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Despite being among the most common and abundant minerals on earth, quartz is highly sought after! The stone is beautiful and remarkably strong. What you may not know about quartz is that it is a vital component of sand. Quartz is the main component in the sand on many beaches across the world. In the same way, sand particles are brought to shore, bigger pieces of quartz can be brought in by the tide as well.
Quartz can be found on the beach. Beaches will have different varieties of quartz, including a range of colors, milky quartz, or quartz veined stones. Beaches downriver from mountain ranges are most likely to have quartz.
It can be tricky to come across a beautiful piece of quartz on the beach because of the extensive erosion most stone undergoes before being washed ashore. The abrasive journey to the shoreline can require an extra careful and informed eye.
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Is there Quartz on the Beach?
Quartz is the main component in the sand on many beaches across the world. As the strongest and hardest common material on Earth, it is no wonder quartz holds up to the rough erosion process necessary to make sand particles. In fact, quartz gets stronger as it gets smaller!
A coastal scientist with Florida International University, Stephen Leatherman, uses the term “terminal size” to describe the smallest, strongest form of crystal.
At terminal size, the geometry of the stone fragment makes it especially resistant to chemical or physical wear or damage.
Mountains near or connected to the ocean are a major source of the mineral. Erosion from the mountains carries the quartz through the long erosion process, which grinds down the mineral and flushes away weaker materials and impurities.
For example, the Appalachian Mountain is the source of quartz for Florida’s infamous white sand beaches.
So while you are searching for quartz on the beach, you, ironically, are standing on lots of it mixed in with other minerals.
Nonetheless, the same routes that allow quartz from nearby resources to wash up as sand also give way for larger pieces of quartz.
TIP: No gemstone’s value is as elusive and variable as quartz. Check out the complete guide on quartz value in the article below:
How Much Is Quartz Worth? Value for Common Quartz Varieties
The Best Beaches for Finding Quartz
If you want to find beach quartz, the first step is knowing where to look!
As mentioned, most beaches have sand made largely from quartz. While almost all beaches have quartz in the sand, they will have varying amounts.
When looking at sand, the whiter it is in color, the higher the amount of quartz. This will be handy in picking which beaches to search on.
The more quartz that is in the sand means you are generally more likely to find larger quartz stones. If the sand contains a high amount of quartz, this is likely because a natural resource that produces quartz is nearby.
This makes it more likely larger pieces of the stone can be deposited into water sources and washed up ashore.
Interestingly, Cape May in New Jersey is famous for its beach quartz. The quartz comes down to Cape May all the way from the Delaware Water Gap.
The river’s rough waters break the quartz from veins and pockets and carry them over 200 miles to the New Jersey beaches.
Slowly, the stones make this journey and are naturally smoothed along the way. The stones are a novelty among locals and visitors who call them ‘Cape May Diamonds’. These beauties are even cleaned up to be sold as souvenirs and made into jewelry.
TIP: Both quartz and feldspar are classified as silicates since their chemical composition includes silicon. Find out the main differences between these two minerals in the article below:
Feldspar vs. Quartz: What’s the Difference? 5 Crucial Signs
Tips for Spotting and Identifying Quartz at the Beach
To bring home a beautiful piece of beach quartz, you must be able to recognize it among sand, shells, and other items that wash up. Spotting and recognizing the stone is usually the most difficult part, but these key tips will make it simple.
- Sift through sand that comes in with the tide
Collecting sand from the incoming tide is the best way to look for quartz, as well as catch unexpected stones, shells, and other cool findings.
To do so, you can use a small container or an actual sifter. When using a small bucket or container, you will need to go through the sand it collects by hand, which can be more time-consuming and less precise.
An actual sifter will save time, allowing you to collect more sand in a given period of time, and more preciously filter any larger items from fine grains of sand. If you are able to get your hands on a sifter, it is highly recommended.
- Use a camera or magnifying glass on small things that catch your eye
When searching on a dry beach area, having a camera or magnifying glass to help you get an up-close look at things can be very helpful.
By taking a picture and zooming in or looking in with a magnifying glass, you can get a better idea of what you see before digging anything up too much. This can save you time and energy as well as minimize disruptions to nature.
- Test the crystal after you bring it home
Once you have collected some pieces of what look like quartz, there are other ways to test the specimen and make sure it is what you think it is.
All quartz has a hardness rating of 7 on the Mohs scale. Quartz should be hard enough to easily scratch glass. Quartz is also hard enough to resist most scratches, so look for a smooth surface and you can even test this out with a basic pocketknife.
Quartz should have a nice shine to it. Some beach quartz may be a bit less lustrous on the outside than store-bought quartz on the outside than usual due to erosion.
Quartz does not break along smooth plates, rather it fractures into rough surfaces. If your rock has any signs of fracture on the outside, this can be valuable information. If you have enough and are willing, you can break the stone with a hammer to test this as well.
TIP: Quartz is the mineral with the greatest amount of varieties. Check out the complete list of quartz varieties in the article below:
Complete List of Quartz Varieties: Know Them All!
Along the beach, milky quartz is a common find. Milky quartz can be deceiving if you do not know to look for them. They are a unique variety of quartz because the color is more opaque and less translucent than most quartz crystals.
Milky quartz has a white color, which comes from carbon dioxide gas getting trapped within the structure during the formation of the stone.
Despite their milky white color, these are authentic quartz, nonetheless. When you hold milky quartz up to the sun, the light should be able to be seen through the translucence of the stone. Do not pass these pretty pieces by during your hunt.
Quartz veining is another common find along the beach. Quartz veining is more like finding another rock with a hint of quartz than finding full quartz, but exciting and beautiful all the same.
Quartz veining can occur for a variety of reasons, the simplest and most common is a crack in the rock during formation or from damage, which quartz then builds up in.
The result is a mysterious-looking swirl of quartz in another stone. The swirl will often be a whitish, light color.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
If you have hopes of finding yourself beautiful beach quartz, the goal is well within reach! That is if you know where to look and what to look for.
The beach has unique natural conditions that affect the appearance of quartz and what types of quartz you will see. Use this information and have patience in your search.
TIP: Quartz is a hard and crystalline mineral that consists of two oxygen and one silicone atom. It takes years to form this mineral under intense pressure. Find out more in the article below:
Forming of Quartz Crystals & Its Varieties Explained by PRO