How to Find Valuable Rocks in Your Backyard

When it comes to gemstones, people may think they are only found in far-off lands. Believe it or not, many valuable rocks can potentially be found right in your backyard, and locating these items can be a lot of fun. Read on to find out how to find valuable rocks in your backyard.

10 Gemstones You Can Find in Your Backyard

1. Quartz

Quartz is a mineral found in many places on Earth. It is crystalline and composed of silicon and oxygen. Quartz can generate an electric current when it is compressed or stretched.

Another property of quartz is that it has a very high melting point. This property makes it a good material for use in ovens and kilns. Quartz is also very durable, making it a good choice for use in watches and jewelry.

How To Identify

Quartz has a glassy appearance and is very hard. The crystals will scratch glass and steel. Quartz is usually clear or white, but impurities can create many colors. Look for quartz in sandstone and granite.

Clear quartz crystals also grow inside geodes. 


2. Opal

Opal deposits exist worldwide, but Australia is home to some of the best and most well-known deposits. There are also significant opal deposits in Mexico and the United States. 

Volcanic areas often produce opals. 

How To Identify

If there is opal in the area, it will be shining on broken surfaces. Opals are soft, so they can be scratched with a fingernail. The colors of opal will vary depending on the angle from which you view it.

Break up chunks of dirt and rock. Using a metal tool, striking an opal will sound like hitting glass. 

Precious opal contains the amazing play of colors you may associate with opal, but common opal does not. 


3. Tourmaline

Tourmaline is a popular gemstone frequently used in jewelry design. It is black or brown if it contains mostly iron, and brown or yellow if it contains mostly magnesium. Tourmaline crystals containing lithium can be any color. 

Emerald Hollow Mine in North Carolina contains tourmaline deposits. This is the only public emerald mine in North America. 

How To Identify

You can find tourmaline as pebble-sized pieces near streams. Tourmaline often has rounded edges and triangular sections. Look for long flat faces and thin lines (striations) on the gem’s surface.


4. Agate

Agate is a variety of quartz, consisting of tiny crystals that are difficult to see with the naked eye. It exists in various colors, often banded together in stripes or swirls.

Agate forms when groundwater accumulates in rocks over thousands of years. This creates the banding that identifies agates.  

How To Identify

Look for rocks with pit marks. Agates form in igneous rocks where a softer rock has eroded and left pits. Agates feel waxy and the crystals do not fracture cleanly.


5. Obsidian

Obsidian is a type of rock formed when lava cools very quickly. It is very smooth and sharp. 

Obsidian was often used to make knives and other tools. You can also use it to make jewelry and other decorations. 

Obsidian deposits exist worldwide, and people have used them for thousands of years.

How To Identify

Obsidian is usually black, but impurities can lead to red, brown, or off-white colors. Look for tiny gas bubbles within the rock to assist with identification.


6. Jade

Jade is a mineral found in different colors, including green, white, and black. Artists use jade crystals to make jewelry and other decorative items because of their beautiful color and durability.

How To Identify

The best way to find a jade specimen is to look for rocks exposed by erosion. This eroded area could be along riverbanks, hilltops, or other places where the ground has been disturbed.

Once you’ve found a potential jade-bearing rock, take a closer look at it to see if any of the surfaces are shiny. If they are, that’s a good sign that the rock contains jade.


7. Garnet

Garnet is a gemstone used in jewelry and other decorative items for centuries. It is most commonly red and appears in shades of orange, yellow, green, purple, brown, black, and pink.

North Carolina is known for producing beautiful garnets that are so dark red they appear almost black. 

How To Identify

Look for areas with weathered rock. You can find garnet in metamorphic rocks subjected to high temperatures and pressures. This pressure can cause the stone to break down and weather over time, making it easier to find garnet.

Search in areas with a lot of iron. Iron is a significant component of garnet, so you’re more likely to find it in areas with a lot of iron-rich rock.


8. Topaz

Topaz is a hard gemstone, usually white or clear, but impurities can create various colors.

Blue topaz is the most popular and rarest color. Irradiation and heat treatments make an artificial blue hue.

Topaz crystals form in rock fractures where fluorine is present

How To Identify

Topaz is found in igneous rocks and is often mistaken for quartz crystal. Topaz electrifies quickly, attracting particles if you rub it with wool. 

Topaz crystals fluoresce, meaning they glow under UV light. Quartz does not have this property.


9. Amethysts

Amethysts exist in areas with a lot of geologic activity. Amethyst is usually not on the surface, so get ready to dig.

Mines are an excellent place to search. You can find amethysts in many different colors, but the most common color is purple.

Diamonds State Park in Arkansas allows public mining, and people find amethysts in this area. 

How To Identify

Look for geodes. These are hollow rocks containing crystals that form in volcanic rock. Geodes form in air pockets inside rocks. Break open the geode to expose the amethyst.

You can identify amethyst by different shades of the same color in a crystal.


10. Turquoise

Turquoise is a beautiful, blue-green gemstone. It is a relatively rare stone found in only a few dry climates worldwide.

The blue hue in turquoise is from copper. The green hue is from iron. 

Turquoise is often used in jewelry and is considered a precious gemstone. It is also used in various other ways, such as in art, decoration, and even as a currency.

How To Identify

You can locate turquoise in nodules. It also forms as veins in rocks, or as a layer on top of rocks. The mineral specimen may be opaque.


How To Find Gemstones in Your Backyard

Finding gemstones in your backyard is easy once you know where to look. Next, I will tell you where you’re more likely to find gems, how to identify them quickly, and the best tools for the job.

Tools and Methods

The best place to find them is in nearby creeks and rivers, where gem-bearing rocks have been swept downstream over time.

Other good places to search are in rocky areas, such as hillsides or mountain ranges. You can also find gemstones along coastlines, where erosion has exposed them.

To identify gemstones, you’ll need to look for rocks that are shiny and smooth. These are typically the ones that have been worn down the most by water and wind. 

Once you’ve found a potential gemstone, take a closer look at it to see if you got lucky.

One of the easiest ways to find gemstones is using a metal detector. The detector will not find the stones, but it can locate indicator materials (magnetite, olivine) that frequently deposit with gemstones.

A cheaper method is to use a panning kit for under $50. Panning kits come with a small shovel, a gold pan, and a snuffer bottle.

You should bring a shovel and a trowel on your search. I like to use a specialized digging shovel, and gloves and comfortable clothes are a good idea. 

A small pickaxe, a sifter, and a bucket will help you keep everything organized.

When searching for gemstones, it’s essential to be aware of the different rocks and minerals.

Igneous rocks such as granite are usually good sources of gemstones.

Metamorphic rocks, such as marble and quartzite, can also contain gems.

Sedimentary rocks, such as shale and limestone, are less likely to have gems, but they can still be worth examining.


What Kind of Rocks Can You Find in Your Backyard?

The types of rocks located in your backyard depend on the geology of your area. In general, you can discover igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks in backyards across the country.

  • Igneous rocks have formed from solidified lava or magma. They contain quartz, amethyst, garnet, agate, tourmaline, obsidian, and topaz.
  • Sedimentary rocks are a combination of other stones compressed over time. These rocks contain opal, turquoise, and quartz.
  • Metamorphic rocks are pre-existing rocks changed by heat or pressure and contain jade, agate, tourmaline, and turquoise.


Final Thoughts

If you live in the right area, you can find many valuable rocks, gemstones, and crystals in your backyard. With a bit of knowledge and some essential tools, you can start your collection of these beautiful items.

If you don’t have any luck finding them on your own, find a rock shop and buy some cool rocks. Get out there and start digging!


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