Is it possible to find valuable rocks in your backyard? Even if you live in the middle of nowhere? Yes – it is!
Join me on a quick and educational exploration of how to find crystals in your backyard, other precious minerals, rare and common gemstones, or other expensive rocks.
We’ll learn about the following.
- What rock hounding is
- Our four favorite minerals for new rock collectors
- The best way to identify rocks and mineral specimens
- The essential rock-hunting tools you’ll need to start
- Some safety and etiquette considerations to keep in mind
- And some professional rock-hunting tips to enhance your success rates
We’ll also go over must-know details about the most common types of valuable rocks you might find with this engaging hobby.
OK, are you ready to turn up some dirt and see what we can find?
A profitable discovery could be worth thousands of dollars. (And even if you can’t find any minerals or rubies worth cash, it’s still a ton of fun.)
Let’s start digging!
- The Hard Truth about Finding Rocks Worth Money
- What Mineral Gathering Equipment Do You Need?
- Identifying Precious Rocks & Minerals
- Types of Rocks You Can Find In Your Backyard
- Key Takeaways about Finding Rocks Worth Money In Your Backyard
The Hard Truth about Finding Rocks Worth Money
You can find valuable igneous rocks in your backyard or other locations you have permission to rockhound. However, you may also uncover worthless landscaping rocks. That’s what keeps it fun!
However, it’s probably not the wisest thing to bank upon finding a natural mega-stash of rare, valuable gemstones, minerals, and rocks.
(But we can dream. Can’t we? Someday. Someway!)
Also, remember that you can rockhound in plenty of locations besides your yard. Experienced rockhounds conduct public land searches to find new rock-hunting spots.
On that note, you need to be careful as an amateur rockhound to avoid private lands, especially without permission to rockhound.
Some angry private owners will demand that you get prison time for trespassing! Always get permission if you have any doubt concerning the legality of hunting rocks in questionable areas.
(We don’t want any Mr. Burns types releasing the hounds.)
If you’re lucky, you live in the proper location, and you’re diligent about your search, you may very well find some valuable stones. Just try to keep realistic expectations!
What Mineral Gathering Equipment Do You Need?
You won’t need many tools and extraction equipment to begin collecting rocks. I like to use a heavy-duty 5-gallon plastic bucket for storing my gear. And also to carry any nifty-looking minerals and stones that I find. Having proper rock-collecting equipment makes an enormous difference.
Here’s a list of the helpful tools you’ll need besides the bucket:
- Chisels for breaking multi-component rocks apart, extracting crystals, etc.
- A couple of rags for wiping your hands, sweat, and any dazzling mineral specimens that you find
- A gallon jug of water to quench your thirst and wash away dirt from interesting stones
- A pair of rock tweezers with a scoop on one end for picking out small nuggets from the dirt
- Optionally, you can bring a rock streak test kit
Additionally, all diligent rock collectors need a rock hammer to remove mineral specimens or geodes. And for breaking rocks apart. Hammers are the ideal tool for every rockhound!
I like to use 3-pound rock hammers made of one piece of deep-forged steel. The hammer has a rubberized handle grip. It’s heavy, but it’s what a dedicated rockhound needs. Mine’s pointed at one end, and I always keep it extra sharp!
And don’t forget about safety. Get yourself a quality pair of leather gloves and proper safety goggles. Nobody likes having a wild piece of stone blast off of a rock and into their eye!
Ouch – Dangit!
Identifying Precious Rocks & Minerals
So, when you’re out searching for valuable rocks in your backyard, how do you know if you found one?
One way is to keep an identification chart with photos of stones handy, focusing on the area you’re hounding. If you don’t have a rock identification guide like that, there are some other mineral identification tactics to consider, including:
- Streak Testing
- Color Inspection
- Hardness Testing
Let’s take a closer look at these ways to identify an inexpensive stone from a semi-precious stone or other rocks worth money.
Finding valuable rocks is a fun and naturally healthy hobby.
We’re having so much fun here that I can barely stand it!
Color Streak Testing
You can perform a color streak test on a rock you find by scraping it across a piece of unglazed porcelain. The color of the streak that it leaves is telling.
For instance, if you find a real gold nugget and scrape the gold against porcelain, it will leave a yellow streak. And if you were to chafe chalcopyrite on the porcelain, it would create a greenish-black stripe. (Chalcopyrite is a good copper source, by the way.)
Of course, for this test to be of value to you while you’re in your backyard checking out rocks, you would need a chart or an app to help guide you, along with your piece of unglazed porcelain.
Here’s an excellent guide from Geology called The Streak Test for Minerals.
