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Every mineral enthusiast collects minerals and rocks during their travels and field trips. Over time, as the number of rocks increases, the question arises of what to do with them. The most common answer to this question is to organize your rock collection. Creating a collection will turn your ordinary stones into a valuable source of information for other mineral lovers.
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.
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 will need to know where the specimens 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.
But 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 to Properly Store Mineral and Rock Samples?
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):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
How to Store 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. There are also special plastic boxes available for mineral collecting, so you can purchase them right away.
However, no matter what type of storage boxes you choose, there are several rules for proper mineral storage:
- 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.
- Use ink-free paper or bubble wrap to wrap the specimens before storing them in boxes to prevent scratches and damage.
- 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.
- Each mineral should be stored with a label (labels will be discussed later in the article).
- 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.
- Keep the specimens away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
- Avoid storing the specimens in areas with strong chemical odors.
- 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. But some minerals require special storage conditions.
Special storage rules for certain types of minerals
- Opal is a natural material that should be stored in a water environment, as it contains free water molecules in its composition. Otherwise, opal specimens will gradually lose water, resulting in a loss of opalescence and the formation of cracks on the surface.
- Amber also dries out over time in the air and develops small cracks, transforming into “old amber”. It can be stored not in the water, but in this case; it should be wrapped in cling film.
- All crystalline hydrates should also be wrapped in cling film, as they lose water and break down over time.
- Radioactive minerals require special storage conditions. Remember that radioactive minerals can only be stored in a particular lead box designed for this purpose, far away from people. If such a mineral enters your home and is stored in a regular plastic box, you risk getting a severe illness – Acute Radiation Syndrome. Don’t take this lightly! You can check the radioactivity of your samples by purchasing a radiation detector, which is available for sale.
- Samples containing the mineral pyrite can be destroyed by bacteria that feed on this mineral. If such a sample is placed in a box with other pyrite-containing samples, the bacteria can multiply and destroy all your pyrite samples within 2-3 years. The characteristic smell of hydrogen sulfide can identify the bacteria they emit. If you suspect that any of your samples have these bacteria, do not, under any circumstances, place them with your other samples.
How to Properly Store 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Avoid overcrowding: Overcrowding the display case can lead to damage or scratches on the minerals. Make sure there is enough space between each specimen.
- 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.
- 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.
- Label the samples: Each sample on display must have a label with information about the sample.
By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your mineral specimens are stored properly and remain in good condition for years.
TIP: Tumbler rocks are a great addition to your rock collection. Find out how to rock tumbler works and how to use them 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.
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 couple of 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?
To label mineral specimens, special labels are created that are stored 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.
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:
- Sample number.
- Name of mineral or rock.
- Chemical formula (optional).
- Description of the sample (if the sample consists of several minerals / if the mineral is small in size and found in a rock matrix).
- Where the sample was found (deposit name, region, country).
- Collection name (Name of the collection owner).
Example of the label:
|Sample number||№ 141|
|Name of mineral or rock and chemical formula||Spinel (MgAl2O4)|
|Description of the sample||Red spinel dipyramid crystal on marble host rock|
|A place where the sample was found||Luc Yen, Vietnam|
|Collection name||Mr. Wolf collection|
How to 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 for labeling 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:
- Name of mineral or minerals on the specimen.
- Number of specimens in the collection.
- Location – where the specimen came from in nature.
- Chemical Formula.
- Where you acquired the specimen?
- Purchased from
- Gift from
- Self-collected – location as accurate as possible.
- Price paid.
- Date acquired.
- Mineral physical features – hardness, specific gravity, approximate size, etc.
- 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.
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- BUDGET OPTION: Karrong Rechargeable 1200 Lumen 395nm UV Flashlight
- OPTION FOR INDOOR USAGE: Prime Upgraded Big Chip 396nm UV
So, in this post, we have discussed how to properly organize a mineral and rock collection from a set of stones.
Let us briefly remind you of the main steps in organizing your rock collection:
- Prepare samples that require storage:
- Clean and wash the samples.
- Trim excess material.
- Label the samples – create labels and attach a serial number to each sample.
- Create a database of your collection.
- Determine which samples require special storage conditions and which ones you will store in boxes or on a display case.
- Sort the samples by boxes according to the criteria that are most important to you.
By following these steps, you will obtain a quality rock collection. We wish you success in your endeavor!
“The World of Minerals: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting” by Walter Schumann.
TIP: Starting a rock collection is a great idea, but where to get your own 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