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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Montana “Diamonds” Quartz Crystals for Rockhounds!

Dead center in the great wide state of Montana, a deposit of quartz crystals can be found. Typically double terminated, squat crystals with very short c-axis, these come in clear, milky and smoky and available for people of all ages to find!

Photo of Quartz Crystals from Judith Peak Montana

This photo was used in the October 1971 issue of Gems and Minerals Magazine. This shows how they can be confused with actual diamonds, with their form.

There are dozens of locations around the world where quartz “diamonds” are produced. You see, people want diamonds. Marketing has told us how desirable they are, how they signify love. Just wait until the November through March, non-stop jewelry store commercials pushing whatever diamond scheme they have this year on everyone. In 2014 it was those terrible “chocolate diamonds” which are one step above industrial grade. The truth is, there are way more diamonds in the world than there will ever be a need for, so it is an artificial market kept afloat by you and me. With that in mind, a random that has very little knowledge about minerals can pick up a double terminated, squat quartz crystal and think “DIAMOND!”. This gives the name to so many deposits. Cape May New Jersey Diamonds, Herkimer New York Diamonds, Montana Diamonds, Pecos New Mexico Diamonds, Pakistan Diamonds, Tibetan Diamonds…all…quartz. Well, everyone loves quartz crystals, so hey, even if someone was disappointed that they didn’t find diamonds, us rockhounds are happy with what they found!

Montana Diamonds are found about 20 miles from the town of Lewistown Montana, nearly smack dab in the middle of Montana. On the top of Judith Peak, an open area for collecting with hand tools, an abandoned radar installation is located. All of the road construction and removal of trees and overburden for the buildings has uncovered ample ground for searching and rockhounding. At an elevation of 6,386 feet above sea level, an igneous deposit of rhyolite has been pushed up to the surface. The rhyolite cools at different rates, the slowly cooling rock giving more time for the quartz crystals to grow larger. This deposit hit the right notes, leaving a layer of rhyolite that contains these well formed crystals.

Map with Judith Mountain Peak pinpointed

The Judith Mountains are located in Central Montana. Judith Peak is about 20 miles outside of Lewistown.

Satellite map of Judith Peak Quartz Crystal Location

The pinpoint on the map shows Judith Peak and the pin covers up the main collecting area.

Judith Peak

This area is a great place to start prospecting – This is home to an defunct US radar installation.

In the USGS publication Geology and Mineral Resources of the Judith Mountains of Montana By Walter Harvey Weed, Louis Valentine Pirsson it is written about this area in 1898! (This book can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking this link)

Judith Peak itself is composed of quartz-bearing porphyry…The small, angular light colored flakes compose the crest and slopes. Pine trees grow thickly upon it, and in places they have been burned and the porphyry has been reddened or blackened by the fire.
On the north side of the slopes fall away into several steeply descending, half-funnel gulches. The angles of slope of the broken porphyry is extremely steep, and the gulches have almost the aspect of amphitheaters. Farther down the blocks of the broken porphyry naturally becomes larger.
Almost at the summit of Judith Peak, a few hundred yards north-west, the porphyry appears crushed and filled with narrow quartz seams, which are stated to carry low values in gold. Southward from here, although the porphyry is greatly rotted and broken down, it can be seen that there is a gradual increase in the number and size of the quartz phenocrysts until,…these quartzes assume a large size, the phenocrysts being often an inch or more long. The quartz crystals weather out as pebbles, and very perfect specimens may be obtained

Collector at the rhyolite deposit at Judith Peak Montana 1971

In this photo from the 1971 October issue of Gems and Minerals, you can see a collector searching for quartz crystals in the rhyolite.

Well over 100 years of collecting quartz from this location and yet…there is still more to be found! So, if you find yourself in Montana, right about dead center, you’ll be close to some fantastic quartz collecting!

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Collecting Rare Earth Element containing Minerals near Mountain Pass, between Las Vegas and Los Angeles

Mountain Pass is a famous mineral deposit that is found between Baker California and Las Vegas, immediately off the sides of highway 15, making access to the huge deposits of rare earth elements absurdly easy.

However, easy as the deposits are to get to, please don’t think of giant sparkling crystals…or even dull, earthy, single crystals. The diverse mixture of minerals found in the Mountain Pass district occur as frozen crystals in a barite-carbonate deposit. That means, these are just…rocks. Or, rather, solid chunks of minerals, requiring some lapidary work to enjoy the wonderful mineralogy found in this interesting deposit.

The history of the Mountain Pass district is quite interesting, from the original prospecting for silver, gold and sulphides, to the uranium boom in the 1950’s, when it was discovered that much of the belt of rolling hills north and south of the Sulphide Queen mine, which is right on the side of what is now highway 15, contained large amounts of radioactive rocks. While there was no uranium, the rocks are rich in heavy elements of cesium, lanthium, europium and neodymium. Mineralogically, we find a host rock of barium, dolomite and calcite that can have various mixtures of mica, apatite, bastensite, zircon and more. Take a peak at these microscopic drawings of thin slices of rock from Mountain Pass, as found in the USGS report HERE

If you want to read more about the deposit, we suggest these links for more information as to the current production of ore at the only operating REE mine in the USA.

