Amateur Fossil Hunting

Filed under: NEW- fossils,Video,field trip reports — Gary December 3, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

Check out this new amateur fossil hunting site.  They plan on giving RockHoundBlog a field trip report every time they go on an expedition.  Check out their site!   Can’t wait to read what they send me.   Check out the fossil videos at bottom of article!



UKAFH is an amateur fossil hunting group formed in October 2010, founded by Craig Chapman and Rob Allen from Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Craig and Rob

Craig and Rob

With a keen interest in fossils and the prehistoric world Craig and Rob took an Open University degree in ‘Fossils and History of life’. They decided to attempt a couple of hunts in their local area to see what they could find. The first hunt was in April 2010 at Tywell Hills and Dales in Cranford, Northamptonshire. They began to search for other sites in the area but realised that there was not much information available for enthusiasts.

After some discussion they decided to create a website ( with the aim of meeting other people with the same interest and provide somewhere for people to share their knowledge, experience, thoughts and opinions. So finally KAFH (Kettering amateur fossil hunters) was born. Aidan Philpott joined UKAFH in November 2010 – he helped develop the UKAFH forum and developed a strong friendship with Craig and Rob. Craig and Rob decided to promote Aidan to co-head of UKAFH.

Kettering amateur fossil hunters

Kettering amateur fossil hunters

In September 2011 – after celebrating its first birthday – KAFH became UKAFH (United Kingdom Amateur Fossil Hunters) as the group had swelled beyond the realm of Kettering and become far more of an international affair involving members around the world and regular hunts organised across the UK.

UKAFH are not only an online group but fossil hunts are regularly organised with all members invited to join in. We have been to many sites including the Isle of Sheppey, Kings Dyke, Wrens Nest, Charmouth, Irchester Country Park, Grafham Water, Yaxley, Aust and and Tywell Hills and Dales. On these hunts we have found Reptile remains, sharks teeth, vertebra, seeds and plant remains, ammonites, trilobites, fossilised wood, coral, coprolite and lots more.


Reptile remains, sharks teeth, vertebra, seeds and plant remains, ammonites, trilobites, fossilised wood, coral, coprolite and lots more.

In October, we held our first UKAFH Weekender on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This was great fun and highly productive, consisting of campsite merriment combined with two days of hunting the London Clays.

UKAFH has become an social community and educational resource for young and not so young alike – not only are we an expanding online community, we also host monthly fossil hunts and we have been into schools and local community groups with our museum grade collections to discuss and explore fossiling and prehistory with an informal, fun and interactive approach.

finding fossils

finding fossils

All with an interest – whatever age, experience, background, belief, geography, beginner, amateur or professional are welcome to join.

How Granite Is Mined and Processed

Filed under: Video — Gary November 16, 2011 @ 12:44 am

Interesting videos on Granite-


Trona Blow Hole Crystals

Filed under: Coming Events,Video — Gary November 11, 2010 @ 1:33 am
Trona Blow Hole

Trona Blow Hole

On November 13th, Saturday, come to Zzyzx Gallery of Natural Science in Downtown
Los Angeles for a virtual recreation of the popular, but far away mineral dig,
the Trona Blow Hole!

Zzyzx Gallery will be dumping out over 50 gallons of unsearched crystals from
the blow hole dig. Everyone is invited to come into the gallery for free, pick
out a fair amount of crystals from the pile and receive an information sheet
about the minerals. 100% free.

Of course, while you are at the gallery you get to see all sorts of fine art
illustrating minerals, animals and all sorts of nature. In addition, our gem
carving exhibit will be on display and you’ll get to bring in any minerals you
have for free appraisal and identification.

Zzyzx Gallery of Natural Science, on the corner of 7th and main street in
downtown Los Angeles! Parking lots have specials for $5.00 daily parking and
you can visit us and enjoy the vibrant sections of downtown! If you haven’t
been downtown in a few years, the areas have really changed for the better. We
are home to Gallery Row, the Jewelry District, wonderful historic buildings, art
museums and the ultra inexpensive fashion district. Downtown Los Angeles is a
great place to spend a few idle hours any given Saturday!

The annual Trona California Gem Show features three digs, one of which is the Blow Hole dig. This is MY favorite dig! They have a truck that has a big tube that goes into the ground, they set off a charge and water and crystals spray everywhere! Well, this year the truck had tipped over. I filmed some footage of the fallen truck with my friend Christy to add to my video field guide series. Just some random raw footage from the 2008 dig.

