I love rocks and minerals. I love the science of them and the secrets they tell about the earth and our solar system. I love their beauty and symmetry. I love hunting them and I love buying them. And I enjoy the other people who love them. Rockhounds are always full of stories - localities they've hunted (although maybe not exactly WHERE those are), specimens they've found or seen, and the trials from man, beast or equipment they're endured to collect those specimens.
What's not to love about the whole thing?
My childhood is full of rocks and rock-hunting. Some of my very earliest memories are of going to field-camp with dad, who is a geologist. (Field-camp is sort of like boot-camp for geologists - you go out to the back side of nowhere for 4-10 weeks and make maps, collect samples and put together the geologic story of an area as part of your graduation exercise. It's very demanding, both physically and intellectually. Every geologist will have stories to tell about their field camp experience.) And we would go as a family (and still do!) to every rock-show in a 3 state region to look at the samples, hear the talks, and chat with the people. It was always a delight. Mysteries and wonder, unique beauty, treasures! And nothing was more exciting than a 50 cent grab bag of rocks. Who knew what could be inside? Crystals, fossils, rocks from a volcano, maybe? The thing is? I still feel that delight even when I go to a mineral show today. I've been charmed by the earth. :)
What's a rock show / mineral show??
Rock and mineral shows (or gem and jewelry shows) can be large or small, amateur or professionally run. But they all have several things in common. They always have booths where you can buy rocks, minerals, gems or jewelry. They always have talks and lectures. They are always full of really nice, interesting people. And there are always marvelous treasures on display for you to see. Amateur rock and mineral shows are often smaller and tend to concentrate on self-collected rock and mineral specimens. These shows will have many samples which are low to moderately priced, although some booths will have expensive and rare samples. Professional rock and mineral shows tend to have more booths selling expensive or rare minerals, as well as gems and jewelry, but booths which sell low and moderately-priced items are still common. And in professional gem and jewelry shows, there are only occasional rock and mineral dealers, but you can buy rough gem material, cut gems, and jewelry for all price brackets. All are tremendous fun. And people of any income can walk away with something beautiful at any of these types of shows.
Rock Shows in your area
Lapidary Journal's rock show list
The Tucson Show - the big daddy of them all. In late January and early Feb, the entire town of Tucson becomes one huge gem and mineral show. World-famous.
Colored Stone's Tucson Show Guide - more on the Tucson show.
Rock and mineral shows are often put on by your local mineral club. That's a group of folks who get together (usually once a month) to hear talks about minerals and mineral collecting, learn about jewelry-making, go on mineral or fossil-hunting field trips together, etc. Go visit your local club today! The people are always friendly and visitors are welcome!
List of rock and mineral club locations
Friends of Mineralogy - FM currently has about 600 members, three quarters of whom belong to one of six local chapters: Colorado, Great Basin, Midwest, Pacific NW, Pennsylvania, and Southern California. The remainder are National Members.
American Federation of Mineralogical Societies - composed of 7 regional mineral societies (California, Eastern, Midwest, Northwest, Rocky Mountain, Southcentral, and Southeast), each with local clubs.
California Federation of Mineral Societies - The CFMS includes approximately 150 clubs and societies mostly in California.
Resources and photos
There are so many resources available online for those who would learn about rocks, minerals, geology, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc! I will only put a tiny few here below. I've concentrated here on the hobby of rock-hunting, rather than the science of geology, but the science is fascinating, too!
Bob's rock shop - a long-standing site for rockhounds on the web.
Mineralogical Record - A magazine for the mineralogist and the collector, alike. Lovely photos.
Rocks & Minerals - A magazine for the rock and mineral collector.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) - the science of rocks, minerals, volcanoes and earthquakes.
Smithsonian's gem and mineral collection
John Bett's Minerals - an online mineral store, shown not as a plug for John, but to show some really fantastic mineral specimens. Rocks are beautiful!