Red Jasper and Celestite Geode Specimens found near Hanksville Utah

Every year we look forward to visiting one of the most beautiful places in the world, the San Rafael Swell, a series of sandstone, shale and limestone that has been worn down by erosion by water, air and time.

San Rafael Swell landscape

A group of rain clouds hangs in the air above the dramatic rock formations of the San Rafael Swell

One of the best things is that the collecting locations are fairly close to highway 70, a road we travel every year in order to go back and forth from California to Colorado for the annual Denver Mineral Show, which is taking place as I type this.

For rockhounds and lapidary artists, the bountiful red/yellow jasper found in this area is worth stopping for. The jasper nuggets are found with a bubbly rind, colors caused by iron oxides, accepting a fine polish.

Red and Yellow Jasper with a bubbly rind, found near interstate 70 in central Utah.

Red and Yellow Jasper with a bubbly rind, found near interstate 70 in central Utah.

Bubbly Red Jasper Rind on a Crystal Filled Geode

Bubbly Red Jasper Rind on a Crystal Filled Geode

There are several areas to collect jasper, as you can see on this map, the two main areas are directly south of I-70, both accessible with a standard passenger vehicle. The first location is just north of a dirt road you enter heading West, .7 mile from the exit on route 24. The next location is on a dirt road heading east 4.2 miles from I-70, or 3.5 miles from the first dirt road.

map to jasper locations near hanskville utah

Two Jasper locations off highway 24, just south of interstate 70

The exciting thing to find while out looking for jasper are thin walled geodes with crystals of celestite, calcite and quartz inside. By gently splitting along the cracks in the walls of the geodes, you can find bright blue crystals of celestite, up to 4.5 cm, along with calcite in various forms and colors and druzy quartz, sometimes with an amethystine color.

Celestite Crystals inside a geode of Red Jasper

Celestite Crystals inside a geode of Red Jasper

Thin blades of Calcite forming on the inside of a red jasper geode

Thin blades of Calcite forming on the inside of a red jasper geode

The geodes are created due to the fact that they were originally filled with anhydrite, which then dissolved, mixed along with the marine sediments, giving the proper environment for celestite to form. The celestite in this area used to be mined commercially back when celestite was in demand. Now, there is very little demand for the raw material, which can be sourced very cheaply from sources around the world. The celesite is now mined for mineral specimens, sporadically.

Orange Calcite crystals with Blue Celestite crystals from the Swell

Orange Calcite crystals with Blue Celestite crystals from the Swell

Gray sparkling Quartz in a Jasper Nodule

Gray sparkling Quartz in a Jasper Nodule

When looking for these jasper geodes, you can often tell if there are crystals inside by the weight. Be careful not to shake the geodes violently, as loose crystals can smack into the crystals attached on the matrix. You most certainly do not want to smash these geodes open with a hammer, you can typically find a crack or fissure in the wall and pry it open with a screwdriver.

Utah is a beautiful place. This remote, yet, heavily traveled, area of the world, is a perfect reason to stop and stretch your legs! I hope you enjoy a trip to this area at least once in your life!

Cover of the Rocks and Minerals issue with a very well written article about the Celestite Geodes of The San Rafael Swell.

Cover of the Rocks and Minerals issue with a very well written article about the Celestite Geodes of The San Rafael Swell.

We highly suggest this issue of Rocks & Minerals photographed above. Rocks & Minerals is well worth subscribing to, they are one of the best mineral magazines ever printed.

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Every mineral collector and rockhound should have these books by John Sinkankas

Rockhounding is a great hobby, rewarding and full of adventure. Few people know that to progress in knowledge about this hobby is easy as can be, it just take a little bit of reading and we have the perfect selection of books to talk about today, ones that will give you a full understanding of minerals.

All of these books were written by Captain John Sinkankas, a well noted and respected author who has a way of explaining things that many thousands of people have enjoyed and understood.

The most important thing about this article is the perception of mineral information, versus the reality. Guidebooks like the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks or the handy Smithsonian Handbook, well, they just do not do a good enough job, in our opinion. Sure, they are colorful and glossy, most starting collectors will have one or the other at some point in their life. However, if you have more than just a passing curiosity about rocks and minerals, there is a better way.

