Rock and mineral collecting is a hobby almost as old as humanity itself. There’s something about rocks that speaks to us on a primitive level and makes us want to find and keep them for ourselves. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved finding cool looking rocks and I’d stash them anywhere I could. My daughter is the same way! But why is it that people love to collect rocks?
People collect rocks for many reasons. They might enjoy the thrill of the hunt, or to feel connected to the specific locations. Professionals do it for monetary gain and prestige within the community. Others collect for a feeling of control, nostalgia, or simply to enjoy the beauty of their collection.
The Thrill of the Hunt
One of the most prevalent reasons that people enjoy rock and mineral collecting is the process itself. They might not even realize that this is the case, but whether people find their samples in the field or in a shop the act of searching for that perfect item for their collecting is a big reason people enjoy the hobby.
Going into the field in search of a specific type of specimen is an exciting adventure. Not knowing if or where you may strike gold (if you’ll pardon the pun) makes for a fun day. When you do find exactly what you’re looking for the experience is extremely rewarding. All of your research and hard work pays off, and you have a beautiful physical manifestation of that determination to take home and display as a trophy.
The same can be said for rocks and minerals that a collector purchases or trades for. Rock and mineral collecting are popular worldwide and the amount of different samples is endless. Finding the perfect item to add to your collection can take years of patience and dedicated searching.
The feeling of accomplishment from finding that perfect sample can be addicting. Once a collector feels it, they will soon want to move on to their next potential conquest to feel it again. This feedback loop is the reason no collector ever feels that their collection is ever finished – there is always something more to be found!
To Feel Connected To A Location
This is one of the biggest reasons I like to collect rocks and minerals. I enjoy travel and I like to have souvenirs. What better way to remember a place than to bring back a physical piece of it? When I visited Iceland, for example, I made sure to bring back a vial of their famous black volcanic sand as a reminder of the beautiful and alien-looking landscape.
Rocks have millions of years of geologic history behind them. Each piece in a collection has its own story. That story is part of what shaped the human history of the location in which it was found.
There are many rocks and minerals that are only found in specific locations in the world. If an area is famous for one type of rock or gem then acquiring a sample can be a fantastic way to remember a trip. It makes for a unique reminder of the places you’ve been and allows for great conversation when others admire your collection.
It is also common for collectors to be fond of their finds because of the people they found them with. If you found a great mineral sample while searching a creek bed with your child on a sunny day, you can be reminded of that experience every time you view it.
Many rocks and minerals (precious gems, in particular) can hold exceptional monetary value. Professional collectors often make a living by acquiring, trading, and selling these samples for profit. This is a rewarding and challenging profession that takes years of experience and specified knowledge to succeed in.
Professional collectors often run their own shops or sell items online. They are always on the lookout for exceptional pieces to add to their inventory. Once they have established a reputation in the industry it becomes easier for them to make a profit, as people will come to them first when selling pieces or when looking to buy.
Professional collectors are different from most amateurs because they are more willing to part with their pieces if the price is right. They tend to have a less emotional attachment to each item. For them, the ultimate reward often comes when they turn an item for profit.
Prestige Within the Collecting Community
Collectors in general tend to be very proud of their collections, and rock collectors are no exception. They have spent many years and often quite a bit of money to build their collection so it is only natural that they want to display it and feel some recognition for their efforts.
Rock and mineral collectors are usually part of local clubs where they can socialize with people who share their interests. Just like in any other part of life, it is natural that they want to feel accepted and validated by their peers. Building up a collection that they are proud of is their way of accomplishing that. Having your friends and colleagues complement the fruits of your labor can be incredibly rewarding.
A Feeling of Control
While usually not the primary motivation behind rock and mineral collecting, many enthusiasts do enjoy the feeling of control they have in their hobby. Even if other aspects of a collector’s life are feeling hectic and out of control, rock collecting can be a calming respite.
As discussed above, the process of searching can be incredibly relaxing. A day in the field or browsing rock shops can be a much-needed break from normal life. It’s a way to break from the duties of your job or family obligations for a little while and focus on something you truly enjoy.
The process of cataloging and displaying your collection can also be very soothing. Making sure each item is properly documented and labeled is therapeutic for many, and arranging your display in an aesthetically pleasing manner is the ultimate payoff for many rock and mineral collectors.
Some collectors simply enjoy the simplicity of the hobby. Going out into the wilderness and picking up shiny objects might remind them of their childhood or time spent with friends and family.
For these types of collectors, it is less about what they find and more about the feeling they get when searching. The feeling of child-like excitement and wonder when picking up a specimen is simple yet fulfilling. Sometimes a specific type of rock or mineral might evoke fond memories from years ago and they will feel the need to take that home with them.
Enjoying the Aesthetic Beauty
When it comes right down to it, this is probably the most common reason people collect rocks and minerals. From a young age, we are programmed to recognize the intrinsic beauty of these items and it is only natural that we want to own them.
Rocks and minerals are often very beautiful. Many are shiny or lustrous. Some have perfect facets and crystal structures. Others are uniquely shaped or particularly colorful. Every specimen has different features that make them visually appealing, which makes every collection unique.
When we bring our samples home with us we put them on display. We do this because they are visually appealing – we wouldn’t want to show them off if it were otherwise.
Many collectors invest quite a bit of money in their display setups to further enhance the beauty of their collection. Elaborate display cases with custom stands, lighting, mirrors, and labels are very common even in amateur collections.
Viewing our collections, in whole or in part, can often be a calming and rewarding experience. In addition to their aesthetic beauty, each specimen has a unique story behind it that only the collector can fully appreciate.