Identify Rocks And Minerals Shelby Raymond Rev12 1 09 My Copy
Stilbite crystals Flourite
Identify That Rock!: A
Tourmaline Crystals: Hemimorphite in
Red, Black & Green Scoria
Created by Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones
Please do not copy or distribute without the
express permission of Shelby Raymond.
Apache Tear in
Variety of Igneous Rocks
MATERIALS and TOOLS :
Random selection of stones
Rock ID Kit:
One piece of shatter proof glass (about 1-2
inches in length, with no sharp edges, at
Grossular least 1/8 of an inch thick)
2 variety of Topaz Garnet 1-ceramic, unglazed white tile (2x2” square)
1-ceramic, unglazed black tile (2x2” square)
Jeweler’s Loupe (usually 10x magnification)
Steel nail or small fragment of steel
Vinegar in a small vial
Fibrous Malachite Wulfenite Molybdenum
Container to hold all of the above
Notepad to record your findings
Agates & jaspers from Haida Paper or cloth towels to wipe up spills
Gwaii (a.k.a. The Queen
Charlotte Islands, British Container to hold your rock samples while
Columbia, Canada) you are working with them
Table cover – I use pieces of felt to cover my
table. I strongly suggest this so you can
avoid scratching your furniture.
Legal Stuff: By using and viewing the content of this
tutorial, you agree not to distribute, lend or copy any
portion of this document; to not mass produce this
document and to hold Skeena Storm Stones and
Shelby Raymond and Skeena Rocks! free of any and all
claims. This content is provided AS IS. If you wish to
use this in a classroom setting, please contact the
author for written permission prior to use.
*Children should always be supervised by a responsible
Whew! Got it all? Agree to the terms? Then please,
read on, be safe and have FUN!
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact
River stones from on the shore of the Skeena River near
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
Identify that Rock – Updated 12-01-09 Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones Page: 2
STEP 1: ROCK TALK
We’ll start with a couple of definitions so that
7 2 we are all talking the same language!
8 3 Main Categories of Rock:
6 1. Igneous
3 2. Sedimentary
Igneous rocks are formed when melted
5 rock, from deep inside the earth or a
volcano, makes it way to the surface
and then cools quickly. e.g. granite
4 and obsidian
(clockwise from top center): (1)gabbro, (2)diorite,
(3)scoria, (4)basalt, (5)pumice, (6)granite, (7)tuff, (8) 2 Types of Igneous Rocks:
obsidian a. Intrusive = magma that cools
beneath the surface (i.e. granite)
b. Extrusive = magma that cools
above the surface, i.e. lava, basalt
Sedimentary rocks are formed when
stuff piles up – like stones, shells,
plant material, etc. As these items
pile up on top of one another, they put
pressure on the bottom layer, which
19 causes the items to stick together –
eventually forming a solid rock. Quite
18 10 frequently you’ll be able to see the
17 11 Sedimentary rocks can be used in
making jewelry, however, most are
very soft and need to be stabilized or
12 placed in epoxy to protect them from
every day bumps and even weather!
You will find fossil evidence in
15 sedimentary rocks more frequently
than the other two types. This is
because the heat involved in the
creation of igneous stones usually
(clockwise from top, center) (9)oil shale, (10)breccia,
(11)shale, (12)conglomerate, (13)limestone, (14)arkose, destroys the object. Heat and pressure
(15)lignite coal, (16)fossiliferous limestone, (17) frequently destroy potential fossil
brachiopod limestone,(18) travertine, (19)sandstone, objects during the creation of
(20)calcareous tufa metamorphic stones.
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22 A metamorphic rock is created when other
21 rocks, igneous or sedimentary, are heated
or squeezed. This usually happens inside
28 the earth and the heat and squeezing
makes the rocks form into something that
23 can be completely different. You can see
29 this effect in some stones or even on the
27 sides of some mountains when there is a
“folding” effect. e.g. slate, gneiss
The crystals in metamorphic rocks are still
26 somewhat easy to see, though they are
more finely grained than their
i.e. limestone marble,
clusters of quartz quartzite
To the left are pictures of some of the
commonly found metamorphic rocks.
