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Expert Tips on Labeling & Organizing Your Rock Collection

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Every mineral enthusiast gathers minerals and rocks on their travels and field trips. As the number of stones grows, the question of what to do with them becomes more pressing. The most common response to this question is to organize your rock collection. Creating a collection will transform your ordinary stones into an invaluable source of information for other mineral enthusiasts.

To start building your rock collection, you need very little – a certain number of rocks and minerals, information about these species (which we will discuss later), and knowledge of how to do it most appropriately.

This publication will help you gain the necessary knowledge to organize your rock collection properly. We will consider how beginners can organize their specimens into a collection and how to do it correctly. And for those with experience in mineral collecting, we will examine the nuances and subtleties of the collection organization process.

Labeling & Organizing Your Rock Collection
Labeling & Organizing Your Rock Collection, Photo by O. Rybnikova

If you want to check out the best rock and mineral identification books, you can find them here (Amazon link).

What Do You Need at the Beginning of Creating a Collection?

In the beginning, besides the specimens themselves, you must know where they were found (the so-called location data) and what minerals or rocks they are.

Collectors gather specimens for their collections in various ways. Many specimens are found by collectors themselves, going on field trips to search for rocks. Some specimens are purchased during travel to different countries, at exhibitions, or online.

However, in any case, each specimen should have a reference to the place where it was found. This initial condition is necessary for a mineral to become a collectible specimen.

If a collector found a specimen by himself during an expedition, he should record the data about the place of discovery in his field notebook.

The date of the trip, the locality, the number and kinds of rocks and minerals collected, and other relevant information should be written in the field notebook. 

If a collector buys specimens somewhere, he or she should find out from the seller where the mineral was found.

In this case, recording information about the purchased stone in a notebook is also recommended to not rely solely on memory. Specifically, it is worth noting where the stone was found and when and for what price it was purchased.

Next, it is crucial to identify the stone correctly. An experienced collector can identify most minerals independently, but a novice should seek help from more experienced colleagues.

Now, let’s move on to creating a collection. Suppose you have several dozen identified specimens with ties to where they were found. Next, you need to prepare the samples.

TIP: If you are new to rock and mineral collecting, check out the ultimate guide on starting rock collecting in the article below:
How to Start Rock Collecting? Complete Guide for Beginners

How to Prepare Samples for Storage?

If you bought a mineral in processed form, it usually does not need to be prepared. But it must be designed if you find a stone during a field trip. 

Preparation of samples for storage includes cleaning samples from dirt, removing oxide films (if necessary), and trimming excess sample matrices. Please note that specimens should be prepared for storage in the collection as early as possible after the field trip.

After preparing the samples, you can distribute them in boxes or display cases.

How do you properly store mineral and rock samples?

How to Properly Store Mineral and Rock Samples?
How do you properly store mineral and rock samples? Photo by O. Rybnikova

There are generally two common ways to store a collection at home – in boxes and in a display case.

However, in any case, the collection should be stored in a way that allows minerals to be preserved for a long time without changing or deteriorating, that it is safe for the inhabitants of the room where the minerals are stored, and that is easy and quick to find the right mineral if necessary.

When you are just starting to collect and have not accumulated many specimens yet (up to 10 specimens), you can buy a small shelf or rack and display the samples similarly to how they are displayed at gem shows.

However, your specimens will increase over time, and this storage method will no longer suit you. Typically, collectors then move on to storing their specimens in boxes.

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):

How to Store Rock and Mineral Samples in Boxes?

Example of Properly Storing Rock and Mineral Samples in Boxes
Example of Properly Storing Rock and Mineral Samples in Boxes

In this case, the primary function of boxes is to protect your specimens from dust and the influence of the external environment. It is best to use transparent plastic boxes for this purpose. There is a vast number of types of such boxes available today.

If you have just started collecting specimens, you can buy regular plastic food containers or plastic boxes for fishing gear. Special plastic boxes are also available for mineral collecting, so you can purchase them immediately.

