by Stacey Kuhns
For the past year or so, my boyfriend and I have been collecting rocks and gems. We are both on a very limited budget so how do we satisfy our "collection cravings?" Easy. Local mountains, beaches, roadsides all have treasures if you are willing to look.
We noticed that at the beaches, most people just walk out to the space they want to claim, plop their stuff down, and either go into the water, or settle down in their chairs. They never bother to look down or really look around them. When we see beaches, like the ones below, we think, "SCORE!"
What may look like a bunch of boring rocks holds a treasure trove of items, from amazing shells to quartz, citrine, jasper, jade, and other amazing finds. We always have at least 4 heavy duty bags with us, as the rocks get heavy quickly.
We also invested in diver's booties as it is much easier to search when you do not have to worry about getting wet or worry about your shoes filling up with sand. I have found many gorgeous rocks just sitting on a mound of dry rocks and digging with my hands and feet. It is amazing what can be uncovered.
Make sure that you are collecting on a beach or mountain area that is not protected and that allows collecting (you can usually find this information on the internet or posted in the respective areas.) Make sure if you are collecting shells that they are not harboring sea life. .
Once we leave the area, we sort through our finds and choose which rocks we want to put into the rock tumbler for polishing. Many of the rocks are very smooth and beautiful due to the ocean tumbling them first. .
When you wet a rock, that is pretty much how it will look once polished. It takes one month for one polishing cycle and it is difficult to choose which rocks will go in and which ones have to be set aside for another time. Each week, the rocks are taken out of the tumbler, washed, and a new grit size polisher is added. .
This is a great hobby for kids and adults. My boyfriend has made beautiful necklaces, earrings, and paperweights from our finds. This is the type of tumbler my boyfriend uses:
Prior to putting the rocks in the tumbler for the first time, you need to check for the size. If the rocks are too big, they will not polish correctly. If they have a lot of holes or pitting, the grit and polish will get stuck in those and it is not easy to clean out. Also remember, rocks lose a lot of their mass during the tumbling process, so if they are too small, you may not be able to see or use them once the month of tumbling is complete.
If you are tumbling rocks from the mountains, if they break easily in your hands, they are not good for tumbling. If they are layers of slate or other materials, that will not hold up in the tumbler. It takes some trial and error to find what size to use, what you like, and what you plan to do with the rocks after tumbling. .
Here is a batch of my rocks after the third week in the tumbler. These are all rocks I found on local beaches.
And after the final polishing in the tumbler at week four.
And here are some of the things you can do with the rocks.
So if you are wandering on the beach, in the mountains, desert, or even in a parking lot near some rocky areas, look down. You may be surprised by what you discover.