Rockhounding Tips

Helpful Rockhounding Tips

Add bead to center of wire and twist. Add more beads.
Twist beads on each wire branch.
Twist below branch to make tree limb.
Add second branch to limb.
Twist beads onto second branch. Twist below branches.
Make several limbs. Always end limb with twists below branch.
Combine several limbs to make bigger limbs.

Click picture to the left to view larger images and click arrows to see a step by step slide show of how to make this gemtree.


  • To polish jade, finish sanding with wet 600 cloth, then apply #1200 metal lapping compound (from an auto supply store) to the outer 1" of a leather lap and work the stone on it. This produces a dull polish which can be quickly brought to a high gloss with tin or cerium oxide. This method is good for tiger eye, aventurine, and all but soft stones.

  • Spic and Span has oxalic acid in it. It is an excellent source for the final polish of tumbled stones. Use one cup of Spic and Span for each six pounds of stones. (Not suggested for calcite-based stones or other soft stones. Test on your stones before using.)

  • PERIDOT - Grind on 260; pre-polish on 1,200. Polish with Linde A on a tin lap or a typemetal lap. If trouble is encountered in polishing, try reversing the direction of the lap on the stone. If your machine does not have a reverse, then simply put the stone on the other side of the lap. This essentially reverses the side of the stone the lap is coming from.

  • To remove fingerprints from polished stones, use eyeglass cleaning tissues treated with silicone.

  • Toothpaste with fluorite penetrates stone, ceramics, brick, and terra cotta and flushes the dirt to the surface, where it can be rinsed off with water. It was used to restore Etruscan vases by New York's most famous arts and antique restorer, Sigmund Rothschild.

  • To clean desert roses: Immerse in a solution of "Axion" for about 12 hours. Brush lightly, rinse in clear water. It is the safest, easiest method.

  • Many professionals use ultrasonic cleaners and like them. In case you aren't aware, some stones shouldn't be cleaned in them. including opal, malachite, agate, lapis, pearls, topaz, turquoise, coral, mother-of-pearl, tourmaline, and emerald.

  • To clean fluorite, do not wash in hot or even warm water. The luster will vanish and be gone forever. It can be placed into muriatic acid to remove calcite, then washed in cold water.

  • Clean pyrite with dupont #7 radiator cleaner at 1 Tablespoon per quart water. Rinse with silute ammonia and then clean water. This oxalic acid based product will also clean quartz and other silicas.

  • Remove algae and lichen from your specimens with a soak in ammonia and water.
  • SEE INSIDE STONES -  See inside stones before faceting by immersing them in oil of cinnamon or oil of cassia. These are sold in most drug stores. Their refractive index is near that of most gemstones, so surface irregularities of the stones will vanish and you can see flaws and inclusions.

            A good place to keep saw blades for silver smithing is in a used, transparent "Bic" ballpoint pen. Birdie

            Nichols of Chagrin Falls, OH, removes the used pen filler by grasping the metal tip with pliers. The empty

            pen will hold a package of 12 saw blades which can be kept clean by replacing the plastic cap. A label

            marker will help identify which size blade is stored. Small drills can also be stored this way.

  • RECLAIM CUTTING OIL - To reclaim cutting oil pour old oil in half gallon milk cartons and add a small amount of water. Let the sludge settle for a few days. Put the cartons in the freezer (if your wife will let you). The water will freeze and the oil will rise to the top. All you have to do is pour it off.

            For field tripping in areas with no water, carry a can of shaving cream, push-button type, for cleaning

            hands. A squirt, a washing motion of the hands, then wipe off. Presto! Clean hands!


            We recommend sawing about 10 degrees away from directly parallel to the grain. This way, when you

            dome the stone, you will get a bullseye effect. Malachite is a fairly soft stone, so try to leave the slabs a

            little thicker than other materials. When grinding, we recommend always wear a breathing mask.

            Malachite can be toxic and can make you very ill. After grinding sand first on a new 600 sanding belt, then

            finish sanding on a very worn out 600. Finally, for polishing, we recommend ZAM on hard felt. Give the

            stone a little extra time and the polish will keep coming up better.


           When sawing geodes, look for the largest dome on the specimen. This dome was in an upright position

            while it was formed. Saw through the largest dome and it is likely you will get the best picture. If the

            specimen is elongated or egg-shaped, saw lengthwise to obtain the best exposure. While there is no certain

            means to determine the interior of an agate nodule, or geode, these ideas are likely to be beneficial.


            Fire Agate is actually a chalcedony with a layer of iridescent limonite which is trapped between the layers of

            chalcedony. The layer is so thin that it is sometimes less in thickness than a breath upon a window pane. The

            deposition of limonite is such that a dense spot is where the best colors are usually dominant. This form of

            "fire agate" is usually botryoidal. Work with caution!

  1.     Study the stone carefully before sawing or grinding.
  2.     Grind slowly on a 100 grit wheel, wetting the stone often and examining to see that the "fire" is still there.
  3.     Do the same thing on a finer wheel until satisfied that the "fire" is coming to the surface.
  4.     Start sanding, checking the stone periodically to see that you have not sanded the "fire" away.
  5.     Keep the stone wet at all times.
  6.     When satisfied that you have the "fire" on top of the cabochon surface, finish on a leather buff with tin oxide.

           When you get too much solder on a spot when making silver jewelry, and try to file it off, the process takes

            quite a while. To get rid of the excess solder without filing, take a narrow strip of silver 1/8 inch wide by

            3/4 inch long and cut a slit in one end. Heat the piece with excess solder on it and touch the cut strip to the

            excess solder, which will flow up the cut.

           Anyone who works with flat silver in making jewelry will soon realize that sooner or later every scratch in

           metal has to be removed. Common transparent contact paper, the sticky kind with removable backing paper

           is the answer. Place it on each side of the silver sheet for protection. Moreover, it accepts and holds india

           ink pen lines and will not pull loose when you are sawing through it and the silver.


            Never sleep in a freshly cleaned sleeping bag. The carbon tetrachloride used in the cleaning process can

            put you to sleep permanently!   When you have a sleeping bag cleaned, air it well before using.


            Using a stick or eye dropper to drop some weak hydrochloric acid on a scrap piece of calcite, watch what

            happens. The hydrogen ion in the acid causes the carbonate to become unstable and breaks apart the

            carbon and oxygen molecules and combines with the hydrogen to become carbonated water. The "fizz" is

            a good identification factor for carbonate rocks.


  •     Diamonds, emeralds, rubies and topaz are formed from molten rocks.
  •     Amethyst, turquoise, opal and quartz are formed from ground water evaporation.
  •     Staurolite and garnet are formed by metamorphic re-crystallization.
  •     Jade is the most durable gemstone.
  •     Amber, pearl, opal and turquoise scratch easily. Use care when wearing.

              These tips are just a small sample of the knowledge available through the collective membership of the

              club! There's no faster way for you to boost your rock-hounding interest to the next level than through

              joining the SARM!

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