Rose Creek Mine

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Video — Gary November 8, 2010 @ 10:06 pm
Rose Creek

Rose Creek

Operating since 1952, Rose Creek Mine is one of 3 state licensed gem mines in Macon County, North Carolina. Centrally located in Western North Carolina in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, we are near waterfalls, white-water rafting, AT Trail hiking, museums, antique shops, historic train rides and the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

In our Gem Mine you can find Ruby, Sapphire, Garnet, Amethyst, Citrine, Moonstone, Topaz, Smoky Quartz, Rose Quartz, Quartz Crystals and more! All equipment is provided and we help beginners. You dig your own dirt in our mining tunnel and wash the dirt away in our covered flume. Mine rain or shine. Mining is a great field trip for church groups, scout troops, senior citizen groups and others. We have an educational program that will fit your needs. Scouts can work on their geology achievements and badges.

Rose Creek Mine Gift & Rock Shop. We have rubies, sapphires, garnets, emeralds and so much more. We also have special buckets, gem kits, lapidary supplies, jewelry, Opals and a world class collection of minerals. Last new miner accepted at 4pm. Dig your own dirt, first bucket free with admission. Help for beginners, equipment supplied, covered flume line, clean restrooms, covered picnic tables, snacks. Group rates available as is gem dirt to go. Five miles north of Franklin on Hwy 28, left on Bennett before river. 115 Terrace Ridge Dr. For mining info call 828-349-3774.

Click here for website

Rose Creek

Rose Creek

Gem Mining Rates

  • Major Miners (over 8): $6.00 each (includes 1 free bucket)
  • Minor Miners (8 & under): $4.00 each (includes 1 free bucket)
  • You dig your own bucket of dirt in the mining tunnel.
  • All refill buckets are $4.00

Special Mining

  • Super Buckets – $40.00
  • Mega Buckets – $75.00
  • Mini Buckets – $10.00 – $20.00 – you keep the bucket
  • Bags of Gem Dirt to Go – $3.00 ea. or 2/$5.00

What to Bring:

Bring ziploc bags or a plastic butter dish to take your stones home in (no glass). Rubber gloves are handy if it’s chilly or you have a nice manicure and a hat and some sunblock if it’s sunny although we have a covered “flume”.

The wooden benches can get hard as the day goes on so you might need a cushion to sit on or old towels work well too and you can use them to wipe your hands. Wear old clothes and tennis shoes or boots and bring a plastic bag to put your muddy shoes in and an extra pair to wear in the car. Bring a picnic lunch, we provide picnic tables to eat out of rain or sun, plan to spend the day! And you will need to bring the camera for those pictures to show friends you played in the mud in North Carolina and found beautiful gem stones.

Make Your Own Crystals

Filed under: DIY Videos,Video,how to? — Gary November 1, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

DIY crystals!  Very cool.  Nice science project to try with the kids.  These instructions will show you how to make home made crystals using everyday ingredients.

  • 1 brick
  • 4 tbsp. table salt- no iodine
  • 1 tbsp. ammonia
  • 1 plate or bowl
  • 4 tbsp. water food colouring – Any colour your heart feels like!
  • 4 tbsp. bluing
  1. Break brick into chunks and place in bowl or on plate.
  2. Mix salt, bluing, water, ammonia and pour over brick pieces.
  3. Drop food colouring on brick pieces with no uniformity.
  4. Let sit for several days.

***Crystals are very fragile!!!

*** Should only be done under parent supervision!





Very cute video below:

This is a science project done by a young lady in Girl Scouts. It uses Epsom salt, pipe cleaner, pen, tap water and a cup. She explains what she did…

How to make copper sulfate crystals:

How to make copper sulfate crystals

How to make copper sulfate crystals

Oregon Sunstone

Filed under: Mineral of the day,Rare Rocks!,Video — Gary October 31, 2010 @ 10:49 am

world’s largest  Oregon Sunstone:

A variety known as Oregon sunstone is found in Harney County, Oregon and in eastern Lake County north of Plush. Only Oregon sunstone contains inclusions of copper crystals. Oregon sunstone can be found as large as three inches across. The copper leads to varying color within some stones, where turning one stone will result in multiple colors. The more copper within the stone, the darker the complexion.

On August 4, 1987, Oregon State Legislature designated Oregon sunstone as its state gemstone by joint resolution.

Oregon sunstone

Oregon Sunstone

Sunstone is a plagioclase feldspar, which when viewed from certain directions exhibits a brilliant spangled appearance; this has led to its use as a gemstone. It has been found in Southern Norway, and in some United States localities. It is the official gemstone of Oregon.

The optical effect appears to be due to reflections from enclosures of red haematite, in the form of minute scales, which are hexagonal, rhombic or irregular in shape, and are disposed parallel to the principal cleavage-plane. These enclosures give the stone an appearance something like that of aventurine, whence sunstone is known also as “aventurine-feldspar.” The optical effect called shiller and the color in Oregon Sunstone is due to copper. In the middle part of this crystal, it sparks a lot, and usually has a dark color in the middle, and the color becomes lighter as it becomes the outer part.