Cover of the Book Mineralogy

John Sinkanas’ book “Mineralogy” is our #1 pick for must have mineral books

is the #1 book that we recommend to all mineral enthusiasts. The writer, John Sinkankas, has an easy way of explaining how atoms form crystals, and why the crystals different properties make them look different from each other. It is technical mineralogy explained in a way that most anyone can understand. The book can be treated as a college level book on the subject, yet, can be enjoyed casually with chapters devoted to different topics including over 300 photographs and line drawings, this is the must have book for everyone interested in the subject. You can find this book on Amazon and eBay. It was originally published in the 1960’s, any edition is worth owning. You will find it as a “Used” book, it typically retains value as it is a book that all mineral and rock collectors have loved for decades.
Cover of the book, Gem Cutting: A Lapidary's Manual, by John Sinkankas

Gem Cutting: A Lapidary’s Manual, by John Sinkankas

Gem Cutting: A Lapidary’s Manual
is John Sinkankas’ perfect tome devoted to all the basics of lapidary. The mystery of most every lapidary art is reveled, along with photographs and drawings to guide you to understanding the complete basics of lapidary arts. In the first chapters you are introduced to sawing, grinding, lapping, sanding, and polishing. Rock drilling is a common question, this book gives you the knowledge on that, plus, all the tumbling, cabbing, faceting, sphere-making, carving and engraving and mosaic and in-lay work information, including tools of the trade, tips on techniques and so much more. When I need to know what polish to use when I’m tumbling stones, I look to this book. This has an amazing wealth of information on this subject. The second edition is the edition we suggest and the big paperback edition is a great addition to any library.

Book cover of Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals

Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals is the best book to teach you about mineral collecting

Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals is a perfect primer to understanding where to find rocks. Deposits are explained, how to find them, what is inside of them, and how you can get crystals out of the ground. This book serves as a primer to all topics on the subject of rockhounding. Over 350 pages of quality information, that, if you were to read, would put you in the ranks of the top collectors.

All three of these books are easy to read and understand, teach you the basics and the nuances of each subject are highlighted and explained. To read and understand these three books is to have a near complete general knowledge on this subject of rock and mineral collecting.

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Petrified Wood Near Colorado Springs – Pairing Old Information with New technology!

Rockhounding is a hobby that anyone can pick up, with very little in the way of costs besides time and transportation. Colorado is a wonderland of mountains, forests and rocks. Petrified wood is always fun to find and in many places around Colorado, abundant. Let’s show you a fun way to research locations from old data sources.

Cover of Gems and Minerals, August 1967 with a stone horse on the cover.

Available on eBay, Amazon, and at mineral shows across the nation, old magazines are full of rockhounding information!

By old data sources, we mean, old magazines, books and pamphlets about collecting minerals. Rockhounding was very popular in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, which lead to the production of all sorts of printed material for rockhounds and lapidary enthusiasts. Today, even if rockhounding was nearly as popular as before, the internet is the land of independent media, yet, the information from those sources is so niche, it takes people specialized in transferring that information over to bring it to light, instead of waiting around for others to research and publish, you can take charge and research many things from your computer, using information from sources like this one, The August 1967 edition of “Gems and Minerals”.
article in 1967 Gems and Minerals about collecting Petrified wood in Colorado

Click to see at full size

The article, entitled “Petrified Wood in Eastern Colorado” by Eugene M. Beason, describes a large wash where petrified wood is plentiful. Due to the nature of these alluvial rock deposits, every year new material is churned up by erosion by wind and rain, so if there was ample material in 1967, there would be ample material in 2016. Colorado BLM rules state that you are allowed to collect up to 25 pounds of petrified wood in one day, up to 250 pounds per year and the article states that while many locations in the area have alluvial petrified wood, this location was prone to have more agate replacements in the wood, making it, in some people’s minds, more desirable.

Map from 1967 Petrified Wood in Colorado Article in Gems and Minerals

Original Map to the Petrified Wood Collecting area in the 1967 Gems and Minerals article.

Many things have changed since this article was printed, nearly 50 years later. Instead of the turn being the “Skelly Station”, we can see the map is pointing to “Peyton Highway”, which runs north to go over a mountain pass and turns hard left (west) on “County Road 74/82”, which parallels the wash that is talked about in the article. I do not think there is any need to stop at the farmhouse listed in the article to ask for permission, as the ranch land gave way many years ago to the need for housing, as the populations in nearby Denver and Colorado Springs swelled, so did the growth out into the nearby countryside. 50 years ago there were just cows and a couple windmills, now there are hundreds of houses dotting the landscape. Of course, no sane person would build a house in a wash, so, the wash in the article would look to be still accessible. Using Google Earth, you can see that the wash must be a popular place to ride off road vehicles, as there is access and distinct tire tracks in the wash, as seen from the satellite, so one would imagine that access is open, unless otherwise posted. As a wash is a waterway, access should be public.

map showing petrified wood collecting area north of Peyton Colorado

This map shows the area as shown in the illustrated map above.