Streak testing might seem ineffective or nonsensical, but you’re trying to figure out the identity of a rock you just dug out of the ground. You have to begin somewhere!
Noting the color of rock can be a helpful, but not conclusive, technique for determining its identity. You’ve probably heard people talking about fool’s gold, which scientists call iron pyrite.
The gold streak it leaves isn’t the same as that left when you streak softer gold against porcelain. With its dull gold color and lackluster gold stripe, it very closely resembles gold, but, like many common opals, it’s certainly not worth as much!
So, while mineral colors are vital for identifying some rocks, like azurite, which has a deep indigo-blue color, it’s not enough to positively ID most other stones.
Many native rocks and minerals have color combinations resulting from various possible impurities. Finding some can be a profitable discovery.
For example, amethyst, a type of quartz, would be transparently clear if it never got infused with small amounts of iron. You can use a mineral catalog to guide you about the possible class of minerals for any given specimen. But you’ll need further testing to make an identification.
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Hardness Testing with the Mohs Scale
Ancient researchers have used hardness to identify metamorphic rocks since roughly 300 BC. German mineralogist and geologist Frederich Mohs made it famous. He developed the Mohs Scale of Hardness as a convenient and dependable way to identify minerals.
According to the US National Parks Service, A mineral’s hardness is a measure of its relative resistance to scratching, measured by scratching the mineral against another substance of known hardness on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Even if you don’t have an official scientific Mohs scale measuring tool, you can use your fingernail, a copper penny, an iron nail, porcelain, and other substances of known hardness to ascertain the relative solidity of the specimen in question.
The Mohs Hardness Scale runs from 1 to 10. One is the softest, and ten is the hardest. For example:
- Talc and gypsum are markedly soft! You can scratch them with your fingernail
- Topaz and quartz can get marked with a masonry drill bit
- You can scratch fluorite and calcite with a copper penny
- No other mineral can scratch a diamond
- Diamonds are the hardest minerals
The Mohs hardness scale method can be employed quickly, anywhere, and is perfect for giving rockhounds and scientists a solid indicator of any specimen they are scrutinizing.
You rockhounds get this stuff quickly!
OK, now for a challenge.
We’re taking you on a quick trip to outer space!
A meteorite discovery in plain sight of your backyard could be worth a lot of money. Meteorites are even rarer than diamonds and gold because they come from out of this world!
Meteorites can end up just about anywhere on the planet, making your backyard as likely as any other outdoor space to find pieces of meteorites!
Is that a piece of space rock in plain sight? Most meteorites don’t look like anything special. They look like lava rocks or something from a melting pot. Like most river rocks, they are not typically colorful rocks.
But don’t be fooled, as they are some of the rarest rocks. They’re not easy to identify unless you’re paying close attention. Look closely! A couple of times. It could be an expensive type of moon rock, and a pound of meteorite material can bring a pretty penny.
Unlike minerals and other stones that originated on Earth, meteorites surround themselves with a crust. The crust forms by the high heat generated as they rip through the Earth’s atmosphere. They are typically a very dark black color. Darker than the other rocks around them.
You can also identify a meteorite by the dimples and fluent lines created while it catapulted to its earthbound destination in a semi-molten state.
Also, some stony meteorites, called chondrites, feature insanely small, multi-colored blobs of iron and nickel. You might be able to spot it on the surface of the space rock with a microscope. And watch out for fake meteorites. You want the expensive type!
OK, enough of this Extraterrestrial Madness!
Next, let’s get into the fun part of what we’re here to learn: the types of valuable rocks that could be in your backyard. And remember, even cheap rocks are fun to find.
Take a deep breath and put on your safety goggles because this shall be a good time!
(And hopefully, a profitable venture. Shiny minerals for everybody! If we’re lucky.)
Types of Rocks You Can Find In Your Backyard
Let’s get to know about some of the most common types of gems and other valuable rocks that you might be able to find on your property, including:
With a little bit of fun in the sun, some digging, some scraping, and some patience, you might find one of these hidden gems. Or you could find another type of valuable mineral or another precious stone. It’s always more about the experience than the possible reward. Enjoy nature and being in touch with the ground!
Let’s start by reviewing some of the characteristics of agate, so you’ll know if you find it in your backyard.
Agate is a classic gemstone. And it has the distinct characteristic of being ever-different, meaning it doesn’t have a predictable or solid coloration. Its appearance comes via complex bands of crystalized mosses that yield an infinitely vibrant range of styles, shades, colors, and hues.