However, no matter what type of storage boxes you choose, there are several rules for proper mineral storage:

  1. Each mineral should be stored separately from others (in a separate box if the mineral is large or in a separate compartment within a shared box if the mineral is small) – this is necessary so that the minerals do not damage each other during transportation.
  1. Use ink-free paper or bubble wrap to wrap the specimens before storing them in boxes to prevent scratches and damage.
  1. Each sample size should be matched with an appropriately sized box or compartment in the box. A small sample should not be stored in a large box.
  1. Each mineral should be stored with a label (labels will be discussed later in the article).
  1. If more than one sample is stored in the same box, label the box with the samples’ names and numbers. This lets you quickly see which samples are in the box without opening them.
  1. Keep the specimens away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
  1. Avoid storing the specimens in areas with strong chemical odors. 
  1. Boxes with samples should not be stored where there are significant fluctuations in the ambient temperature. Under such conditions, fragile, layered, and shale-like samples will quickly deteriorate.

These are the basic rules for storing samples. However, some minerals require special storage conditions.

Special storage rules for certain types of minerals

  1. Opal, a natural material, should be stored in a water environment because it contains free water molecules. Otherwise, opal specimens will gradually lose water, causing opalescence to fade and surface cracks to form.
  1. Amber also dries out in the air and develops small cracks, transforming into “old amber”. It can be stored without water but must be wrapped in cling film. All crystalline hydrates should also be wrapped in cling film because they lose water and degrade over time.
  1.  Radioactive minerals require specific storage conditions. Remember that radioactive minerals can only be stored in a lead box explicitly designed for this purpose, away from people. If such a mineral enters your home and is stored in a standard plastic box, you risk developing Acute Radiation Syndrome. Don’t take it lightly! You can determine the radioactivity of your samples by purchasing a radiation detector, which is available for purchase.
  1. Bacteria that feed on pyrite can destroy samples containing this mineral. If such a sample is placed in a box with other pyrite-containing samples, the bacteria will multiply and destroy all of the pyrite samples within 2-3 years. The characteristic smell of hydrogen sulfide can be used to identify the bacteria that produce it. If you suspect any of your samples contain these bacteria, do not place them with the rest.

How to Properly Store Mineral Specimens in Display Cases?

Example of Properly Storing Mineral Specimens in Display Cases
Example of Properly Storing Mineral Specimens in Display Cases

Sooner or later, every collector begins to ask themselves, what’s the point of having a collection if it’s just sitting in boxes and no one can see it? A collection becomes useful when other mineral enthusiasts can admire it.

That’s why collectors often create shelves and displays of minerals in their homes and sometimes even private mineral museums. Properly storing mineral specimens in display cases is important to ensure their longevity and to showcase their beauty. 

Here are some tips on how to store mineral specimens in display cases:

  1. Keep the specimens away from direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause discoloration and fading of the minerals. It is best to keep the display case away from windows or use UV-protective glass to prevent damage.
  1. Control humidity: Too much humidity can cause damage to minerals, such as rust and decay. On the other hand, too little humidity can cause the minerals to become brittle and crack. Aim for a relative humidity of 40-50%. You can use a humidifier or dehumidifier to control the humidity level.
  1. Use proper lighting: Proper lighting can enhance the beauty of the minerals, but it should not be too strong. Avoid using incandescent bulbs as they can generate heat and damage the minerals. Use LED lights with a color temperature of 2700K to 3000K.
  1. Avoid overcrowding: Overcrowding the display case can lead to damage or scratches on the minerals. Make sure there is enough space between each specimen.
  1. Use proper supports: Use appropriate supports to hold the minerals in place and prevent them from rolling or shifting. You can use foam or other soft materials to cushion the minerals.
  1. Keep the display case clean: Regularly clean the display case to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating. Use a soft brush or cloth to clean the minerals and the display case.
  1. Label the samples: Each sample on display must have a label with information about the sample.

Following these guidelines can help ensure that your mineral specimens are appropriately stored and remain in good condition for years.

TIP: Tumbler rocks are a great addition to your rock collection. Find out how the rock tumbler works and how to use it in the article below:
GUIDE: What is Rock Tumbler & How Do Rock Tumblers Work?

How to Properly Sort Mineral and Rock Samples?

There are no strict rules for sorting mineral and rock samples, so each collector can sort their specimens in a way that is convenient for them.

If you start collecting, you can sort your samples by mineral or rock type. For example, you can gather agate samples in one box, corundum samples in another, beryl samples in a third, and so on.

Example of Properly Sorting Mineral and Rock Samples
Example of Properly Sorting Mineral and Rock Samples

If you are dealing with rock samples, you can sort them by rock type, such as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. This will help you group similar rocks and identify their characteristics.