(Clockwise from top, center): (21)hornfels, (22)gneiss,
(23) marble, (24)phyllite, (25) quartzite, (26) slate, (27)
anthracite coal, (28) phyllite, (29) amphibolite
Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Cleavage &
Another identity helper is to find out the
shapes formed on a rock’s surface when
that rock breaks.
To the left is a picture of Mica. This is
commonly found, especially in granitic
rocks. Mica breaks into layers of thin
sheets. Dark Mica, like you see here, is
dark because it contains iron &
Mica var. Biotite– Perfect Cleavage
magnesium. You can use mica in jewelry,
but it would be best supported in a gel or
epoxy because it is extremely fragile. As a
component in another stone it doesn’t
usually pose problems, but the stone may
be more likely to fracture in mica planes.
Common Types of Fracture/Cleavage:
Perfect Cleavage – as in mica, thin
sheets along a plane
Conchoidal fracture-the break
Snowflake obsidian – conchoidal fracture
curves, kind of like a seashell or bowl
shape could fit into the curve of the
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A crystal is the form a mineral takes
on as it grows. You have probably
seen crystals such as rose quartz or
amethyst. The biggest crystals are
usually found in areas where there is
room to grow – crevices and caves. Do
a search on the internet for the giant
selenite gypsum crystals found in the
Naica mine, Cave of Swords, south of
Chihuahua City, Mexico – you WILL be
Amethyst is a type of Quartz (both pictured above) and is
considered a semi-precious stone.
To the left is a fluorite crystal; fluorite Gem:
crystals are octahedral (they have 8 It’s kind of challenging to define what
sides). Most minerals have a “typical” a gem is. Usually gems are the hardest
crystal formation and this can help you
stones, such as diamonds and ruby -
although opals give lie to that
definition! Gems are also usually
formed in igneous or metamorphic
rock. They are also usually quite rare
– in fact, the rarer the stone, the more
Grossular garnet, var. Hessonite in
valuable it tends to be. Gems are
metamorphosed impure limestone matrix
usually brighter and contain fewer
impurities than their semi-precious
Minerals are the building blocks of the
universe. Most rocks are made up of
minerals. Each mineral has a clearly,
scientifically defined chemical content
and the atoms are put together,
arranged, in a very specific way.
MOHS Scale of Hardness MOHS Scale of Hardness
2. Gypsum The MOHS Scale of Hardness is a quick and
3. Calcite easy guide to help you figure out how hard a
4. Flourite rock is and it also aids you in identifying the
5. Apatite (turquoise, lapis lazuli) rock. The softest stone is Talc at number 1,
6. Orthoclase feldspar (epidote, with diamond being the hardest at number
7. Quartz (amethyst, aventurine)
8. Topaz (spinel, zirconia) Harder minerals (higher numbers on the
9. Corundum (ruby, sapphire) scale) will scratch softer ones (the ones with
10. Diamond smaller numbers). i.e. quartz will scratch
orthoclase, apatite, fluorite, calcite, gypsum
Quickie MOHS and talc, but it will not scratch topaz,
2.5 = fingernail 5.5 = pocket knife corundum or diamond!
3.5 = penny 6.5 = steel file
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This is a great book STEP 2: KNOW YOUR PLACE
that was written by a
local geologist. With Learn about the area in which you live, or
this knowledge in places you can easily visit. Usually it’s
hand, combined with possible to find a rockhound group,
information on what lapidary or mineral society. They are
formations are likely wonderful sources of information.
to contain specific
stones, my rock hunts Government websites also have
are usually information on the geography and
successful. geology of most regions. It’s easy to
download maps or brochures that detail
what kinds of minerals and rocks may be
Take a class in geography, geology or
rockhounding. Not only will you meet
people with similar interests, but you may
also learn of some new collecting sites!
STEP 3: MIND YOUR MANNERS
Whenever you are out looking for rocks,
Map of world showing the distribution of major deposits plotted on digital have a rockhounding buddy with you and
elevation model with draped geology from Geological Survey of Canada, make sure others know where you are
Open File 2915d, 1995.Data from the synthesis of ore deposits. Data
plotted and diagrams prepared by W.D. Goodfellow.
going and approximately when you will
Always get permission before entering
private land. When in doubt, check with
Be careful. Take a first aid kit and know
the local numbers for emergency
assistance. Avoid active slide areas – no
matter how great the “find”! Remember
that caves can be dangerous –only enter
with a trained spelunker.
