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Rockhounding is indeed a fantastic use of time and a quite addicting hobby, but you’re here to see if it also can be a source of income. I’m here to tell you that there are people who rockhound for a living, and many more people with careers dealing with rocks, minerals, and crystals, but it isn’t easy so I want to show you some of the opportunities and challenges that characterize this endeavor.
First, identify the route you will use to sell your finds. This can be your own rock shop, home setup, other local rock shops, online as raw finds, mineral, and rock shows, or through shops as homemade pieces. Then, make sure this route is reliable by networking. Then, and only then, research thoroughly and construct efficient searches.
Every step of the process depends on how you are looking to sell your findings. This article is here to help you customize your process depending on your circumstances for finding and selling.
Can you Make Money Selling Rocks?
You can make money and even a career out of selling rocks, but, like many other instances of hobbies-turned-careers, it is not easy and requires some perseverance, a whole lot of know-how, a few secrets, and more than a little luck.
It is my goal to get you started on the know-how track with this article and dive a little deeper into some specific aspects which will be the most crucial to you if you are just starting out.
Before reading the rest of the article, it’s important to decide what kind of money you want to be making by selling rocks. There are three options for you:
- Full-time job
- Side hustle
- A hobby which gives you some spending money
This article will get you started on all three, but it is important to decide now because, as with anything, making money a focus of your endeavors will bring up things like business plans and market research (which may or may not be what you are looking for, but definitely will restrict you in terms of how you find and deal with your rocks and minerals).
This section will explain the basic routes you can take specific to the start of the rockhounding process (finding, identifying, and dealing with raw material). If you are instead interested in polishing, faceting, or creating jewelry with minerals, see the next section.
Full-time Job Opportunities
No doubt you have seen rock shops around your town or other places you have gone. These are businesses like any other which will sometimes have owners and other employees working full time. Such positions usually involve:
- buying entire collections,
- browsing auctions,
- buying from part-time rockhounds,
- or shopping wholesale online.
Being a rock shop owner is of course not all about rocks. You need to keep an inventory targeted to your customers, keep finances, and network with other players in the industry.
If you are more into finding rocks, mining careers are also still around, and owning, operating, and even working in mines are great ways to make money through a rock passion.
Side Hustles and Hobbies
Because most of you probably do not want to start a rock and mineral tycoon in the business world, I will focus on passive income opportunities.
You may just like finding, identifying, or otherwise with rocks and you want a place for them to go, whether because you do not want them to just sit around your flat or because you’d like someone to benefit from them as much as you have while working with them.
Either way, in this case, you have many options and many ways to make a bit of money from your rocks.
If you are a rockhound and you just want to sell your findings raw, there are many people like you. Though, you should be warned that the mineral hunts you’ll partake in may become longer and more logistical. You have a wide variety of options concerning who to sell your findings to and at which stage of the process.
Many rockhounds set up a shop at their homes, advertise, and allow visitors to browse their collection in a display room.
Others decide to hunt just a few types of minerals for a specific set of rock shops. Some will sell tumbled rocks in batches online, and others will sell raw material to middlemen who sell to jewelry companies.
The logistically easiest opportunity is selling to a mineral wholesaler, but those have been quoted to give anywhere from 1-50% of the mineral’s final value – making this not the most profitable affair.
TIP: You can start rockhounding right in your backyard, you can actually find a lot of interesting rocks and minerals there. Check out twelve of the most common rocks on backyards in the article below:
12 Gemstones You Can Find in Your Backyard Right Now
Can you Make Money Gem Hunting?
Gem hunting is similar to hunting rocks in that you will be much less efficient in finding gems than a mining operation, your competitors. Another large barrier is most promising areas are owned by private claims and cannot be dug on. However, you have an advantage: you can find gems in places with smaller deposits or which are inaccessible for mining equipment.
These barriers just mean that if you want to make finding gems a considerable source of income, you need to do large-scale research just like mining companies. While you don’t have mineral pocket searching equipment, you do have an advantage – you don’t need a large-scale operation to be profitable.
Therefore, do your geological research and find smaller places that are legal to search but also have either:
- Stopped operation because of too little material or other costs which don’t apply to you.
- Nearby claims or prospects and geological chance (based on the gem’s formation process) that they occur in an un-claimed area.
Use Mindat and other geological databases to find these areas. If you do your research and find a promising spot, then find some good material there, I encourage you to look into the possibility of claiming the land yourself.
It’s not always an insurmountable cost as it may seem, and if you’re worried about the implications for other rockhounds, there are always ways to allow others to hunt on your property. Don’t underestimate a small bit of property consulting along the way!
How does Buying and Selling Gemstones Make Money?
Many careers in the jewelry industry depend on the concept of buying a gemstone or polished mineral, adding value to it, and selling it for profit. The idea of adding profit to a gemstone can be as simple as sorting the valuable from the cheap and can be as hands-on as cleaning, polishing, or faceting a gem. Indirect jobs such as jewelry designers also add value.
In case you are not an avid rockhound or do not live somewhere where you can easily find rocks, there are also options for you if you prefer to search for gems.
