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While many gem collectors get their rocks from rockhounding shops, you would be surprised at how many gemstones you can potentially find right in your own backyard. Gemstones are found more easily than most people expect because most people do not bother to look for them.
There are various kinds of gemstones that you may find in your backyard, depending on your geographical location. Quartz is one of the most common gemstones you can find and can be found in almost any location. Areas of the American West, such as California, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, are some of the easiest places to find gemstones.
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Quartz Is a Common Backyard Gem
Quartz crystals are one of the most common gemstones that can be found in topsoil, even though half the time, people don’t realize that they’re looking at quartz when they first pick it up.
Because quartz is commonly mixed with gravel and other loose rock, finding it is often no harder than sifting through the surface rocks in your backyard.
The most common form of quartz that you can find is clear quartz. Quartz may be either almost completely translucent or can contain white streaks or smudges within the crystal itself, giving it a milky appearance.
A quartz crystal usually takes the shape of a hexagonal prism, but it depends on the size of the crystal. Some appear as no more than a chunk of shiny gravel.
Amethyst is another form of quartz that is rarer and more valuable than clear quartz. This purple crystal owes its bright violet coloration to a combination of transitional metal inclusions and irradiation.
Amethyst is much less likely to be found in your backyard than clear quartz, although it can be commonly found inside rock geodes.
Where Can You Find Quartz Crystals?
If you can’t find any gemstones in your backyard, check out the front, especially the driveway. You may have to get down on your hands and knees and look carefully, as clear quartz can mix in easily with normal rocks, especially when it is scuffed and dusty.
Before being tumbled, a piece of clear quartz may appear to be nothing more than a lumpy white stone.
Quartz can be found in almost any state within the United States as well as:
To confirm that a stone is a piece of quartz, scratch the surface with the tip of a pocket knife. If the crystal doesn’t scratch, that means it is stronger than the blade and is likely a piece of quartz.
How to Tell the Quality of a Quartz Crystal
The best quartz crystals will feel cool to the touch and have a clear, almost glass-like appearance with no milky occlusions.
Because quartz crystals can be found so easily, most of them will sell in a shop for $10-20, depending on their size and quality. The more transparent the quartz and the larger the crystal, the higher the quality.
TIP: If you live near a beach, you can find quartz there! Read this article and find out how to find quartz on the beach:
Can You Find Quartz on the Beach? It Depends How You Look
Amethysts May Show Up in Your Backyard Creek
The amethyst is one of the most valuable crystals in the quartz family, mainly due to its rich purple coloration. Amethyst isn’t the easiest gemstone to find in your backyard, but you might find it in certain conditions.
Where Can You Find Amethysts in Your Backyard?
These states are some of the most common states to come across raw amethyst as a rockhound:
Quick Tip: By clicking on the links above you will get opened a full guide on what rocks and minerals are and where you can find them in each state. You can find similar links for different states throughout this article.
Amethyst is easiest for people to find in rock geodes, which are commonly found in creeks, streams, and rivers. Rock geodes appear similar to a normal rock, but they may have a more rounded appearance.
Upon cracking a geode, a rockhound may find an interior hollow decked with amethyst crystals. Moreover, other crystals show up in geodes as well.
How to Tell the Quality of an Amethyst
The quality of amethyst is usually judged on the color of the stone, which is preferably a rich, medium violet color. Darker amethysts are usually not desired because they can appear black except in strong lighting, and lighter amethysts don’t have quite the same punch.
A popular way for amethyst to be collected and displayed is within the geode itself. Size also significantly increases the quality and value of an amethyst.
Agate is a Colorful and Common Gemstone
Agate is a reddish or brownish stone that is known for its striped or marbled appearance across its surface. While agates can be found in other colors (such as green agate), reddish-brown agate is the most common type found.
Where Can You Find Agate in Your Backyard?
Agate can be found in many Western states in the United States but can also be found in any area where igneous rocks and old lava beds are found.
Agate can be identified by holding the stone up to the light. If it is a reddish-brown stone that is semi-translucent with some apparent striping or banding, there’s a high chance that you have your hands on an agate.
How to Tell the Quality of an Agate?
Agate is a relatively low-quality stone that is also inexpensive. Quality in agate is judged by size since larger pieces make it easier to see the patterns in the stone more easily.
Agate that is more colorful or has a stronger pattern is also sold at a higher price than agate that is plainer in color or markings.