Know the type of rocks and minerals you
will encounter beforehand. You want to
avoid handling dangerous rocks and
minerals. Galena (grey and very heavy)
and sulfur (usually BRIGHT yellow) should
The Skeen River, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada only be handled with gloved hands.
Finally, leave the places you rockhound as
you found them. Pick up litter and debris;
fill holes, respect landowners and others
who use the area.
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4. WHERE IN THE MOHS IS IT?
By placing a rock within the MOHS scale, you
are able to estimate the hardness of that
rock. This can be helpful in identifying a
When testing for MOHS, you don’t need to
scratch with all of your strength. Using
normal pressure, like what you use when you
are writing with a pencil, scrape the testing
stone or tool across your rock.
zircon Repeat this until your stone is scratched. If
your stone is special, don’t use these tests, or
do them in an area you won’t notice.
5. LOOKS DO COUNT
Colour is extremely important in the
identification of many rocks. Once you have
seen the green of malachite you will always
The appearance, or luster, of rocks is also
helpful in their identification. Some will look
some will look dull like chalk (slate has a
“chalk” dullness), glassy – like a drinking
Fibrous malachite glass (think of quartz or obsidian); greasy
(graphite has a greasy feel); silky like silk
(asbestos types look silky).
6. IT AIN’T HEAVY IT’S JUST TALC
When you look in rock identification books,
they usually provide the specific gravity (SG)
of a rock or mineral. This is basically a
comparison of the mineral or rock compared to
the weight of an equal volume of water. Water
has a SG of 1.
The mineral sample above is “galena”. This is a Rocks that seem heavy for their size usually
toxic mineral you should avoid handling with have a high density. The density of a stone
bare hands. It, and lead, are noticeably generally refers to how tightly packed the
“heavier” than most rocks. crystals are. i.e. Galena has an SG of~7.4-
7.6 and is quite dense, whereas sulfur weighs
in at ~2-2.1 and isn’t nearly as dense as the
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Common Streak Colours 7. STREAKING IS ALLOWED
Limonite = Yellow-brown When it comes to rock & mineral identification
Hematite = Red-brown – streaking is allowed! In fact, it is
Gold = yellow encouraged! This is where the ceramic streak
Galena = grey plates in your kit will come in handy.
Graphite = black
Pyrite = black To find out what colour streak your rock has,
Magnetite = black you will scratch it across both plates – the
Chalcopyrite = black white and the black unglazed ceramic.
Sometimes you’ll be surprised, as the streak
Below are a couple of examples where knowing left by a stone may be completely different
the streak colour of stones can be quite useful. than the colour of its actual physical
appearance! Minerals harder than the plate
The colour streak for gold is yellow and Fool’s will not leave a streak.
Gold (Pyrite) has a red streak!
It is important to note that most silicates
Hematite (a popular jewelry making stone) has (most of the stones we use in jewelry fall into
a read streak, while galena (a toxic stone with the silicate class) have a white streak and this
similar outward features) has a grey streak. may not help identify them.
8. POP, POP, FIZZ, FIZZ
Next we will play with the vinegar and the
nail. This tiny experiment can help you find
out if there is calcite (calcium carbonate)
present in your rock. Calcite is one of the
most common minerals on earth - ~4% of the
earth’s crust (by weight).
Holding your rock firmly in your hand, scratch
the surface with either a pocket knife or the
nail in your ID kit. If you can’t scratch up a
little bit of “shavings”, you definitely don’t
have a rock that contains calcite.
Now, drop one drop of vinegar onto the pile of
“shavings”. If it fizzes, calcite is present. If it
doesn’t, you probably don’t have calcite in
Some folks use Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid in
10% dilution for this test. Because Muriatic
acid can be extremely dangerous to handle,
Rocks that contain calcium carbonate: it’s not something I suggest. Handling
Calcite (it IS calcium carbonate!) Muriatic acid requires special training and
Limestone hazard containment procedures.
