Do Your Own Research
By Currently Rockhounding
You don’t need to look at many conversations online these days about rockhounding until you see someone asking where to go and someone responding with by saying “do your own research” or “find your own spot”.
When I see people saying these things in reference to rockhounding locations, no one seems to ever mention in that exchange that the vast majority of surface and sub-surface localities have already been located, worked, mapped and written about. I wouldn’t consider going to a mine or area you already know has ______ material and starting a new hole as “finding your own spot”, which is really what most people do. Generally, someone will take a known location, move slightly away from it, find something and act like they’re the smartest and most hardcore prospector since the 49ers prospecting the west in the 1800s.
The reality is that those gatekeeping statements that some people make are misguided, lack nuance and are generally not very helpful. I would say that often, the person saying it is trying to be unhelpful with their statement as it’s really meant to discourage someone. If they really wanted to give helpful advice regarding research, they would share with you what I’m about to share with you.
The list of places I personally want to visit that I know of currently containing really interesting rocks and minerals is so long that I will die without being able to see them all and that’s just what I’m aware of at this point and within a few days drive of where I currently live.
So, to address the statement I see people making: “do your own research”. What does it look like to do research? This is often done by reading all the literature on an area that one might interested in. Locate books on that region’s geology, mining history, mineralogy and rockhounding. Take that cumulative knowledge you gained from the process of reading all that and apply it. The application of that knowledge can greatly increase the odds of you “finding your own spot”.
Here’s an example of what it might look like to apply some of the things you have read and observed. There is a known location you read about in a rockhounding guide book with quartz crystals. When you visit that location you can see that the crystals grow in cracks and voids of decaying granodiorite filled with clay above hydrothermal vents, and in this make-believe situation, the area is in a mountain range and you can find the crystals between 2000-2300 feet above sea level. When you were at this known location you noticed the presence of two different minerals: muscovite and low grade schorl. Now you know what to look for geologically speaking and you can use all of this information and apply it to a geographical area around the known area to look within.
I have gone down the research rabbit hole pretty extensively and in the process built out what I think to be a respectable personal library for the areas I visit, all of which are documented on my website on the library section for those of you also in my area of the western United States. Although a large portion of my library is dedicated to the areas that we travel within, I also have a good collection of more general titles.
For those of you who do not live in my area of the western US you can start by searching for any books related to rockhounding and mineralogy in your state, as well as regional books on identification of rocks and the area’s geology. You might have to read these books few times but doing so will help you connect the dots and have a more wide-angled view of the subject.
Once you have that wide view of an area’s known rockhounding spots and geology you will likely find even more appealing topics to dig into.
These days you can’t exclusively rely on just once source for information. The books are good and can help you build a good foundation of knowledge, but you can also find a lot of great information for free on the internet. To get you started some here are a few resources to explore.
Friends of Mineralogy
Mineralogical Society of the UK and Ireland
The Canadian Mineralogist
Mineralogical Association of Canada
American Geosciences Institute
Mineralogical Society of America
The Geological Society of America