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Andrew Alden

Annotate Those Minerals and Rocks

By December 30, 2012

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rock annotateI got a note the other day, one like many others I've received over the years at About.com, that started out, "My husband and I inherited a huge collection of minerals, gems and crystals, and then another load of rocks came our way when my mother-in-law moved in with us and she had a collection of very interesting rocks collected by her father in-law (now deceased) who was an amateur geologist. I've been doing a lot of research on my own and have identified about 75% of the stones."

Do you see the problem here?

Standard practice for collectors of minerals and rocks, every book will tell you, is to have a system for recording your specimens. Professional best practice involves painted labels on the stone, a database to track them, and an organized, secure storage setup. Amateurs can get away with a lot less, but they can't get away with nothing at all. If you value your rocks, give them a fighting chance after you pass on or lose interest.

My own stuff isn't museum quality, but it's still interesting. At least I put things in plastic bags with a slip of paper noting what they are and where they came from. At least I stick them in labeled boxes, even if they're stacked in a closet. If my hoard ends up on a rummage-sale table or in a grand-nephew's attic, at least the next owners can take things forward another step if they care to. Otherwise, my stones will have to rely on the kindness of strangers, who may be stymied by about 25% of them. And unlike my email writer, they will know not just what they have, but—equally important—where it comes from.

Don't leave your rocks orphans.

Types of rock collectors
Storing rocks
Pet rocks and favorite stones
What kind of collector are you?
Start a rock collection
Part of my collection — Geology Guide photo


July 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm
(1) Janonda says:

I see you mentioned me on your site. Cool:-) This is great advice – to annotate the rocks. I would be so far ahead of the game had that been done. I will try and remember to do it now as I identify each specimen.
Thanks again.
Sheri – aka Janonda

July 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm
(2) amuse says:

Heres an example of the importance of doing as you suggest. Two ladies in Indianapolis found radioactive rock samples while cleaning their elderly father’s attic. The samples were labeled or they would not have had any idea what they had. http://www.indystar.com/article/20110723/LOCAL/107230382/1001/7daysarchives/Sisters-find-radioactive-rocks-while-cleaning-father-s-attic
Heads up – story will be archived / behind paywall in 5 days.

July 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm
(3) Geology Guide says:

What a stupid shame; those rocks posed no danger whatsoever. However, at least the rocks were labeled.

July 25, 2011 at 11:18 am
(4) Thomas Kavenaugh says:

This is one reason why we stopped collecting at all but take good pictures. We gave many of our fossils to our kids and grand kids hoping to plant seeds of interest. But no one wants a piece of Mt Lowe Granite or muscovite from the Harding Pegmatite mine.

July 30, 2011 at 11:51 am
(5) Michael says:

Scotch and rocks. A geologist’s dream.

August 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm
(6) Rockhound says:

Back when I was in college, one of my profs was leaving to go into industry and asked I wanted most of his rocks and minerals that he had collected over twenty some years. Man, I could hardly contain myself due to being so happy. He gave me seven boxes of stuff and after I got out and began working and being transferred/promoted, we kept on dragging those boxes around, plus all the stuff I had collected. Finally, I began giving rocks and minerals to neighbor kids, using them for outside decorations, but did keep the so called good stuff. Since I have been in all 50 states and 49 countries, I do have a quite a collection.

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