As you become a more experienced collector and your collection grows to include more than a hundred specimens, you can divide your collection into several collections based on the specimens’ common characteristics.

For example, you can sort specimens into distinct boxes based on the countries or deposits where they were found. You can also sort specimens based on specific characteristics of their appearance, chemical composition, or inclusions they contain.

At the professional level of collecting, you will already know where your collection will be used and sort your specimens depending on the purpose of each collection.

For example, if you need to create an educational collection of minerals formed under specific conditions, you will sort only specimens corresponding to those conditions.

TIP: Many of us may have some old rocks collection in our homes, either from when we were kids or perhaps from a few years earlier. But what can we do with it?
What To Do With Old Rock Collection? 3 Simple & Practical Ideas

How to Label Rock Samples Correctly?

Special labels are created to label mineral specimens and store them with each sample.

However, a label can be lost, and a rare specimen may become unidentified and cease to be a collectible specimen. To prevent this, the number of each sample is duplicated directly on the surface of the specimen itself.

Example of Properly Labeled Rock Samples Correctly
Example of Properly Labeled Rock Samples Correctly

How to Create Labels?

Labeling mineral samples correctly is essential to ensure that you can identify them accurately and share information about them with others. Still, there is no set template so that you can improvise. 

Here is an example of what information the label should contain:

  1. Sample number.
  2. Name of mineral or rock.
  3. Chemical formula (optional).
  4. Description of the sample (if the sample consists of several minerals / if the mineral is small in size and found in a rock matrix).
  5. Where the sample was found (deposit name, region, country).
  6. Collection name (Name of the collection owner).

Example of the label:

Sample number№ 141
Name of mineral or rock and chemical formulaSpinel (MgAl2O4)
Description of the sampleRed spinel dipyramid crystal on marble host rock
A place where the sample was foundLuc Yen, Vietnam
Collection nameMr. Wolf collection
Example of Mineral Label

How do you duplicate the sample number on its surface?

It is important to remember a fundamental rule – do not do anything with a collectible sample that can lead to irreversible changes to that sample if you want it to remain a collection material.

That is, do not write on the surface of the sample with a marker that is very difficult to erase, do not cut the sample number on its surface, etc. This can damage the sample!

The most optimal way to label a sample is to attach a sticker and write the sample number on it with a waterproof marker.

Such stickers are usually used in stores to label products. The sticker can be removed if you want to sell or give away the sample.

TIP: It would be great to know as much as possible about your rocks while labeling them. Check out the ultimate guide on identifying rocks at home in the article below:
Identifying Minerals and Rocks at Home (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Create a Database for Your Rock Collection?

A database is a necessary condition for collecting. It will contain all the necessary information about each of your samples. If the label of any sample is lost, you can easily identify it by its collection number simply by finding the sample number in the database.

Modern technologies allow even ordinary computer users to create a database independently. Microsoft Excel is the most common and probably easiest program for this.    

We will give an example of what information can be entered into a database:

  1. Name of mineral or minerals on the specimen.
  2. Number of specimens in the collection.
  3. Location – where the specimen came from in nature.
  4. Chemical Formula.
  5. Where did you acquire the specimen?
  • Purchased from
  • Gift from
  • Self-collected – location as accurate as possible.
  1. Price paid.
  2. Date acquired.
  3. Mineral physical features – hardness, specific gravity, approximate size, etc.
  5. Take a photo of each sample and add them to the database.

We also highly recommend duplicating information from the database to online platforms, such as Excel Online or similar.

By following these steps, you can create a database for your rock collection that will help you keep track of your samples and their information.

BTW: If you are looking for the best UV light for rockhounding, find out my picks below (Amazon links):



Let us briefly remind you of the key steps in organizing your rock collection:

  1. Prepare samples for storage:
  • Clean and wash the samples.
  • Trim any excess material.
  1. Label the samples by creating labels and attaching a serial number to each.
  2. Create a database for your collection.
  3. Determine which samples require special storage conditions and which will be stored in boxes or on a display case.
  4. Sort the samples into boxes based on the most important criteria to you.

Following these steps will result in a high-quality rock collection. We wish you success in your endeavors!


“The World of Minerals: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting” by Walter Schumann.

TIP: Starting a rock collection is a great idea, but where do you get your rocks when you do not want to buy them? Check out the complete guide on starting rockhounding in the article below:
How to Start Rockhounding: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide