Treasure Hunting With a Difference
FROM days of long ago, people have appreciated the beauty of the unlocked treasures of creation once hidden in the earth. For example, Havilah, a site associated with ancient Arabia, was renowned for colorful onyx stones. (Genesis 2:11, 12) Or imagine seeing a high priest of ancient Israel bearing a breastplate of onyx, ruby, emerald, topaz, and other gemstones—12 in all—set in gold. What a dazzling sight that must have been! (Exodus 28:15-20) Also, great quantities of precious stones were used in building the temple in Jerusalem, dedicated to the worship of Jehovah. (1 Chronicles 29:2) Many of those gems may have been polished to great brilliance. Recent archaeological finds show that thousands of years ago, people used a simple treadle machine to operate a grindstone for polishing rocks. So our present-day hobby of rock collecting is not something new.
Equipment and Location
‘What equipment will I need for rock collecting?’ you may ask. A rock hammer, which is square and flat at one end and pointed at the other, is essential. Paper for wrapping specimens and a bag in which to carry them will suffice. See? Not expensive at all.
‘Where do I begin looking for rocks?’ you wonder next. Valleys and riverbeds are good places to start your search. Why there? Because unusual pieces of rock, broken off from larger rocks at a higher level, may tumble down the hill or the stream, being smoothed and polished along the way. Where rivers join the sea, you can find rocks carried to the river’s mouth and pebbles washed up on the seashore from undersea reefs. Other likely places offering exciting possibilities for rock collectors are roadway cuts and areas near abandoned quarries or mines. But be careful there. There is always a danger that loose rock may fall. In some places, you may need to get permission before setting out on your search.
If you live in South Africa or Brazil, you may have the good fortune to find diamond crystals. Rubies and sapphires can be found in the riverbeds of India, Myanmar, and Thailand, and emeralds in Colombia, India, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In China and Japan, jade and jadeite are most popular for jewelry, ornaments, and incense burners. Jade is found in Myanmar, New Zealand, and Alaska, as well as in Japan.
One of the most beautiful gemstones is the opal, a form of noncrystalline silica. Found in Australia and Mexico, opals have a fascinating variety of color—fiery tints of red, yellow, green, and blue. Opals are relatively soft and when polished are often covered with a thin layer of quartz to prevent scratching.
Material for Amateurs
Stones like these are material for experts and unlikely finds for amateurs. Quartz, though, is plentiful and easier to find. It is one of the most common of all rock-forming minerals and is found in three of the major rock types. You may find one quartz specimen to be transparent, while others may be translucent or even opaque. Some are colored with markings of red, yellow, purple, green, or brown. Of course, in addition to looking for quartz, you may collect any piece of rock with interesting color or markings. And when the stone is polished, you may be pleasantly surprised by its beauty and may desire to use it for baroque jewelry, as a showpiece on a cabinet shelf, or as part of a miniature rocky mountain in your garden.
After having collected enough pieces of rock, you need to know something of polishing methods. Some rock collectors’ clubs suggest tumbling the stones with abrasive grit and water in a hollow revolving drum powered by a small electric motor. This will take patience and time, possibly weeks, first with coarse grit, then with finer abrasives, and finally with polishing powder. But the results are well worth the effort.
Other Kinds of Stones
Rock collecting is not limited to small pieces. In Japan larger rocks are used extensively in landscape gardening. These can be surprisingly expensive. For example, one piece of reddish-colored stone weighing 1,540 pounds [700 kg] was priced at over $2,300. Why so expensive? The value lies in the natural beauty of its shape. You could arrange for a stream of water to flow from a cup-shaped formation near the top of this stone, cascading to the bottom in a series of miniature waterfalls.
Are you now stirred up to go rock hunting? If so, hopefully you will find a treasure with a difference.—Contributed.