Sunstone Mining

Sunstone Mining



The feldspar which usually displays the aventurine appearance is oligoclase, though the effect is sometimes seen in orthoclase: hence two kinds of sunstone are distinguished as “oligoclase sunstone” and “orthoclase sunstone.”


Sunstone was not common until recently. Previously the best-known locality being Tvedestrand, near Arendal, in south Norway, where masses of the sunstone occur embedded in a vein of quartz running through gneiss. Due to the discovery of large deposits in Oregon, Sunstone is now readily available.

Other locations include near Lake Baikal in Siberia, and several United States localities—notably at Middletown Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Lakeview, Oregon, and Statesville, North Carolina.


Unpolished Sunstone

The “orthoclase sunstone” variant has been found near Crown Point and at several other localities in New York, as also at Glen Riddle in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and at Amelia Courthouse, Amelia County, Virginia.

Sunstone is also found in Pleistocene basalt flows at Sunstone Knoll in Millard County, Utah.

n the short video below you will see the process of prospecting for Oregon sunstone with the use of a drill. As drilling begins we watch the cuttings coming out of the hole. With experience you can tell when it is time to check the cuttings more closely. The drilling penetration rate will vary depending on the type of material being drilled. The color and size of the particles will also vary.The bore hole is cleaned out by compressed air. Compressed air is pumped down the inside of the drill pipe and through the bit. The cuttings are blown to the surface and caught by hand for examination. If you are drilling in a potential mining site there will be ground up particles of feldspar in the cuttings. When you find feldspar in the cuttings you note how much drill pipe is in the hole being drilled. This will tell you how deep to dig with heavy equipment. The video will give you a better understanding and appreciation of what it is like to prospect for sunstone.

Thanks Wikipedia

Cleaning Crystals

Filed under: Cleaning Rocks,DIY Videos,Video,how to? — Gary October 28, 2010 @ 6:44 am

Its an easy 3 step procedure-

1-First step is critical -the clay/mud must be washed off the crystals- a toothbrush is good if you have a small piece to clean.  Larger pieces can be placed in the sun for a day then cooled down in the shade and then given a wash with the garden hose.  Repeating the sun process will dry and crack the clay and make for an easy rinse with the hose.    You can use a pressure washer as well if clay is hard to get off.

2- Removing the iron:  If the crystal has a very light iron staining then a few days soaking in a weak oxalic acid solution will do the trick -covered bucket.

**If iron staining is heavy then you must “cook”  the quartz in an acid solution

3-The most commonly used chemical for cleaning quartz is oxalic acid which may be purchased in a powder form.  When mixed with water at a few ounces per gallon and then heated to just below a boil it is capable of removing all but the most stubborn iron stains.  WARNING – fumes are toxic and very dangerous.  Only do this outside away from children and wearing protective gear.

** A slow cooker or crock pot works well.

**If your specimens begins to grow a white powder as they dry, place them back in a clean crock pot, add water and a 1/3 a cup of baking soda, and cook overnight. This will neutralize the remaining acid as it comes out of the nooks and crannies of the specimens. If this does not work to get rid of the white powder problem, then you will need to cook them again in clean water with baking soda as a neutralizer.

I have had to clean small crystal clusters as many as 5 times before coming totally clean, have patience.

I have also used the product “Iron Out” as well.  It is sold at places like Walmart and is used to get rid of rust stains in sinks and toilets.

Make Your Own Rock Tumbler

Filed under: DIY Videos,Video,how to? — Gary October 24, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

I get a lot of feedback about people making their own rock tumblers.  These videos show  how to make them yourself and what they look like- DIY rock tumblers.  If you want to submit your own step by step rock tumbler instructions or video just send me an email.

This is a very inexpensive one that works!

Thanks and enjoy, Gary-


- Salvaged 1/5hp AC motor from a whole-house exhaust fan

- 4 pillow block bearings ($9.95 each on eBay)

- Fan belt ($9 from Farm & Fleet)

- 3/4″ FIP black iron pipe ($6.50 for each 2′ piece at Menards)

I had to grind 1/16 of an inch off the circumference of each end of the iron pipes to get them to fit inside the 1″ bearings. I went through two bench grinder wheels doing it. Wooden 1″ dowels would be a simpler, easier solution.

Just make sure there’s adequate airflow to keep your motor cool.



Filed under: Mineral of the day,Video — Gary October 18, 2010 @ 4:53 pm


Sodalite is a rich royal blue mineral widely enjoyed as an ornamental gemstone. Although massive sodalite samples are opaque, crystals are usually transparent to translucent. Sodalite is a member of the sodalite group and—together with hauyne, nosean, and lazurite—is a common constituent of lapis lazuli. Discovered in 1806 in the Ilimaussaq intrusive complex in Greenland, sodalite did not become important as an ornamental stone until 1891 when vast deposits of fine material were discovered in Ontario, Canada.


