Mineral collecting and building a mineral collection is a hobby that opens up a new world for many people. A world of aesthetics, uniqueness and beauty. Unlike many other hobbies, which are fuelled by a passion for collecting, mineral collectors have to face the advantage and, at the same time, the disadvantage of a truly unique and inimitable collection. But why should this be a disadvantage? Many people don’t understand this until the moment they come across a shovel that is beautiful and perfect in their eyes, but is already in someone else’s collection. And no matter how much they like that mineral, it is impossible to get an identical one, you can find or buy a similar one, almost identical, but the two will never be the same. Because, unlike stamps, coins and many other things that people collect, every mineral is unique and unrepeatable, because it is a natural formation, not man-made, but an eternal beauty created by nature, to which we are bound by a primeval attraction, like fire. It is no coincidence that even small children love pebbles and play with them.
It is important to note that mineral collecting in this article refers to all forms of acquiring minerals, including buying, collecting in the field and bartering.
If one is starting out in mineral collecting, it is important to learn some basic things that can greatly help in the collecting process, and can prevent one from making some of the bad decisions that many beginners and experienced collectors make from time to time.
- If you have the chance, do what makes you happy! This statement is true for many things in life, including mineral collecting. If you want to build up your collection so that it only contains minerals that you have mined and collected yourself in the field, then do so, and if you have the opportunity, do your research, find out where there are mines or sites in your area or within your reach where you can go and try your luck. However, be aware that such collecting is hard work and often does not yield the expected results. But when you do find a really good one, it can be one of the most joyful moments of your life. However, if you feel that you are not in the mood to go to the effort and sweat of collecting the specimens you want, and you want to get minerals that cannot be mined in the area you are in, be prepared to pay the price for the mineral you want. Mineral fairs are a very good place to start if you want to increase your collection in this way.
What else does the expression “Do what makes you happy” mean? Well, a good example is that if you like a mineral and you are happy with it, do your best to add it to your collection! Of course, that doesn’t mean spending our money unwisely or risking our health and safety in a mine or on a rock face. Whatever we collect, let it be done sensibly and with discretion!
2. Gain knowledge! While enthusiasm is one of the most important factors in any hobby, a thorough knowledge of the subject can help you a lot and, as well as broadening your view of the world, can also greatly advance the collecting process. The importance of knowledge applies to virtually every aspect of the hobby. For example: it can be very important to know all the factors that can affect the price of a mineral. These include: the aesthetic appearance of the mineral, its rarity, its integrity or damage, where it was found, its appearance, the translucency or colour of the crystals, and many other factors. A very good example of this is zoisite, which is most often a green-coloured, bulk-appearing opaque (not at all transparent or translucent) mineral, and is known to many collectors only because it often forms the bedrock of Tanzanian rubies. The price of zoisite is generally quite low, and it is not widely sold as a mineral on its own. There is one exception, however: zoisite sometimes forms transparent crystals that can vary in colour from greenish blue to purple and pink. This is another form of the mineral zoisite, but in the jewellery world it is now called tanzanite. However, tanzanite can cost hundreds or even thousands of times the price of bulk zoisite. This is only because of its transparency. But it is not only the factors affecting the price that are important to know. In the light of the minerals we collect and the principles on which they are based, it can be equally important to know the mineral’s structure, composition, physical and chemical properties, where it is found and many other things. For example, it may be important to know that realgar, a beautiful blood-red mineral, is poisonous because it contains arsenic, and that it loses its luster in sunlight, turning yellow, while realgar turns into aura pigment and its value is greatly reduced.
There are many similar important and interesting things to learn about minerals. In fact, there is so much knowledge available to us on this subject that many people may be frightened that they might need to know all this to collect it. But this assumption is completely unfounded. The majority of people start collecting without any idea of what they are doing, and learn as they go. What is really important: if possible, always learn something new! In today’s world, thanks to the internet, this is much easier to do than in the 90s or even the early 2000s. There are many websites and online forums where we can find out what we are interested in, or even ask questions directly to professionals with a solid knowledge of the subject.
Some examples of websites, forums and groups:
Mindat – https://www.mindat.org/
Webminerals – https://www.webmineral.com/
Minerals FB. group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1660872350885921
The MinDat.org community FB. group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/28155
3. Decide where you want to go! Almost everyone starts collecting minerals because they like a stone, and the desire to own it makes you want to get it. Very often, one of the basic motives for collecting is one’s innate desire to possess. Sometimes we may feel that we want to own all the stones we like. Unfortunately, this is impossible, as both our financial resources and the space we have to collect are limited. It can therefore be helpful to decide as soon as possible what we want to collect and how. Some collectors are interested only in the aesthetic value of a mineral, others collect only a particular mineral. Some people collect by locality, or collect only the minerals of a locality, others sort their collections by colour and try to obtain new stones accordingly, and others try to obtain specimens of all known minerals in a systematic way, according to the mineral system; there are collectors who collect by name and are only interested in minerals with unpronounceable or funny names, and there are collectors of a certain mineral group or even just specimens of a single mineral (zeolites, tourmalines, quartz, fluorite, hemimorphite, etc.). ) and many others ignore all the above principles completely and collect only those they find pleasurable at the moment. The hobby can branch out in many directions and, importantly, it is never necessary to be totally committed to any one direction. But it is important to at least try to decide on the principles on which you want to build your collection. This will make the collection much more targeted, cost-effective and economical.
