An inspirational statement about why we do what we do.....
"The love of precious stones and mineral specimens is deeply implanted in the human heart. The cause of this must be sought out not only in their coloring and brilliance but also in their durability. All the autumn colors of foliage and flowers, even the deep blue sky and the glory of sunset clouds, only last for a short time and are subject to constant changes, but the sheen and color of a prescious stone or mineral specimen is the same today as it was thousands, or millions of years ago and will be for countless years to come. In a world of change, this permanence has a indelible charm that was appreciated early in the history of mankind and remains to this day and beyond." ..Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, 1914
A quote from an avid rockhound: "The absolute thrill of uncovering a mineral, crystal, or fossil specimen, that has not seen the light of day in over 100 million years of Earth's history..... takes your breath away!"
I did not get my start in rockhounding and geology until I was well into my adult years. Some of my friends poke a little fun at me because they say I am like a 6 year old digging in a sand box. I smile and say "Yes I am... and I can't imagine doing anything I enjoy more!!"
When I first discovered quartz crystals on the hillside behind my house, I had no idea what they were or even how to go about learning about how they formed or why they were there. It was like shooting an arrow in the dark for me. I got started by looking for information on crystals on the internet, then buying a couple mineral identification books, then joining mineral clubs, attending shows, and spending time with experienced collectors, building my knowledge base and my collection as I went along. Now I feel that I can do a fairly good job at knowing what it is I have dug up on my last field trip. I have found this hobby extremely rewarding, very interesting and a great way to get out of the house!! I have met some of the most friendly and wonderful people I have ever met in my life at the shows and on club field trips and through this web site.
What I absolutely love about this hobby is the incredible knowledge that is held by the folks connected with rockhounding. How people can look at a random rock or mineral and know what mineral it is, exactly where, what quarry, and sometimes even the years it was collected... just by glancing at it for a second... it's an incredible thing. This is knowledge that has been learned not by studying and being tested, but rather from years of hands on experience and absorbing every bit of information handed to them. I'm awestruck each and every time I converse with a more experienced rockhound. I am slowly absorbing this information myself and can only hope that someday I can pass down some of it to others.
I love the field trips. That's the other best part! Going with a group of great folks to a place I've never been, finding minerals I've never seen, and gaining knowledge as I go... priceless!!
Mineral clubs are great. There is no other opportunity to visit these places if you're not in a club. The sharing of information and knowledge at club meetings is also priceless!!
Club mineral shows ROCK!! Seeing the displays and talking with dealers and other shoppers is a lot of fun. Setting up at a show can be a hoot! The 2 shows I have set up at were a blast and I made a few bucks too!! Buying a cool mineral specimen at a show can be very rewarding, and a valued addition to your collection, though, I still believe that there is way more joy in collecting a specimen yourself than there is buying one (unless you get it for a steal!!).
However, I do have a couple of simple "improvements" in mind, about our hobby, that maybe we as a group need to work on a bit. I am not bashing our great hobby by any means, but there are a few things that we all could do to improve our image and attract new blood into what some call a "dying" hobby.
First of all, stop calling it a dying hobby. From the mineral shows I have recently attended, there is LOTS of youth interested in what we do, we just have to open the doors a bit and let them in. Help conjour up some interest. I set up at a mineral show, I make sure that EVERY SINGLE kid that walks by my table got a free sample. Many of the kids and parents told me that I was the only one at the show doing that and they were grateful. It's not ALL about the money, is it??
Secondly, A major road block I had to fight to get past when I was first starting out was the lack of information shared about where to go to collect. I did get the infamous "Gem Trails of Pa & NJ" book as a gift and it did get me going to a few spots at first. But several of the places I went to in the book were off limits, closed, or just plain gone when I got there. So I had to start asking around, and not everyone was willing to divulge information at first. It's OK to share collecting info with other folks. For the most part, mineral collectors do a great job keeping collecting spots clean and not doing environmental harm. Yes, there are a few litterbugs and mess-makers out there, but I personally make sure that every place I go, I pick up any trash I find so that the property owners don't have an excuse to close the site. It's just common sense. But if we want to advance our hobby, we need to let beginners experience the joy of self-collecting as well as the responsibility of keeping a site clean and neat and letting them know what is behavior is expected while they are collecting there.
Now, in this section I rant a little...
One thing I have heard folks discussing over the time I've been involved in the hobby is the closing of collecting sites. This is a serious issue. Because of society's sue-first, think later, and "accept responsibility for nothing" attitudes, many collecting sites have become off-limits. If it was up to insurance companies, we'd all be strapped down to our beds 24 hours a day and never be allowed outdoors at all! There is only one way to overcome this. The Hauck brothers, of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, had the right idea. Buy the collecting location!! (Easier said than done, right?) But, in a way, it's true. If there is a world-class collecting location that is severely threatened by pending closure or development, there should be an organization, similar to the Nature Conservancy, or a Green-Acres type of org that can buy or lease these locations, and then conduct fee-per-dig outings to recoup some of the money. It's possible, albeit a bit out of my personal realm to do such a thing, but possible nonetheless, to do something like this with organizations such as AMFED etc. I wonder how much it would cost to save a location like Upper New Street? or Prospect Park? Millions? Aah, it's only money.... :-) BUT...Really, There is an easier and less expensive way! Purchase bulk truckloads of material from the mineralized zones before the demise of the site, and truck it to a location where it can be dumped and stored, and collectors can pay to collect from the material. Franklin Mineral Museum just did this a couple years ago when they acquired 600+ tons of material from the Franklin Mill Site and brought it over to the museum to be saved for future collecting. In the past, the DVESS Super Digg featured this very idea also. They paid to have a couple truckloads of mineralized material brought down to Sterling Hill from St.Lawrence County mines for participants to collect from. HOW COOL WAS THAT??? That IS the answer!! If you can't go to the site to collect, bring the site to you!! Problem solved. As a group, we should look into doing this more often. I wonder how the current owners of the Prospect Park Quarry would react if someone offered them a a few hundred bucks per load for "scooped up" material from the old quarry. They'd probably jump at the chance to get rid of the extra rock debris and make a few bucks in the process! I know for a fact that if a club called Tilcon or Braen's and said they wanted to buy a few truckloads of material from the mineralized zone, they'd probably deliver it in a heartbeat!! It would get the collectors off their backs as well as their insurance companies. It's a win-win situation, I think!!
Thanks for listening to my rant. Of course, these are just my opinions and you may not agree, but that's all right.
Have fun, enjoy our great hobby, and keep on rockin'!!!