This is not, this is! So, let me tell you how to add a specimen or two of this interesting mineral deposit to your collection!

We can start with MRDS, one of our favorite websites and a prospecting field collector’s best friend. This site lists a vast majority of all claims made for mineral deposits and lays them out in a way that makes prospecting readily accessible to everyone.

We start out by getting close to the area we want to review, in this case, the Mountain Pass district.


Once we have this area outlined, we can request the data, using the button below the map. Personally, I enjoy using it with Google Earth and I will show you how that is done.


By selecting the google earth data output, we are given a page that shows a downloadable link to the data. Clicking the blue link and saving that file will give you a .kml file. If you have Google Earth installed, you simply need to double click this file and google earth will open up, showcasing the X’s and crossed hammers of mine sites as shown on the MRDS map.


From here we can move into the map and start looking at the landscape surrounding the deposit. We can see the Mountain Pass Molybdocorp mining area to the north of highway 15, in addition to that, there are an abundance of X’s South of highway 15.


Clicking on the X’s we can see the prospects, both inactive and active, for REE-Barium, scattered all over the hillside. You can clearly see the outline of the deposit from the borders of the prospects and note that many of these prospects are on the brown/tan outcrops along the mountainside. One simply needs to exit on Baily road and turn South. Several outcrops are readily available immediately off the road with minimal hiking.
There are so many deposits along these well graded dirt roads, one could investigate them all day…or, simply stop here and stretch your legs on a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and pick up a piece of this interesting material.

Close up view of a slabbed specimen of carbonate-barite REE mineralization from the Mountain Pass District.

Close up view of a slabbed specimen of carbonate-barite REE mineralization from the Mountain Pass District.


This photo was taken with a 18 watt Short-Wave UV light, showcasing the carbonate content reaction.

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Some kids grow up to become mineral dealers, some grow up to become geologists – Two views

Two articles online brought an interesting slice of life to kids with rocks and minerals in their pockets and in their minds. Lots of children become interested in rocks and minerals, like any other popular natural science, kids all over have the thoughts of becoming a geologist. Fewer kids have the thoughts of becoming professional dealers of minerals, rocks and fossils. These two articles give a look into two different types of kids, one who became a very successful mineral dealer and another who became a professional geologist.

Rosie Cima did a wonderful write up about mineral dealer Robert Lavinsky, or, Dr. Lavinsky, as we find out in the article found on the Priceonomics website, The Very Model of a Modern Mineral Dealer. In this article we get a picture of Robert Lavinsky, owner of The Arkenstone, from boyhood facination with rocks and minerals, into college, selling minerals became a main focus of his life, trumping his doctorate degree in Molecular Genetics.

This is the type of kid who is mixed with a passion for sales and an equal passion for collecting. Like this bit from the article shows

At some point during the interview, when asked why the market has grown as rapidly as it has, he attributes a lot of it to people realizing that they could own minerals in the first place. Because who wouldn’t want to?

“I can have these amazing, beautiful objects that are tens of millions of years old in my house!” he shouts. He certainly does.

Stibnite specimen, photo from

Stibnite specimen, photo from

On the other hand, we have children who don’t have the same drive for sales. With those kids with rocks in their pockets we have this great guest blog on the AGU blogosphere, this writer, Evelyn Mervine, on her Georneys site, had her mother submit a guest article on what it was like to grow up nurturing a future geologist.
Barbara Mervine has a great viewpoint on raising a young geologist, as you can see in this quote.

Geologists are often born, not made. Shortly after birth, the parents of a born geologist notice something different about their child. Some parents try to interest their young child in other subjects, such as birds or stamp collecting. However, it is best to just give up and accept that your child is different.

Barbara has several words of wisdom, what to expect when raising a future geologist, like this one…

The parent of the geologist dreads the day that the child becomes a teenager and begins learning to drive. That is because now the child’s habit of looking for rocks while in the car becomes looking for rocks while driving a car. Rock cuts on highways are a danger that all parents of geologists should be aware of. For example, Evelyn was once traveling with a group of geologists from MIT when they stopped the van along the side of a major highway. All the geologists piled out to go look at a rock cut. The police man who gave them tickets for illegal stopping on a highway was not impressed with their excuse that millions of years of history was revealed right there before his eyes. He pointed out that hundreds of cars were right there going by at high speeds. Obviously, the police man did not have a brother or sister who was a born geologist.

Both articles are well worth checking out
Rosie Cima’s Priceonomics article The Very Model of a Modern Mineral Dealer —>
Barbara Mervine’s Guest Post on Georneys Blog for AGU The Care and Feeding of a Geologist —>

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