A Guide to Mineral Collecting

As a hobby, mineral collecting is over 500 years old, evolving from he era of gentlemen naturalists to the present era dominated by ineral quality. The mineral collecting in 2016 vastly differs from the first golden age of mineral collecting that marked the 50s and 60s, when ‘rock hounding’ became an immensely popular past time.  But today, the quality of minerals is considered of supreme importance, a factor that can never be neglected. An extraordinary number of mineral discoveries have been made since 1980; Merelan Tanzanite, Red Cloud Wulfenite and the incredible Aquamarine crystals to name a few.

Avid mineral collectors may be driven by passion, a piqued interest in geology or a profession in mineralogy to collect particular minerals. But whatever the reason, they all have one thing in common; having a collection to proudly boast, holding exhibits and fulfilling their mineral-collecting goals. Here’s how you can accomplish it all:

Be a Specialized Collector

With more than 3,000 minerals existing in nature, it is not possible to collect them all!

Many collectors follow the collection method of specialized collection. So, if you are a beginner, make sure you choose a category of minerals (based on locality, properties, crystal group or variances) to collect and be a specialized collector.

And if you are already a specialized collector, then you are on the right track. Bravo!

Get your Tools Together

The importance of possessing the right tools for a mineral collector can’t be stressed enough. When you know the right tools to take with you on your trips, you will surely be rewarded with success. Your tools should include the following:

  • Hammers (sledge, geologist’s, crack and splitting hammer)
  • Portable diamond saw (to extract crystals from broad rock faces)
  • Heavy duty paint brush to dust specimens
  • Pocket tools (may use screw drivers, chisels, ice picks)
  • Personal protection equipment (gloves, safety glasses, etc.)

Organize your Collection

Organizing and displaying your collection is of paramount significance. You can go for thumbnail and micromount specimens, about 1 inch or less in size. As tiny crystals have almost perfect crystallization, you can easily view the crystal through microscope. Such small specimens are kept in plastic boxes, are affordable and take up less space.

Irrespective of the size, you can store your minerals in well-lit glass viewing cabinets, organized drawers or specialized cardboard boxes. Always label your rocks with an index card, mentioning the type and locality of the mineral.  

Acquire the Services of Mineral Dealerships

Well, you have to admit, everyone comes across dead ends.  There might be a particular rare mineral that you are looking for without any luck so far. Our advice? Acquire the services of mineral dealerships that not only provide rare rocks from all over the world but also custom services such as display cases, curatorial services, mineral photography, provenance research, etc. Your collection will definitely reach new heights!

New Type of Carbon Created

Graphite, the kind you find in your pencil, is made from pure carbon. It has been used in its natural form as far back as the Neolithic Age. Diamonds are also made from carbon, a highly organized carbon which is less stable than graphite. Diamonds are known as one of the hardest minerals because of the strong bonding between its atoms.  Other than diamond and graphite, other polymorphs of carbon include lonsdalite and chaoite.

At the end of last year however, a new member has joined this carbon family : the Q-carbon. Researchers at North Carolina State University have made a new form of carbon, which is also the third solid state of carbon. This new carbon is believed to exist naturally in the core of planets, including our own.

Researchers are very excited because they have also found success in synthesizing single crystals of Q-carbon at room temperature and pressure. Natural diamonds form at very high temperatures and pressures deep in the Earth’s mantle and grow over periods from 1 to 3 billion years.

The temporarily named Q-carbon has some interesting and new properties. For one, it is ferromagnetic, which neither graphite or diamond are. “Q-carbon’s strength and its willingness to release electrons make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies,” said lead researcher Jay Narayan. Q-carbon is also harder than diamond and glows brightly when exposed to low levels of energy. It also conducts electricity better than diamond and can be made into microscopic single-crystal objects called nanodots. Narayan is hopeful this cheaper, easier to produce Q-carbon can be used in high-precision medical techniques  and other industries. It will take some time to to learn more about Q-carbon and its properties but the future looks promising!