A light, relatively hard yet fragile mineral, sodalite is named after its sodium content; in mineralogy it may be classed as a feldspathoid. Well known for its blue color, sodalite may also be grey, yellow, green, or pink and is often mottled with white veins or patches. The more uniformly blue material is used in jewellery, where it is fashioned into cabochons and beads. Lesser material is more often seen as facing or inlay in various applications.



Although not similar to lazurite and lapis lazuli, sodalite is never quite comparable, being a royal blue rather than ultramarine. Sodalite also rarely contains pyrite, a common inclusion in lapis. It is further distinguished from similar minerals by its white (rather than blue) streak. Sodalite’s six directions of poor cleavage may be seen as incipient cracks running through the stone. Hackmanite is an important variety of sodalite exhibiting tenebrescence. When hackmanite from Mont Saint-Hilaire (Quebec) or Ilímaussaq (Greenland) is freshly quarried, it is generally pale to deep violet but the colour fades quickly to greyish or greenish white. Conversely, hackmanite from Afghanistan and the Myanmar Republic (Burma) starts off creamy white but develops a violet to pink-red colour in sunlight. If left in a dark environment for some time, the violet will fade again. Tenebrescence is accelerated by the use of longwave or, particularly, shortwave ultraviolet light. Much sodalite will also fluoresce a patchy orange under UV light.

Tenebrescent sodalite from Greenland – Upon exposure to SW UV (UVC) the sodalite (also known as hackmanite) changes color to a dark purple. This is tenebrescence and is a reversible effect. The color can be faded by a bright light, and the effect can be repeated over and over. The sodalite is also fluorescent a bright orange under LW UV, and under SW UV the glow gradually darkens to a rusty color due to this tenebrescence.


Occurring typically in massive form, sodalite is found as vein fillings in plutonic igneous rocks such as nepheline syenites. It is associated with other minerals typical of undersaturated environments, namely leucite, cancrinite and natrolite. Significant deposits of fine material are restricted to but a few locales: Bancroft, Ontario, and Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, in Canada; and Litchfield, Maine, and Magnet Cove, Arkansas, in the USA. The Ice River complex, near Golden, British Columbia, is being investigated for sodalite recovery. Smaller deposits are found in South America (Brazil and Bolivia), Portugal, Romania, Burma and Russia. Hackmanite is found principally in Mont. Saint-Hilare and Greenland, the latter locale producing a green specimen nicknamed “chameleon sodalite.” Euhedral, transparent crystals are found in northern Namibia and in the lavas of Vesuvius, Italy.

Tonopah, Nevada – Silver mine.

Filed under: Rockhound stories,Video — Gary October 17, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

Came across this article on a silver find in Tonopah Springs.  Very interesting!

Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah Springs, later the site of one of the richest booms in the West, was an Indian campground for many years, long before Jim Butler spent a chilly night here. A number of stories exist as to how Butler discovered the ore. The most popular version is that Butler’s mule wandered away and when Butler found the ornery critter, he noticed an outcropping that appeared to be heavily laced with silver. Butler took a number of samples. The date was May 19, 1900. This quiet start belied the actual importance of the discovery. Butler firmly believed he had discovered an important silver deposit but he had trouble convincing the assayer he visited in nearby Klondike. The assayer told him the samples were worthless, consisting mainly of iron, and he threw them into the back of his tent.
Butler was still convinced that his find was genuine. On his way back to his Monitor Valley ranch, he stopped at Tonopah Springs once more to gather samples. Back at his ranch, Butler put the samples on his windowsill. Not too much time passed before Tasker Oddie, later to be governor of Nevada, stopped at the ranch and spied the ore samples. He offered to pay for another assay and Butler agreed to this. Butler, in turn, offered Oddie a quarter interest of the assay. Oddie heartily agreed. He took the ore samples to William Gayhart, an Austin assayer, and offered Gayhart a quarter interest in his quarter. Gayhart found the assay ran as high as $600 a ton. When Oddie was notified of the value of the samples, he immediately sent an Indian runner to Butler’s ranch to alert him of the rich find. Butler did not react rapidly. He stayed at his ranch to complete the hay harvest and did not even bother to file claims on the lode site! News of the discovery traveled to Klondike and soon, scores of eager prospectors were searching around Tonopah Springs, to no avail, for Butler’s lode. Butler finally went to Belmont, and on August 27, 1900, he and his wife filed on eight claims near the springs. Six of these – Desert Queen, Burro, Valley View, Silver Top, Buckboard, and Mizpah – turned into some of the biggest producers the state has ever had.

Continue reading the article here: Tonopah, Nevada