TIP: Do all types of agate have some value or do certain agates have characteristics that make them better than the rest? Find out the answer in the article below:
Are Agates Valuable rocks? The True Worth of Agates
Topaz Can Be Found in Western Backyards
Topaz can be found in a wide variety of different colors since it often contains impurities that affect its color.
The most common coloration of topaz is golden brown or yellow topaz, and topaz is often used in fine jewelry. It is especially popular as a less expensive substitute for diamonds.
Where Can You Find Topaz in Your Backyard?
Topaz is the official gemstone of Utah, but it can also be found in many other Western states as well as the following locations:
Topaz is also mined across Asia and central Europe. In contrast to lab-created topaz, natural topaz is often colorless or has a pale, yellow hue similar to citrine.
It is much easier to find topaz embedded in igneous rock or veins than it is to find it on the surface, but they can still be found in your backyard depending on where you live.
How to Tell the Quality of a Topaz?
The color usually dictates the quality and value of a natural topaz, but the rarest and most valuable form of topaz is pink topaz. Pink topaz has recently become popular in jewelry circles. Topaz often gets misidentified as citrine but is considerably more valuable.
Opal Is a Precious Backyard Find
Opal is a precious gemstone best known for its oval shape and smooth appearance. These sparkling stones are opalescent—showing a rainbow iridescence—and may be considered one of the rarest crystals in their purest form. Opals are formed from a combination of silicon dioxide and water.
Where Can You Find Opal in Your Backyard?
Most of the world’s opals are found in Australia, but they can also be found in the United States. Here are some of the states that opal can be found:
Depending on where you are looking for opals, they are one of the easier gemstones to notice when you’re rockhounding in your backyard. They have a bright opalescent look that makes them unique and easier to notice. However, that doesn’t make it necessarily easy to find them if you aren’t in the correct area.
How to Tell the Quality of an Opal?
The highest quality opals are rainbow opals that are capable of reflecting every color within the spectrum, depending on how they’re held to the light.
The flash of colors within the opal should be intense and highly vibrant. Most opals have a cloudy white appearance with shimmering rainbow undertones. The brighter these tones, the better the opal.
TIP: Cutting and polishing opals correctly brings beauty and exceptional color flash. Check out the step-by-step guide on how to cut and polish opals in the article below:
How to Cut & Polish Opals: Follow These 9 Simple Steps
Peridot Gemstones Are a Small Backyard Find
Peridot is a pale yellow-green gemstone that isn’t considered especially rare. However, it’s still enjoyed by collectors for its flashing lime green color that varies between sunlight and artificial light.
It isn’t considered a rare stone, but many still enjoy it for multiple reasons. Peridot is formed in the Earth’s mantle but is pushed up into the Earth’s surface by volcanic activity.
Where Can you Find Peridot in Your Backyard?
Peridot is usually found in small pieces and flakes rather than larger crystals. There are some locations where you might find larger peridot, but small peridots are more common.
These are the most common locations to find peridot in the United States:
Peridots can be difficult to find in the soil because of their small size, so wearing a loupe while examining the soil can help you notice their telltale green sparkle.
How to Tell the Quality of Peridot?
Peridot is judged by its coloration when it comes to quality—the more intense and purer the green color, the better the stone.
A brownish tone in peridot is considered a fault, and this makes the stone lower quality. Yellow-toned peridot is the most common type.
Obsidian Is a Fairly Common Backyard Gemstone
Obsidian has a glass-like texture that is usually black but can sometimes be green or brown. It is created when molten rock cools and creates a smooth stone.
Obsidian was popularly used by primitive people as a tool from its sharp cutting edges and is even still used in modern operating rooms because it is sharper than stainless still and can create a smoother cut.
Where Can You Find Obsidian in Your Backyard?
Obsidian is a relatively easy gemstone to notice in the ground due to its glossy, unnatural-looking surface. Obsidian can be found in a majority of the American West, including the following states:
How to Tell the Quality of Obsidian?
Obsidian is valued by its age rather than its looks since all obsidian has a similar dark glossy black appearance. Obsidian is fragile because of its glass-like texture, so finding older pieces of it can be difficult. The rarest and most valuable forms of obsidian are older than a few million years.
TIP: Using a Dremel is the most versatile way of cutting and polishing your obsidian as it can be used for both parts of the process. Find out more in the article below:
How to Cut & Polish Obsidian: Follow These 7 Simple Steps
Garnet is a Widespread Red Gemstone
Garnet is a deep crimson crystal that is popularly used in jewelry. While red garnets are the most known color, these gemstones also come in several other colors, including pink and yellow.