This alluring gemstone exists over massive swaths of our beautiful planet. If you’re looking for rocks worth money in your backyard, keep an eye out for this exquisite stone! You might notice it because of its:
- Portions that feel like wax
- Small, rounded nodules
- Irregular bumps
Agate is the stone you probably have a good chance of finding in your backyard because homesteaders have encountered it nearly everywhere. Of course, that means it’s not as valuable as an extraordinarily expensive mineral like a diamond. However, it’s a fun type of rock to hunt because you’re more likely to succeed.
Nobody likes to hound around for valuable stones and never find any!
Jade is a rock that can sell anywhere from $5 to $3 million for a single carat! There are loads of different varieties. And Imperial Jade is worth the most.
That’s a LOT of price variance! But it doesn’t take away the thrill of finding a valuable stone of any variety or value. Of course, larger pieces of expensive rocks are better!
The cool thing is just experiencing the excitement of making a find. Most rocks I’ve ever found in my home were polished and gifted. I never struck it rich, but I have made a lot of good memories! And the gifts have made a lot of friends a bit happier. (These days, that’s worth something.)
Jade refers to both nephrite and jadeite, both gem materials. In either form, jade comprises tiny interconnecting crystals. They lock tightly together, making jade a very durable substance. Just don’t hound them on private lands without permission from the original owner.
Although Imperial Jade is a deep, rich emerald-green, other jade varieties can be black, brown, grey, lavender, pink, red, or yellow. Further, jade may have streaks with color, which creates an infinite array of intriguing visual possibilities.
Obsidian stones are volcanic rocks created when lava cools rapidly. Because of obsidian’s ability to chip at low pressure and leave behind very sharp edges, it has a long history of demand. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs used it for spear tips, knives, and other tool and weapon-making tasks.
New World Encyclopedia states the following.
“It is sometimes classified as a mineraloid, implying that it is mineral-like but not a true mineral because it is not crystalline. It is generally dark green, brown, or black, but some stones are nearly colorless, and others have interesting patterns and shades of color.”New World Encyclopedia, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Obsidian
While finding precious stones like obsidian in plain sight in your backyard probably won’t make you rich, a fist-sized piece of this molten rock could be worth 30 bucks or more, depending on its unique characteristics and your local market conditions.
In the simplest terms, quartz is a mineral – and crystal, or rock crystal, is a type of quartz.
Wondering how to find quartz crystals in your backyard?
To understand quartz and quartz crystals better, consider the following.
- There are more than ten thousand different minerals
- Some popular mineral types of gems include diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, common opals, and quartz
- All minerals are crystalline, meaning they have specifically ordered internal structures
- Quartz is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust and presents in a variety of colors
- Also called Alaska Diamond, rock crystal is a colorless and transparent type of quartz
Here’s what Sciencing had to say. “Quartz and rock crystal are composed of silicon dioxide and are found as components within many different rocks. There is a wide range of different types of quartz. The different types of elements present in the quartz will determine its characteristics and classification.”
The color of rock can tell you a lot. For instance, if a quartz sample contains a high amount of another mineral, called dumortierite, it will show a pinkish-red color and categorize as Rose Quartz.
They don’t contain enough of a wide variety of trace elements to cause discoloration, which creates translucent crystals.
Quartz is found in many common locations and is always mysterious and beautiful. It cleans up nicely, and I always consider it a gift from Mother Earth. A well-polished chunk of quartz or crystal always makes an unexpected and beloved gift!
Key Takeaways about Finding Rocks Worth Money In Your Backyard
Whether you find a diamond the size of your head worth a billion bucks, a few common opals, other types of gems, a wee-little, pixie-like piece of lava rock that isn’t worth a penny, or any other type of valuable rock or stone in your backyard, it’s vital to enjoy the experience.
Alone or with loved ones, mineral hunting is a meditative practice that can help lower your blood pressure, soothe your thoughts, decrease your heart rate, and put you in touch with Mother Earth.
So enjoy the process of trying to find valuable stones and rocks worth money in your yard. Appreciate nature and love our planet!
Meditate on the rockhounding experience, and enjoy this wonderful day.
Rock hunting is such an engaging hobby. May you find riches of valuable rocks in your backyard during your group and individual mineral-collecting adventures.
I would dig that!
And if you have more questions about valuable rocks in your backyard? Or if you have rock-hunting questions? We love hearing from you!
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!
Valuable Rocks In Your Backyard References, Resources, Field Guides, and Works Cited
- A Guide for Finding Geodes
- Mineral Streak Test
- How Much Is Jade Worth?
- Identifying Minerals Via the Mohs Hardness Scale
- All About Obsidian
- Rare Earth Minerals Catalog
- Where To Find Crystals?
- How to Identify Valuable Rocks
- What Are the Most Valuable Rocks and Minerals?
- What’s the Difference Between Quartz and Rock Crystal?
- Why Is This Rock Worth $400,000?