Marble (it is compressed limestone)
Carbonatite Calcite can be the “glue” in:
Mexican Onyx Sandstone
Iceland Spar Slate
Identify that Rock – Updated 12-01-09 Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones Page: 8
I hope this tutorial will help you identify some of
the basic stones in your world. Remember, even
experts have times when they can’t identify a
rock specimen and need have it examined under
a special microscope or have a chemical analysis.
The best way to learn about
The rock above is the one we’ll identify in this tutorial. rocks is to meet with other
enthusiasts and explore as
9. WHAT IS IT? many different stones as
Take out your first rock and give it a good look- possible. One of the best
over. You might already have a good idea if you ways I learn about stones is
are using a rockhound guide or map of deposits. through The Mineral of the
Can you tell if it is Igneous, Sedimentary or
Metamorphic? I wish you a future filled
My sample at left is Igneous – it looks with fascinating and
like it cooled quickly because I don’t see beautiful rocks and
any specific crystal formations. minerals! In my humble
opinion, even a plain old basalt river rock is
What kind of fracture or cleavage does it have? gorgeous enough to be used in making jewelry;
The “fractures” are conchoidal. With my in fact it is one of my favourites!
jeweler’s loupe I can see little “dishes”
or bowl shapes.
Where in the MOHS is this rock? Now we’ll use
the MOHS scale to test my rock. Will #1 on the
MOHS scale scratch it?
In fact, this stone isn’t scratched until
we get to #8 on the MOHS scale. I tested
it with zircon and it does scratch my
stone. I also dragged my stone across
the glass plate, just a little pressure is
necessary. It scratched the plate. Now I
know my stone is softer than #9.
For comments or
I tried scratching it with my nail and couldn’t get
questions, please go to
This tells me two things: 1. I don’t have
calcium carbonate present in my rock
and my rock is harder than the knife so Please do not distribute
the MOH is greater than~5.5. or copy.
I know by observation that my stone is pink in Copyrights 2008, Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm
appearance, as well as translucent and glassy. I Stones, http://skeenastormstones.com
also know that the area is known for quartz;
specifically rose quartz is frequently found. I All photos contained within this tutorial are the
looked in my mineral book and sure enough, exclusive property of Shelby Raymond.
everything matches up to rose quartz.
With all of the information I now have, I Map photo on page 5 is the property of the
know that my stone is rose quartz. Government of Canada.
Identify that Rock – Updated 12-01-09 Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones Page: 9
A Field Guide to the Identification of Pebbles. Eileen Van der Flier-Keller. Harbour
Publishing.2006. ISBN-10:1-55017-395-2 (This is an AWESOME little reference for identifying river
rocks and “regular” stones!)
Rocks & Minerals. DK Publishing.2003. ISBN-13: 978-0-7894-9587-7
Guide to Minerals, Rocks & Fossils. A.C. Bishop, A.R. Woolley, W.R. Hamilton. Firefly Books.
National Audobon Society - First Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals. Edward Ricciuti, Margaret
W. Carruthers. Scholastic Inc. 1998. ISBN: 0-590-0584-8
Mineral of the Month Club. http://mineralofthemonthclub.org (Please tell them Shelby Raymond
referred you! Thanks.)
The Mineral and Locality Database. http://mindat.org
The Practical Geologist: The introductory guide to the basics of geology and to collecting
and identifying rocks. Dougal Dixon. Raymond L. Bernor, Editor. Simon and Schuster, Fireside.
1992. ISBN-13: 978-0-671-74697-1
Amethyst Galleries' Mineral Gallery, http://mineral.galleries.com/
CANADA ROCKS: The Geologic Journey. Nick Eyles, Andrew Miall. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2007.
The Practical Geologist. Dougal Dixon. Raymond L. Bernor, Editor. 1992. Simon and
Schuster/Fireside. ISBN: 978-0-671-74697-1
Disclaimer: Caution is urged while working with rocks and minerals. Children should always be supervised
by a responsible adult. Shelby Raymond and Skeena Storm Stones are not liable for accidents, injuries or
losses that may be incurred by use of this tutorial.