The name garnet comes from the word granatus, which means “seed-like.” The only color that garnets aren’t found in is the color blue.
Where Can You Find Garnets in Your Backyard?
Garnets can be found in the following American states:
How to Tell the Quality of a Garnet
It is difficult to judge the quality of a garnet just by looking at it since garnets can contain many impurities that dull and darken their colors. Higher quality garnets are those with brighter colors and a more translucent coloration.
TIP: It’s challenging to differentiate between fake and real garnets without gemological equipment. Find out the main differences between real and fake garnets in the article below:
Real vs. Fake Garnet: Focus on These 6 Differences
Tourmaline Is a Rare Backyard Gemstone
Tourmaline is a gemstone that is usually found in black color but can be found in almost any color, too.
These gemstones can also be multi-colored, and they may differ in color depending on the angle you look at them in the light. These semiprecious stones are popular in jewelry like bracelets and necklaces.
Where Can You Find Tourmaline in Your Backyard?
Tourmalines are most commonly found in California and Maine. Tourmalines easily mimic the appearance of many other types of gemstones, so a tourmaline has to be identified by a gemologist to be verified as a tourmaline.
The easiest way to identify a genuine tourmaline if you think you’ve found one in your backyard is by holding it up under artificial light. If the stone doesn’t change colors as you move it, that may be an indication that the stone is genuine tourmaline. However, you’ll still need to confirm this with a professional to be sure.
How to Tell the Quality of Tourmaline
The rarest tourmaline you can find is neon blue or green with copper tones, so the brighter the color of tourmaline, the higher the quality. The larger stones are more expensive, as is true with most gemstones.
The price of tourmaline can vary greatly, with some types being inexpensive and others costing thousands of dollars. High-quality tourmaline is usually only found in Brazil, however.
Malachite is a Semiprecious Gemstone You Can Find in Your Backyard
Malachite is a dark green semiprecious stone that is opaque in color, with rings and spots that form random and beautiful patterns over the surface. It is formed within limestone and is often used to make beads or carvings.
Where Can You Find Malachite in Your Backyard?
Malachite is an extremely common stone and can be found almost anywhere in the world. Here are the places where malachite can be found within the United States:
- New Mexico
How to Tell the Quality of Malachite?
Malachite is a cheap stone that is often bought and sold in bulk. The quality of malachite is generally determined by the vibrancy of its color and how striking its spots and markings are. Since malachite pieces are usually one-of-a-kind, beauty is in the eye of the beholder with this stone.
Turquoise Is a Popular Jewelry Gemstone Found in Backyards
Turquoise is recognized by its vibrant blue-green color with webs of gleaming copper running through.
Natural turquoise will often be seen as a vein in the rock, almost like a river climbing through it. A natural turquoise will have webbing on it.
The best way to identify the turquoise is by running your nail over the rock until it hits the webbing. After that, you will need to consider the hardness of the material.
Where Can You Find Turquoise in Your Backyard?
Turquoise is the state gemstone of New Mexico, but it can be found within many American states. Here are some of the other states turquoise can also be found in:
Turquoise can also be found in many other countries around the world, including Mexico, Egypt, Iran, and China.
How to Tell the Quality of Turquoise
Lander Blue turquoise is considered the highest-quality and rarest form of turquoise. Another turquoise that is considered high quality is any turquoise with an even and intense blue coloring.
Since it has been extensively mined, turquoise has only increased in rarity and is quickly becoming more valuable.
TIP: Turquoise is an extremely valuable gemstone and it is one of the oldest gemstones known to humanity. Find out more about turquoise value in the article below:
3 Key Factors of Turquoise Value: Is It Worth Any Money?
Jade Is an Ancient Gemstone That Can Be Found in Backyards
Jade is a cool green stone that is actually a mixture of nephrite and jadeite. In some cultures, such as China, jade is a prized gemstone and is considered representative of heaven.
For thousands of years, jade has been used for making a variety of religious ornaments, including tools, sculptures, and talismans.
Jade is naturally a matte, dark mint green color. Real jade should feel completely smooth and cold to the touch.
Where Can You Find Jade in Your Backyard?
In the United States, jade is usually found in the northwestern states, particularly the following states:
Outside of the United States, jade can also be found in Russia, China, and Guatemala.
How to Tell the Quality of Jade
Jade is one of the most valuable stones in the world, partially due to widespread demand across China. The highest quality of jade has an intense jade coloration that is known as “Imperial jade.”