As we searched google for information on this location, the terms “Peyton Petrified Wood” were coming up nearly blank. We did find an entry for it on, but it did not show anything directly from this location. Additionally, PeaktoPeak, a well known website for Colorado collecting, has a bit about petrified wood from that general area. Digging through field guides to Colorado, we could not find this location listed, could it have been one of the locations that simply slipped through an information hole, getting a two page article and then just…relegated to maybe popping up in a mention in a local club newsletter. It seems like this would be a good location to check out, in fact, we have a trip scheduled to Denver in the middle of June and we will update you with a first hand report from the location.

map showing the distance between denver and colorado springs and petyon colorado

as you can see, Peyton is not a far drive from Denver or Colorado Springs

Researching where rocks are found is necessary and interesting – don’t neglect to inspect old magazines and field guides from 40, 50, 60 years ago. You never know when a good location has simply fallen through the cracks and is waiting for you to find it and come explore!

Close up of the wash where you can find petrified wood near Peyton Colordado

Close up of the wash where you can find petrified wood near Peyton Colordado

photo from gems and minerals article "Petrified Wood in Eastern Colorado"

“Looking down the wash where the good petrified wood is found. Floowaters that uprooted the tree in the foreground also uncovered new gem material.” – Photo by Eugene M. Beason.

quote talking about how when it rained in 1967, the wash turned over new material.

So, when ever the rain is hard in colorado, new material is unearthed!

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Collecting Peridot in New Mexico – Olivine Bombs at Kilbourne Hole – Find Green Rocks in a Volcano!

One of the more common questions that is asked about where to find specific minerals is…”Where can I find Peridot
With the distinctive green color and hardness that lends itself to faceting, along with being a popular gemstone from antiquity, the gem variety of the common mineral Olivine is often a subject of rockhounds.

Peridot Grains in a Volcanic Bomb of basalt

Peridot Grains in a Volcanic Bomb of basalt – Notice the larger grains on the left side of the photo. These grain are almost large enough to produce a cut stone.

Large, beautifully formed crystals of gem peridot were mined on an island in the Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. These peridot crystals were a staple of the green gems associated with Egyptian royalty. Today, fine crystals of peridot are mined out of Pakistan, but is more to peridot than crystals, there is gem rough! One out of this world example is peridot being found inside meteorites that have landed on earth. These meteorites, when sliced, show the gem quality inside, metallic webs wrapping a dark olive color, which can be cut into gemstones. The other type of peridot to be found is gem rough that forms alongside volcanic eruptions, forming “peridot bombs” or Xenoliths. A xenolith is a fragment of rock that gets caught up in a flow, in this case, chunks of peridot were caught up in the lava erupting from the ground, creating these chunks of black basalt in which lumps of cracked, fragmented peridot can be found. Not every lava flow has peridot, but when they do, they become noted to rockhounds all over the world.

Kilbourne Hole Satellite Overview Map from Google Maps

Kilbourne Hole Satellite Overview Map from Google Maps – Peridot is found all around, best places are to the North East.

One of these lava flows containing peridot, that is open to collecting, is the Kilbourne Hole, located a few dozen miles outside of El Paso Texas, in New Mexico. Just think of that, readers in El Paso, Las Cruces, Western Texas, rejoice, a site for you! For the rest of us, a long drive! Kilbourne Hole is a place where one can explore and discover gem peridot – a trip for those with a AWD or 4×4 vehicle, as this is a sandy area with poor dirt roads. The lava flows that created this area were low erupting, not like what you have in mind in terms of a tall cinder cone, but rather a very wide crater, windswept and buried under millions of tons of sand. To collect here, you can either walk around the areas where chunks of dark black basalt are laying, chipping at them to see if they have peridot inside, or work into the walls of the flow, where you can see the layer with the basalt. It doesn’t always jump out at you!

When you are looking for gem peridot, it is all about size and color. You want clean green and a size large enough to cut away at in order to make a gemstone.

Large Peridot Grain ready to be faceted

Large Peridot Grain ready to be faceted

Two Peridot Lava Bomb Samples and one large grain, ready to be faceted

Two Peridot Lava Bomb Samples and one large grain, ready to be faceted

Google Map Directions to Kilbourne Hole Peridot Location

Google Map Directions to Kilbourne Hole Peridot Location

Close Up of Kilbourne Hole Rim Peridote Location East Side

Close Up of Kilbourne Hole Rim Peridot Location East Side – Notice the two thin dirt roads going around the perimeter of the Lava Crater.