You may also like to tumble, polish, paint, carve stones, or even make, buy, sell, or trade jewelry. These all go into the same category of finished products and money-making opportunities are divided into the same sections as the first.
Full-time Job Opportunities
Gem shops are in fact very rare, but some rock shops are known to sell less raw material and more gemstones, jewelry, and other mineral products.
I am quite sure you have seen such stores in tourist districts of mountain towns. These stores are exciting to own as well but come with the same tasks which are not necessarily related to stones that are required to run a business.
If you are more interested, the jewelry industry is huge and has many different places that involve buying and selling gemstones.
In these cases, your hunting process may take you to auctions or wholesalers, and your skillset should involve endless knowledge of appraising, faceting, setting, or displaying gems.
If this interests, you, take a look at the supply chain of your local or favorite jewelry shop, which is always clearly displayed in their shop or on their website.
TIP: Do you know how to know valuable rock, mineral, or crystal? Check out these 6 crucial signs + related locations with valuable rocks in the article below:
6 Signs That a Rock Is Valuable + Examples & Location Tips
Side Hustles and Hobbies
There are also many rock enthusiasts who buy gems or polished minerals at wholesale price, work with them, and sell end products.
This often entails creativity in creating jewelry or other artistic works from the stones, but can also be extracting gems, appraising a collection and selling the most valuable, and many other things.
If you browse Etsy for a few minutes, you’ll inevitably encounter a few people doing this exact thing. Some buy raw rocks, polish them, and set them into jewelry. Some buy the gems themselves and work with metals to make jewelry out of them.
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 can I Sell my Gemstones for Cash?
If you choose cash from the many selling options, your best bet is to take your appraisal to a local auction house or to a known dealer for buying loose gemstones.
There are several ways to sell gemstones and mineral finds. Though this eventually only happens once you have successfully found something worth selling, you’ll want to at least review your options, if not decide your sales route, before you hunt too much with the intent to sell.
The reason for this is that many buyers will not buy just anything, so it would be a shame to find a fantastic gemstone but not have anyone around to pay you the real price for it.
Once you find the sales avenue options you have and their preferences, you should start to make some relationships with appraisers.
Gemology is a complicated science and involves years of schooling to get to the point where you can deduce a gemstone’s real value, and even more, expertise to be able to write a universal appraisal report.
A gemstone that you have found that you think even could be a valuable piece, you should at least run it by an appraiser, so it is good to have this relationship beforehand.
Remember that once you have your appraisal, you might not get the full value of the gem even if you sell it to a buyer who values the type of gem you are selling.
The reason for this is that you’ve chosen the avenue of cash. Usually, when a jeweler buys a gemstone, they buy through a wholesaler with whom they have an established relationship, allowing them to break the price into different payments and choose the time they buy.
With cash, the jeweler is afforded none of these freedoms. In the end, gemstones are extremely complicated and if you try to rush the process for fast cash, you may end up throwing away a lot of money.
Be patient, go through the normal routes, and invest in a bit of education yourself so you can recognize the value of a gemstone and a deal.
TIP: Are you just a rockhound beginner who wants to start a business by selling rocks? Don’t worry, check out this ultimate guide with basics about rockhounding and start becoming a PRO!
How to Start Rockhounding: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Where to Sell Rocks Online
There are many places to sell rocks online and the correct place will depend on what you have, how much, and in what condition. For large quantities of raw minerals, look at e-rocks, cashforrocks, or other reputable wholesale sites. For unique specimens, try gemrockauctions.
Selling rocks online has the plus of reaching many buyers easily, which raises the chance of getting the true value of your rocks.
However, you will understand that it brings insecurities with not personally interacting with the buyer, and them not personally interacting with you.
You should be especially wary of this when selling more valuable pieces. If you are looking to sell pieces that you have worked on, Etsy is a great platform that you can usually rely on to match you with a buyer, especially for more niche pieces.
TIP: Tumbled rocks can often be sold at a higher price. But what if you don’t own rock tumbler? Then you can try to tumble rocks without rock tumbler following this complete guide:
Can You Tumble Rocks Without a Tumbler? Step-by-Step Guide
Companies that Buy Rocks
If you are looking to sell your collection quickly, you should contact a wholesaler. Rather, if you are looking to sell finds as you acquire them at a smaller scale, I recommend using online or offline platforms to match with private or small commercial buyers.
We already know that wholesalers might charge a high premium for the hassle of sorting and selling your collection, but the convenience may be worth it to you so keep this option in mind.
If you are willing to put a bit more time and effort into selling your rocks, I recommend attending rock and mineral shows, joining societies and clubs, and expanding your network to have a good chance of finding a private buyer.
If you want to find a middle ground between the two, the best option you have is to find local rock shops.
So, now you know the options you have if you want to make a career in the mineral and jewelry industries, and also how to go about making some money as a rockhound.
You know the challenges involved in finding, buying, and selling rocks and gems and have some ideas on how to best overcome them. Good luck in your endeavors!
TIP: Rockhounding in the desert might not seem rewarding at first. However, there are many rocks, minerals, and gemstones that you can find if you know where to look for. Find out more in the article below:
Rockhounding in Desert: How to Find + 5 Best Places in the USA