TIP: Jade is highly praised for its vivid green color, but sometimes the color is a result of dyeing. Find out how to spot dyed jade in the article below:
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Tell & Identify if Jade is Dyed
What Other Cool Artifacts Can I Find in My Backyard Other Than Gemstones?
Gemstones aren’t the only treasure to find if you’re a rockhound looking around in your backyard. There are many other things you can potentially find, including the following:
Several kinds of fossils can be uncovered in your backyard, from shark teeth to trilobites to stone imprints of animal tracks or plant leaves. While they aren’t a gemstone, a home-caught fossil can be a great addition to any rockhound’s collection.
- Arrowheads and other native artifacts
Another treasure you might find depending on your geographical location is flint or obsidian arrowheads, pottery shards, and other native artifacts.
Even if you don’t manage to find any gemstones while you’re searching your backyard, you can still find some really neat things while you’re digging.
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)
What Supplies Do You Need to Find Gemstones in Your Backyard?
If you’re going looking for gemstones and other interesting rocks in your backyard, there are only a few pieces of equipment you’ll need to get started:
A full-sized shovel is needed to get down deep enough into the topsoil that you have a decent chance of finding gemstones.
A trowel is useful for finer digging work and can be used to define the edges of a hole or pry a larger rock out of the topsoil without damaging it.
A mining pan and a bowl of water
For sifting through rocky topsoil quickly, rolling loose gravel around in a mining pan and rinsing it with water can help reveal gemstones hidden among the gravel.
A soft microfiber cloth
A microfiber cloth can be used to gently brush dirt and grit away from a rock so that it can be examined more closely and identified.
A plastic container
An opaque plastic bucket or another container can be used to put keeper rocks in so they can be kept separate from throwaways with less risk of being lost in the grass. White is a good color to use since the stones show up sharply in contrast, making them easier to find and pick out.
Once you have this simple set of tools, you’re ready to get started looking for some gemstones in your backyard.
TIP: We have all been there: realizing you are missing something not more than 5 minutes after you have embarked on a mineral hunt. Check out the complete guide on all tools you need for rockhounding:
The Complete Guide: All Tools You Need for Rockhounding
Where Else Can I Find Gemstones Other Than My Backyard?
While you can find some gemstone types in your backyard or even on your walk around the block, there are several other locations you can also find them.
These tend to be the more popular means of hunting gemstones because they’re a lot easier than finding them randomly in the yard.
The first thing to consider before choosing a method of seeking gemstones is to figure out what kind of gemstone you’re looking for.
You can’t walk down to the river and expect to find a diamond sitting in it. You might have the chance to find a geode, but these kinds of hunts will require some serious research before going out.
1. Fee Mining
This is a relatively popular method because you can dig in the mine and keep anything you find. Of course, you would need to pay to do so.
You can locate fee mines like this in almost every state in the United States, but the most popular areas for fee mining are on the West Coast, where there is an abundance of natural gemstones.
Fee mining is also a great way to learn how to find gemstones on your own if you’re still a novice since there is typically a guide or other gemology expert on staff to help show you the ropes and what you should be looking for.
2. Opencast Mining
This can also be called open-pit mining. Opencast mining is the most common method of mining because it is a surface mining technique that doesn’t require you to go underground to search.
People will often do this in areas that are no longer in use. A common location for this means of extracting gemstone is through abandoned rock quarries.
3. Oceanside Mining
This isn’t a common location to go to, but like any body of water, it is possible to find precious gemstones in the ocean. One location that is known for underwater gemstones is Jade Cove Trail in Big Sur, California.
There are strict guidelines in these areas to avoid damage to the environment, but if you see a gemstone in view, then you are allowed to take it with you.
4. Mountain Prospecting
Various mountains are well-known for having gemstones in them, and these gemstones can often find their way into mountain creeks and streams where they can prospect.
This option does require some research to find the best locations that may work for the kind of stones or crystals you are trying to find.
Hunting for Gemstones in Your Backyard is Easy
Some gemstones such as quartz can be found almost anywhere in the world, but they can be easy to miss in their natural state. That means many people go around walking with gemstones at their feet without even knowing they are there.
For certain kinds of more uncommon gemstones, you may need to travel to a different location to find them. But if you are willing to take a chance, you can start digging and potentially find rare gemstones right in your own backyard.
TIP: Are you looking for tip on what to buy for your loved passionate rock seekers? Find out the best and not so common tips on gifts for rockhounds in the article below:
13 Best Gifts for Rockhounds You Should Buy