4. Make a budget! This advice may seem strange at first, but building a mineral collection is not cheap. Whether you collect on your own, by going out into the dumps and open spaces of mines, or by buying the stones you are interested in from mineral markets/shops/internet dealers, everything has a cost. We may think that if we collect/mining the mineral ourselves, it is free. But this is not true by any chance. Collecting in the field also has a price. Just look at the cost of getting to the site! If the collection site is not in your immediate vicinity, it can cost a lot of money just to get there. In some cases, if you want to stay longer, you will need to arrange accommodation, which is also an expense. In addition, collecting in the field requires a lot of work and effort. It also costs money for the equipment we use during the collection. And then there is the most unpleasant aspect of field collecting: there is always the chance of finding nothing. At this point, people are divided into two groups. Some people go out into the field not just for a stone, but for the experience of collecting itself. It’s not just the desire to own it that’s important to them, but the knowledge that the stone that goes into their collection is something they found themselves. That feeling is more important to them than anything else. There are, however, collectors for whom the result is important, not the process. In their case, it may not be worth it to go out into the field to collect, as they may end up spending much more on the trip than the value of the mineral they find. If you fall into this category (the majority of mineral collectors), you would be better off trying to get the mineral you want from a dealer. But even when buying minerals, one should be careful not to spend without thinking. Let’s learn what really has value! In mineral collecting, the saying “Sometimes less is more” is often true. Often it is better not to buy a lot of cheap minerals, but to buy one for the same amount, but it should be perfect in every way! This makes it much easier to build a valuable collection. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t buy a good mineral cheaply, but unfortunately you have to be prepared for the fact that really good pieces almost always come at a premium. One of the best ways to budget your costs, whether you are collecting in the field or buying, is perhaps to decide how much you would spend on your collection on a monthly and annual basis. This will make it much easier to decide whether to go to a more remote mine or whether you prefer a closer location. Whether to spend the equivalent of several months’ budget on a single more expensive mineral, or whether to buy several more affordable pieces instead. This way, it is always easier to weigh up what is more important to us and what is still within our budget.
5. Catalogue! When you start collecting and you only have a few minerals in your collection, you may think that you have all the information you need about each mineral in your head. But that can change very quickly. As our collection grows, we need to remember more and more information: mineral names, associations, forms, names of deposits, etc. Strange as it may seem, all this information is an integral part of a collection. Of course, you can build a collection without this data. But many stones without their exact location are worth less than half of what they are worth with the knowledge of their location. At first sight this may seem strange. But over time we can learn that the fact that a stone comes from Transylvania or Bulgaria, Dalnyegorsk or Inner Mongolia, India or Hungary, can mean a price difference of several times the price for stones of the same size and quality. Thanks to today’s technology, it is much easier and more efficient to keep a collector’s catalogue than it was a few years ago. It is no longer necessary to manually write down all the data in a paper notebook. You can keep your catalogue on a computer, tablet or even on your phone. We can number the minerals and write down all the data that might be important to us in the catalogue – under the corresponding serial number. These may include: the name of the mineral, any associate minerals, where it was found, the characteristics of its appearance, any other names the mineral may have, the amount we bought it for, possibly the dealer we bought it from, the exact date we bought it, the mineral’s composition, and much more. A well-structured catalogue allows us to keep up-to-date information about our collection and preserves important data about the minerals.
6. Ensure proper storage for your stones! When we first start collecting, we often don’t realise how much space a collection actually requires. The first 10-20 pieces (depending on size) can fit on a shelf, in a display case or in a half-empty drawer, but when your collection has grown to hundreds or even hundreds of pieces, if you haven’t thought about it before, you are faced with the problem of having to free up space for them. Of course, the amount of space we need is influenced by many factors: the size of the specimens we collect, how we want to store them… Keep them in a display case in front of us at all times, or it is also appropriate to put our stones in drawers and only take them out from time to time to look at them. Smaller minerals can also be boxed individually in plastic boxes made especially for this purpose, this protects the stones and makes them more attractive, but plastic boxes also have a cost. That’s why it’s a good idea to decide at the start of your collecting which direction you want to go in. It is very important that whatever the storage method, we always try to protect our collection from dust as much as possible! Some minerals are almost impossible to clean if they become dusty, while for others dust, if removed incorrectly, can scratch the surface, causing the mineral to lose both its aesthetic appeal and its value.
7. Make connections! One of the greatest joys of a hobby is being able to share it with other people who appreciate it. These are primarily people who are also members of the mineral collecting community. Hundreds of collectors, dealers, experts and enthusiasts make up this community, with whom you can not only share the beauty of your collection and your experiences, but also ask for advice if you are unsure about something; organise mineral collecting tours together, freely exchange minerals or trade them amongst yourselves. One of the essential elements of mineral collecting is that it allows you to be part of a community built around the same or similar interests, where members can honestly appreciate each other’s efforts and achievements.
We will continue our series soon with an article on organising your collections.