Close up view of Peridot Grains in a Basalt Volcanic Matrix

Close up view of Peridot Grains in a Basalt Volcanic Matrix

Now, if Kilbourne Hole is too far for you to go – Check out our fun Gem Hunt – Gem Rough Mining Kit!
We have 12 gem rough, including Peridot, found in every kit, which featured a brick of hard sand, just add water to the box and then search with the included tweezers through the thick sand for your gems, sort them into the included gem cups and identify them and learn about gemstone mining and identify what you found in our 16 page full color Gems 101 Booklet – Perfect for ages 5 and up, Is it good for a science minded 7 year old? Yes! It is for EVERYONE who wants to play around and find real gemstone crystals. You always get a Herkimer Diamond, a Blue Zircon, Green Peridot and much more – Buy one through this page and get a FREE Peridot Xenolith, just like the ones on this page – Until December 15th –

Gem Hunt - Mine Your Own Gem Rough - Educational Toy Kit

Buy one of these from us before December 15th and get a FREE Peridot Xenolith with your order!

For $34.99 plus $8.99 shipping to USA – You get one of these high quality Gem Hunt kits, a perfect gift idea for almost all ages – Plus a Peridot “Bomb” approx 2 inches in size! Order one now, supplies are limited! Use the button below to order via PayPal or email – re: GemHunt Peridot Order

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Michigan’s State Stone – Fossil Coral called Petoskey Stones and YOU can find one!

Unpolished Petoskey Stone with cm scale - photo by David J. Fred CC

Unpolished Petoskey Stone with cm scale – photo by David J. Fred CC

Take the Petoskey Stone. Don’t worry, hundreds of thousands of these stones have been picked up from the beaches, fields, quarries and roadsides near Michigan’s Traverse Bay. Local tourism welcomes you to take a few home with you fromTraverse City and upwards through the towns of Ames, Elk Rapids, Torch Lake, and up to Charlevoix, where many suggest visiting the beaches in order to find these stone fossils. These stone replaced corals are abundant and often take a fine polish, used for tumbling, cabbing and slabbing. The floral patterns and semi-hard, easy to polish, calcite replacement make this a stone that was sure to bring rock collectors of all walks of life to this area of the world.

This vast area of Michigan was once covered by an ocean full of corals, the Hexagonaria percarinata, among others, which at some point in time were covered up with rock, turning into vast limestone deposits with countless bits of these dead corals well preserved, from millions of years ago. Bring the glaciers into the picture and suddenly the stone corpses of these corals are spread out all over the state, wherever the glacier dragged chunks of this limestone about. People have experienced finding these Petoskey stones all over the state, however, the most popular locations for collecting are on the shores of Lake Michigan, as the frost and rain pushes and pulls the sands and gravels, revealing more each year.

Hexagonaria percarinata close view  - photo by Wilson44691

Hexagonaria percarinata close view – photo by Wilson44691

This rock collecting area is all about exploring. You can find hot spots where the specimens seem to crop up everywhere, you can walk for a half mile and not see a one. Anywhere there is gravel, that is a great place to hunt. There is a world of information about these stones, so many websites, books, articles, parks, dedicated to these funky fossils. This year it was all about the 90ish pound boulder specimen pulled out of Lake Michigan. I personally saw the photo pop up on instagram, then get taken down. The state has a limit of 25 pounds collected at a time! There is a photo of President Obama with one of these stones on his desk. It is the state stone of Michigan and certainly a draw for tourism. So, I highly suggest grabbing a copy of this book, The Complete Guide to Petoskey Stones

Check out the following links below for more information on Petoskey stones and click here or on the banner below to check out Petoskey Stones available for sale on eBay.
The Petoskey Chamber of Commerce has a great website detailing information about Petoskey Stones and where they can be found and purchased, locally, in Michigan!
You can check out our friends at for information on tumbling, polishing and grinding your specimen of Petoskey Stone. That site has great information.
Here is an article about Obama’s very own pet Petoskey Stone
Here is an article about the Petoskey Stone that cause the big news in 2015.

Photo of a  polished Petoskey Stone, Hexagonaria percarinata

Photo of a polished Petoskey Stone, Hexagonaria percarinata – Photo CC

The best thing about hunting Petoskey Stones is the beauty that is Upper Michigan. The beach views of Lake Michigan are said to be breathtaking, the landscape is full of greenery and wild flowers in the spring.

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