Backyard Gems: Finding Valuable Rocks in Your Backyard

Finding gemstones in your backyard might sound far-fetched, but it's actually possible! The likelihood of finding a precious gem like a diamond or ruby is slim, but there are many beautiful and interesting semi-precious stones like agate, jasper, quartz and others, that can be found scattered around the world, even in your own backyard.

Finding gemstones in your backyard can be an exciting and rewarding experience. While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll find gemstones, some tips and techniques can increase your chances.

 

Valuable Rocks in Your Backyard
Backyard Gems: Finding Valuable Rocks in Your Backyard. Amethyst, Aquamarine, Orchid Calcite, Citrine, Fluorite, Green Fuchsite, Golden Muscovite Mica, Kyanite, Lepidolite, Geode, Pink Tourmaline, Smoky & Crystal Quartz, Rutilated Quartz, Tourmaline, and Tourmaline in Schorl Matrix

How to Find a Crystal in Your Backyard

Research Your Area

Research the geology of your area to determine which gemstones are likely to be present. You can find this information through local geological surveys or by consulting with a local geologist.

The first step in finding gemstones in your backyard is to research the local geology. This involves understanding the geological conditions and formations in your area, as different types of gemstones are found in different geological settings.

This step is crucial because it helps you identify the types of rocks and minerals that are likely to be found in your area. Look for areas with igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary rocks, as gemstones can be associated with each of these rock types.

  • Igneous rocks: Often associated with valuable gems like tourmaline, aquamarine, and topaz. Volcanic vents are another possibility, where you might findagate, jasper, and even opal.
  • Metamorphic rocks: Marble can contain beautiful jasper, jade, or lapis lazuli. Schist, another metamorphic rock, can be a source of garnet, kyanite, and staurolite.
  • Sedimentary rocks: Can host opals, agates,  jasper, amber, and petrified wood

Knowing this information can help you focus your search and increase your chances of finding gemstones. To research the local geology, you can start by looking for information on local rock formations, mineral deposits, and geological maps of your area. This information can often be found online, through local geological societies, or at libraries. 

Different areas are known for specific types of rocks. For example:

  • Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado): This region is famous for its turquoise deposits.
  • Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington): Thunderegg agate is a popular find in the Pacific Northwest.
  • California: California is known for its gold, but it also produces a variety of gems, including tourmaline, topaz, and garnet.
  • Arkansas is known for its quartz crystals, diamonds, turquoise, and gold.

Identify Potential Sites

Look for areas in your backyard where the soil has been disturbed, such as around construction sites or near old wells. These areas may have exposed gemstones that were brought to the surface. These are places where gemstones might be more easily found.

Where to Look

  • Creeks and Rivers: Gemstones are often found in creek beds and riverbeds where they have been eroded from the surrounding rock.
  • Exposed Rock Faces: Look for natural or man-made rock faces where erosion might reveal gemstones.
  • Soil and Gravel: Sift through soil and gravel, especially in areas where there is a mix of different rock types.

Tools You May Need

Shovel: For digging into the ground.

Rock Hammer: For breaking apart rocks to see if there are gemstones inside.

Buckets: To carry and transport dirt and potential gemstones.

Sifting Screen: To separate gemstones from dirt and gravel.

Metal Detector: Useful for finding metallic minerals and artifacts. 

Magnifying Glass: To inspect smaller rocks and minerals.

Safety Gear: Gloves, goggles, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun and flying debris.

gemstones in Your Backyard
Mixed Stones: Amazonite, Amethyst, Apatite, Aquamarine, Aventurine, Black Obsidian, Calcite-blue, green, Orchid, Optical & orange, Chalcopyrite, Dalmation Jasper, Garnet, Jasper, Howlite, Iron Pyrite, Fluorite, Kyanite, Mahogany Obsidian, Oco Geode, Quartz-rose, smoky & crystal, Sodalite, Tigers Eye, Tourmaline, Agate

Techniques for Finding Gemstones in Your Backyard

Surface Searching: Walk around and look for gemstones on the surface, especially after a rain when the dirt has been washed away.

Digging: Dig in areas where you think gemstones might be present. Sift through the dirt and rocks you dig up.

Sifting: Use a sifting screen to separate smaller rocks and dirt from potential gemstones.

Breaking Rocks: Use a rock hammer to break open larger rocks to see if they contain gemstones inside.

What to Look For

Colorful Rocks: Unusual colors can indicate the presence of gemstones.  

Veins in Rocks: Look for mineral veins running through rocks. Look for veins or streaks of minerals running through rocks. Minerals like gold and quartz often form in veins within host rocks.

Heavy Rocks: Heavier rocks may contain valuable metals or minerals. Magnetism: Some valuable minerals, like magnetite, are magnetic.

Common Gemstones You Might Find

Here are some of the most common gemstones you might find in your backyard, depending on your location:

Quartz: Quartz is the most abundant mineral on Earth and comes in many varieties, some of which are considered gemstones. The most common type of quartz you might find is clear or white, butit can also be pink (rose quartz), purple (amethyst), yellow (citrine), or even black (smoky quartz).

Chalcedony: Chalcedony is a mineraloid that comes in many varieties, including agate, jasper, and carnelian. It is a common gemstone material and can be found in a wide range of colors.

  • Agate is a type of quartz that is known for its banded appearance. It can be found in a variety of colors, including red, brown, yellow, and green.
  • Jasper is another type of quartz that is known for its opaque colors, such as red, yellow, brown, and green. It is a very hard stone and can be used for jewelry and other decorative purposes.

Obsidian: This volcanic glass can be found in areas with a history of volcanic activity. It has a glassy sheen and is usually black, but can also be brown or even greenish.

Garnet: Garnet is a group of minerals that come in a variety of colors, including red, green, orange, and purple. Garnets are often found in metamorphic rocks.

Opal: Opals are possible, but again, location dependent. They often form in areas with specific volcanic activity or weathered volcanic ash deposits.

Turquoise: Turquoise is a blue-green mineral that is often found in arid regions.

Geodes and thundereggs: Geodes and thundereggs are hollow, spherical rocks that can contain cool crystals or minerals inside. They are often found in sedimentary rocks or volcanic areas.

Rough Geodes
Rough Geodes with Sparkly Crystals Inside

Identifying Gemstones

Learn how to identify different types of gemstones crystals. This may involve understanding the color, hardness, and crystal structure of the stones you find.

  1. Look for clues: Examine the stone's color, luster, and hardness. These characteristics can help you narrow down the possibilities.
  2. Use a streak test: Rub the stone on a piece of unglazed porcelain. The color of the streak can help you identify the mineral.
  3. Check the hardness: Use a hardness scale to determine the stone's hardness. This can help you narrow down the possibilities.
  4. Look for cleavage: Some minerals have characteristic cleavage patterns. This can help you identify the mineral.
  5. Use a loupe: A loupe is a small magnifying glass that can help you examine the stone's details.

Keep a Record

Take photos of the rocks you find and note their location. This will help you remember where you found valuable rocks and minerals.

Important Note

Remember to always get permission from the property owner before digging on private property, and be respectful of the environment by filling in any holes you dig and avoiding disturbing natural habitats.

Read also:
How to Appraise Minerals, Crystals, and Fossils

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