Mineral Collecting – Is It For Me?
Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 12.12.2013 | Filed under: Beginners

Mexican AmethystIf you could choose anything in the world, imagine for a moment what would you want out of your ideal hobby, pursuit or passion?
Maybe it would include relaxing quiet time and comfort. It could be something that is individualistic, and allows you to be a little different from others, and it might also be something you could share with others who enjoy it too, developing interesting friendships and connections along the way. Perhaps it would involve some history and art. It could involve adventure, time outdoors and greater connection to nature. And is it maybe something you would want to involve learning and personal growth? Ultimately would it be something that could enable you to contribute to the happiness of others?
Slightly intense start I’ve set off on here, I know, but hang in there with me for just a little. Because now I have two final questions for you. What if mineral collecting could give you all of these things? And what if you could choose which ones are most important to you, and create the perfect hobby, pursuit or lifelong passion with as many or few of these factors, all scaled in exactly the proportion you design?
Ok, so if you’ve never thought much about mineral collecting before, you may be thinking I’m crazy. (Maybe I am, but in a good way.) To me, it would be much worse if you are concerned I’m trying to sell you something. I’m not at all. Not everyone is going to find minerals interesting. If you don’t think mineral collecting is for you, but you do spend some more thought and discover what is for you instead, that’s awesome – I’d love to know that you manage to find whatever pursuit it is in the world that gives you these kinds of things.
Many people are never lucky enough to find it. On the other hand, if you are still with me and now simply curious as to how the heck I’m going to substantiate the suggestion that mineral collecting can be all of these things for you… well, it is all of these things for me, so here we go:
Growth and Learning
Mineral collecting offers endless learning for those who are curious and love to learn and grow. Nobody can ever learn it all and nobody can never collect them all, so the challenge is wide open. You can sure do well to meet whatever challenge you set for yourself, and most important, the journey is great. About learning, a lot of this is possible even from the comfort of your own home. We live in a Golden Age of mineral publishing, with many excellent books and periodical publications written for people of all levels of background. There is always a small stack of things I am dying to find time to read by the fire. Some of my favourites are listed under Favourite Mineral Reads. In addition, the internet is an incredible source of resources for learning (you might like to look at Favourite Mineral Websites). And of course there are lots of many other amazing ways to learn (please see Seven Easy Things You Can Do to Start Mineral Collecting). With all that is available in this era in which we are living, you can come from any background and develop lots of knowledge about minerals, and even ultimately develop real expertise in one or more areas.
Connection with Others
Mineral collecting involves the chance to develop friends and connections around the world. Together with the opportunity to meet people at mineral shows attended by people from all over the world, the internet has of course enabled community and friendship across all borders. Mineral clubs are active all over the world, so you may well have a local club you can join, to meet local collectors. Even more than this, mineral collecting may lead you to friends with whom you go field collecting, and friends with whom you travel the world in search of the next adventure (and maybe the next pieces for your collection).
Individuality and Personal Achievement
Even though mineral collecting is something most of us enjoy sharing with others to some degree, on the other hand, it is also a personal, individualistic pursuit. Within mineral collecting circles, and just more generally among family and friends, every mineral collection and collector’s focus is purely personal and will stand out as unique. And of course, the development of all knowledge and of any mineral collection you’ve challenged yourself to build, at any level at all, is a source of a deep feeling of personal accomplishment and achievement.
No Two Are the Same
Just to highlight how broadly this concept of individuality applies to mineral collecting, no two of anything are the same. At all. You can have two specimens of the same mineral, they will not be the same – in fact they may even be so radically different from each other as to be incomparable. You can have two single crystals of the same mineral, from the same locality, even from the same pocket, and they will not be the same. Like snowflakes. (Of course snowflakes crystals of ice, which itself is a mineral…). And among collectors, no two are the same. Everyone has a different taste, different collecting focus, different sense of aesthetics, and can place more or less emphasis on any single characteristic of a mineral specimen. If you were to send me, together with my collecting partner David Joyce, into a room full of excellent mineral specimens, and you told us we could only choose one, we would each choose a different one almost every time.
Always Something New
Every day, somewhere in the world, new mineral specimens are discovered. Sometimes these discoveries come as the result of exploration, development or commercial production in the mining industry. Often, discoveries are made by people collecting mineral specimens. Discoveries are sometimes made very close to home, and other times somewhere far away. No matter where they arise, there are new things found all the time – these finds emerge both on the internet and at mineral shows. It’s one of the best things about the world of minerals – it is always changing and no two days are the same.
New discoveries can be anything – they may be finds of a new occurrence of beautiful or interesting mineral specimens, which may be different from any find before, and in fact a new discovery may be a new mineral, never before found or described in science. And it’s not that hard to keep up, really – simply keeping an eye on this website and the sites of a few other good mineral dealers, reading on and reading the “what’s new” updates in the Mineralogical Record (and the ones on its website too) will keep you up to speed.
Connection with Nature
Mineral collecting involves a strong connection with nature, both through the minerals themselves, and also through any travelling into the wild to collect them oneself.  Spending time admiring the natural perfection and beauty of minerals in your collection is a wonderful experience. Many specimens are so amazing it’s hard to believe they are real. If you take a moment to lose yourself in any of them, you’ll see what I mean. It is inspiring and can be pretty humbling. I hope some of this comes through in the photographs on this site, but if you are like me, you are likely to feel it even more with the more contact you have with specimens in person, whether at shows, in museums, or in your own collection.
Mineral collecting can involve as much adventure as an individual can ask for, or can be a hobby that is a relaxing and fulfilling from the comfort of one’s own home. If you’re looking for adventure, you can let mineral collecting take you anywhere in the world – mountains, deserts, forests, jungles, ocean and lake shorelines, river valleys, caves, old and new mines – you name it, and as close or as far away as you choose. Group trips arise through clubs and other organizations, and there are intrepid individuals who lead privately guided adventures. Of course, it’s not possible to go everywhere we might like, but once again publications and internet sites like this one make it possible to share in some of the adventures you haven’t yet been on yourself.
Ultimately, for those who become truly passionate about minerals, there are many ways to contribute, including teaching young people and beginners, making presentations to clubs and symposia, and volunteering to advance the hobby and the science of mineralogy.
If you’re still reading, maybe you’d like to explore a bit more? If so, have a look around our site and see what catches your interest. I’ve organized the content on this site with a view to making it easy to start at the Beginners page and then move on to the Collectors page. You don’t have to buy anything on our website. In fact, I want to add that you can begin a love for minerals with little or no money. It’s all up to you.
Internet sites like this one, libraries, public museums, local mineral clubs and local mineral shows are all inexpensive windows and avenues into the world of minerals. I started as a kid and for a long time (maybe 15 years or so) – I enjoyed minerals without spending much money at all. You get to make the decisions about how you want to engage in the world of minerals and what kind of collection you wish to build (hopefully some of the articles under Collectors will be helpful in this regard). I hope you can find fun and more in minerals, and I hope that through this website I can help you do just that.