If your a lapidary or rockhound, you probably have a list of rocks and minerals that you want to acquire This is no ordinary list mind you, this is your dream list, the list of rocks and minerals that, if you can find them, and afford them, you would jump at the chance of purchasing them.
This list usually changes as you become more experienced or add to your collection.
Colors & Patterns
As a lapidary, I may look at gemstones somewhat differently than a mineral collector. Lapidaries tend to look at gemstones from a perspective of how great they would look polished in some way.
When looking for the perfect gemstone to add to my collection, the number one thing I look for is patterns and color. Since I cut cabochons from most of the rough I collect, I look for patterns that are fairly small so that when I cut the cabochon, the pattern is still there.
Color, pattern, any possible chatoyance (cat's eye effect), orbs, plumes and more are all things to look for. Basically look for rough that really stands out and screams "HEY, LOOK AT ME!".
Next, look at the quality of the material. My yard is decorated with hundreds of rocks that look great, but don't meet my standards when it comes to quality. To be considered good lapidary rough, the material has to be able to take a good polish and be strong enough to be placed in jewelry or whatever your intended purpose is.
For the mineral collector, they aren't looking at how well the mineral will polish, or how hard it is, but they still have high quality standards. Is the formation of the mineral intact? Is it in matrix and is it rarely found in that matrix. Does it meet your high color and clarity standards. These are only a few things the mineral collector may be looking for.
Getting high quality rocks and minerals online can sometimes be a challenge. Look at any customer feedback or ratings you can find about the seller. Look at the other material they are selling. If most of it looks like junk, chances are, the material you may be looking at isn't quite what you're expecting.
Most of all, educate yourself and get a good understanding of what high quality rocks and minerals look like.
Often, when I'm looking for something online that I'll genuinely cherish, I include the search term "museum quality". Adding the search term "museum quality" and then the name of the rock or mineral I'm looking for, usually presents me with some pretty spectacular results, however don't expect it to be inexpensive.
Another consideration when looking for that ultimate rock collection is the rarity of the rock or mineral. Here is where the law of supply and demand comes in. If the rock or mineral is quite rare and highly sought after, expect to pay some pretty high prices for it.
One the other hand, just because something is rare, doesn't mean that it is something that you want to necessarily have in your collection. Don't forget to remember to look at the quality of the material you are considering to purchase.
My Dream Lapidary Rock Collection
At the risk of creating competition for myself, here are the rocks & minerals I would want for my dream rock collection:
- Trent Agate
Trent agate is another very hard to find agate. This Sagenite Agate showcases black Stibnite crystals and the reddish color of Realgar crystals.
This unique agate was highly sought after by lapidaries. Unfortunately the supply was extremely limited and it was only available for a very short time.
- Royal Aztec Lace Agate
This wonderful agate is from Durango, Mexico and is no longer available in large quantities. It has wonderful purple-blue to purple color with fantastic lacy fortification patterns.
- Clay Canyon Variscite
If you love the green color of Variscite, you're going to love this wonderful material. Clay Canyon Variscite came from the Little Green Monster Variscite Mine near Fairfield, Utah.
This variety of Variscite has a very distinctive look compared to other forms of Variscite. It often has lines of yellow Crandallite crossing through the green Variscite.
If you ever find a museum grade slab of Clay Canyon Variscite, expect to pay over $1000 for it.
- Bloody Basin Plume Agate
Most of the agate that comes from Bloody Basin, in Arizona, is a moss agate, however in recent years, a wonderful variety of plume agate was discovered in that location.
Bloody Basin Plume Agate has a wonderful yellow and orange color. Sometimes a green color may also be found. Moss agate usually forms at the base of the plumes.
- Wingate Plume Agate (Death Valley Plume Agate)
What wonderful looking plume agate! Unfortunately the area where this agate is located is now off limits and cannot be collected.
It has fantastic looking yellow and orange plumes giving it a spectacular appearance.
- Paisley Plume Agate
Another agate that is now only found in collections, this wonderful pink to purple plume agate has a fine and complex fortification structure. Paisley Plume Agate comes from Blythe, California.
- Sheep Creek Plume Agate
This wonderful plume agate was mined on private property in Oregon. The area has been closed to collecting for many years.
The agate has nice white and tan plumes along with black dendrites.
- Indian Blanket Jasper
I really love this jasper. Every slab and cabochon are different. It has mostly warm earthy tones of brown, orange, red, purple, yellow, pink and white.
High quality Indian Blanket Jasper is amazing and takes a good polish. Much of the highest quality Indian Blanket Jasper is more like an opalite than a jasper. If your cutting cabs out of it, make sure you keep it cool during the polishing process to prevent breaking it.
This is another jasper that is no longer available.
- Brazilian Green Cat's Eye Opal
Doing a search on the internet for "green cat's eye opal" will get you lots of results for imitation gemstones made of glass or fiber optic material. However, if you try "brazilian green cat's eye opal", you may be lucky enough to find a real treat.
This wonderful gemstone features a layer HIGHLY chatoyant green to golden yellow opalite material in the middle of two layers of green serpentine. This material is unlike any other and makes absolutely stunning cabochons.
Discovered in 1991, in the Brazilian province of Bahia, this material is a relatively new discovery that is seldom seen for sale today.
Oregonite comes from Josephine County, Oregon. It looks similar to Kinradite found in California, but has a yellowish-white to white outer fringe around the spherulite formations.
This wonderful reddish brown and white jasper like material was only available for a short time before disappearing.
Newly Discovered Rocks and Minerals
Every year, new rocks and minerals show up at local rock & gem shows. Often the first time a new rock or mineral is introduced, it first shows up at The POW WOW, plus several other rock & mineral shows in Quartzsite, Arizona.
Collecting newly discovered rocks and minerals is a great way to start a fantastic new collection, especially if you're on a budget. These newly introduced rocks and minerals often have not yet developed a strong following, making the demand is fairly low, and resulting in lower prices.
I can't tell you how many times I've bought a little rough just to see if I'll like it one year and then go back the next year and find that the price has increased, usually by many times over.
Boy, I wish I had bought more Ocean Jasper back when I could get it for $4 a pound!