kinds of precious stones you want would be challenging.

The only downside about buying rocks online is you don’t always know what you are getting or whether it is genuine unless it is certified.

For this reason, I recommend going with reputable companies and established dealers at first until you are better able to know what you are looking for.

If you enjoy some other treasure hunting types of activities, you can also sometimes stumble across some real (literal) gems at estate sales, yard sales and even the thrift stores.

Step 4: Keep Good Records

Whether you purchase a rock or you find it in the middle of a field, records are essential. This will help you identify certain characteristics as well as have information about the rock should you ever decide to sell it later.

Things to Record When Building a Collection:

  • Species Name & Type of Mineral/Rock/Gemstone
  • Physical Description & Characteristics {Include color, cut, carat, grading if known/applicable}
  • Source/Mining Location
  • Date Acquired
  • Price Paid/Bill of Sale

If you purchase a specimen, be sure you keep all labels, tags, certificates and other information that comes with it. Many collectors keep these things in acid free archival safe paper storage binder systems.

Over time, you’ll be able to create basically what exists as a catalogue of your collection. This helps you take inventory of what you already have, as well as give you some ideas for the ones to add next!

Keeping detailed records will also help you if you should decide to sell your collection at a later date. While not all beautiful rocks and stones are necessarily valuable, it’s good to at least know what you paid for something before you sell or trade it for a profit or loss.

Step 5: Decide How to Preserve and Display Your Collection

If you find a beautiful rock, it’s silly to stick it in the back of your closet to collect dust. One of the things that makes it fun to collect gemstones and crystals is to use them for decorating and to keep them on display.

Presentation and how rocks are cut and polished are a very big part of collecting. It’s unlikely diamonds would have any appeal or value at all if we only saw them in their natural state. It’s not until they are cut and polished are we able to see their true beauty.

Lapidaries are people who cut, polishes, engraves and works with various stones, gems, and minerals.

If you don’t necessarily love the idea of searching for rocks in the dirt, you might enjoy learning about the different ways semi-precious stones can be cleaned and preserved into beautiful displays.

Learn About Different Lapidary Techniques

There are a couple of different ways we can process stones for collections after they are found. Different stones and crystals have different properties, so generally it is best to choose a method that will not cause damage or lesson the value of a particular specimen.

Rock Tumbling can be done at home if you purchase an inexpensive rock tumbler and is best suited for pebbles and stones that are not exceptionally rare or valuable.

rocks minerals stones
Rocks and minerals such as these ones pictured above can turn into beautiful works of art when processed through a rock tumbler.

For example, many river rock types of pebbles can become beautifully polished pieces once they are tumbled.

Cabochon cutting and Faceting are techniques which are most often used with precious gemstones and jewelry making.

Cutting the gems in a certain way can alter the appearance as well as highlight the beauty of the crystal structure. If you collect precious gemstones and crystals, you’ll notice that certain cuts tend to be more desirable and valuable to different collectors.

When you are ready to start thinking about displaying and mounting different specimens in your collection, it can be helpful to go to different gem and mineral shows. This can help you see first-hand the wide variety of different displays and cutting techniques.

It’s also a good idea to see if there is a local lapidary club near you. Often times these can be excellent resources for learning your options for ways to display and enjoy the rocks you find.

Storage & Display Cases for Rocks, Minerals & Gemstones

In addition to considering how rocks are cleaned and cut for a collection, another important thing to think about is storage and display.

It’s important if you have valuable specimens that you choose archival safe storage methods so the items do not become accidentally damaged.

Many times the same types of archival safe craft supply cases used by scrapbookers can be useful for sorting smaller non-precious gems.

You can also invest in gemstone storage cases which are specifically designed to beautifully store and preserve your collection.

See our post on how to display a rock collection for some great ideas!

Keep Learning & Enjoy This Hobby!

There’s no end to what you might learn or discover when you start exploring the world of rocks, minerals, gemstones and crystals.

You might find yourself specializing in certain types of rocks, such as agates or geodes – or you may even find yourself interested in metallic minerals such as gold.

Either way, you are bound to discover some new treasures, make new friends and find something that keeps you learning new things every single day.

I hope you enjoy this overview of how to start collecting rocks as a beginner. It might seem overwhelming at first, but we have LOTS of resources to help you find your way!

And of course, if you have any questions about collecting rocks and minerals, we’re happy to answer them for you! Ask any questions you might have about rock collecting in the comments section below!

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