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Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

 Stilbite crystals

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Tourmaline Crystals:
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Identify That Rock!: A
Basic Tutorial for Beginners
Created by Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Apache Tear in

This lesson shows how to identify stones and
determine whether or not they are appropriate
for use in jewelry and how you will prepare them.
Variety of Igneous Rocks



• Random selection of stones

2 variety of Topaz
Gypsum Crystals

Fibrous Malachite



Agates & jaspers from Haida
Gwaii (a.k.a. The Queen
Charlotte Islands, British
Columbia, Canada)

Rock ID Kit:
• One piece of shatter proof glass (about 1-2
inches in length, with no sharp edges, at
least 1/8 of an inch thick)
• 1-ceramic, unglazed white tile (2x2” square)
• 1-ceramic, unglazed black tile (2x2” square)
• Jeweler’s Loupe (usually 10x magnification)
• Steel nail or small fragment of steel
• Vinegar in a small vial
• Small eyedropper
• Container to hold all of the above
• Notepad to record your findings
• Paper or cloth towels to wipe up spills
• Container to hold your rock samples while
you are working with them
• Table cover – I use pieces of felt to cover my
table. I strongly suggest this so you can
avoid scratching your furniture. ☺
Legal Stuff: By using and viewing the content of this
tutorial, you agree not to distribute, lend or copy any
portion of this document; to not mass produce this
document and to hold Skeena Storm Stones and
Shelby Raymond and Skeena Rocks! free of any and all
claims. This content is provided AS IS. If you wish to
use this in a classroom setting, please contact the
author for written permission prior to use.
*Children should always be supervised by a responsible
Whew! Got it all? Agree to the terms? Then please,
read on, be safe and have FUN!

River stones from on the shore of the Skeena River near
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

Rev. 7-18-09

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If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

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We’ll start with a couple of definitions so that
we are all talking the same language!

3 Main Categories of Rock:
1. Igneous
2. Sedimentary
3. Metamorphic
Igneous rocks are formed when melted
rock, from deep inside the earth or a
volcano, makes it way to the surface
and then cools quickly. e.g. granite
and obsidian


(clockwise from top center): (1)gabbro, (2)diorite,
(3)scoria, (4)basalt, (5)pumice, (6)granite, (7)tuff, (8)

2 Types of Igneous Rocks:
a. Intrusive = magma that cools
beneath the surface (i.e. granite)
b. Extrusive = magma that cools
above the surface, i.e. lava, basalt

Sedimentary rocks are formed when
stuff piles up – like stones, shells,
plant material, etc. As these items
pile up on top of one another, they put
pressure on the bottom layer, which
causes the items to stick together –
eventually forming a solid rock. Quite
frequently you’ll be able to see the
layering effect.











(clockwise from top, center) (9)oil shale, (10)breccia,
(11)shale, (12)conglomerate, (13)limestone, (14)arkose,
(15)lignite coal, (16)fossiliferous limestone, (17)
brachiopod limestone,(18) travertine, (19)sandstone,
(20)calcareous tufa

Rev. 7-18-09

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Sedimentary rocks can be used in
making jewelry, however, most are
very soft and need to be stabilized or
placed in epoxy to protect them from
every day bumps and even weather!
You will find fossil evidence in
sedimentary rocks more frequently
than the other two types. This is
because the heat involved in the
creation of igneous stones usually
destroys the object. Heat and pressure
frequently destroy potential fossil
objects during the creation of
metamorphic stones.

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

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A metamorphic rock is created when other
rocks, igneous or sedimentary, are heated
or squeezed. This usually happens inside
the earth and the heat and squeezing
makes the rocks form into something that
can be completely different. You can see
this effect in some stones or even on the
sides of some mountains when there is a
“folding” effect. e.g. slate, gneiss





The crystals in metamorphic rocks are still
somewhat easy to see, though they are
more finely grained than their
sedimentary counterparts.
i.e. limestone  marble,
clusters of quartz quartzite
To the left are pictures of some of the
commonly found metamorphic rocks.

(Clockwise from top, center): (21)hornfels, (22)gneiss,
(23) marble, (24)phyllite, (25) quartzite, (26) slate, (27)
anthracite coal, (28) phyllite, (29) amphibolite

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Cleavage &
Another identity helper is to find out the
shapes formed on a rock’s surface when
that rock breaks.

Mica var. Biotite– Perfect Cleavage

To the left is a picture of Mica. This is
commonly found, especially in granitic
rocks. Mica breaks into layers of thin
sheets. Dark Mica, like you see here, is
dark because it contains iron &
magnesium. You can use mica in jewelry,
but it would be best supported in a gel or
epoxy because it is extremely fragile. As a
component in another stone it doesn’t
usually pose problems, but the stone may
be more likely to fracture in mica planes.

Common Types of Fracture/Cleavage:
Perfect Cleavage – as in mica, thin
sheets along a plane
Snowflake obsidian – conchoidal fracture

Rev. 7-18-09

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Conchoidal fracture-the break
curves, kind of like a seashell or bowl
shape could fit into the curve of the

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

Amethyst is a type of Quartz (both pictured above) and is
considered a semi-precious stone.

To the left is a fluorite crystal; fluorite
crystals are octahedral (they have 8
sides). Most minerals have a “typical”
crystal formation and this can help you
identify stones.

Grossular garnet, var. Hessonite in
metamorphosed impure limestone matrix 

garnet (gem)

MOHS Scale of Hardness
1. Talc
2. Gypsum
3. Calcite
4. Flourite
5. Apatite (turquoise, lapis lazuli)
6. Orthoclase feldspar (epidote,
7. Quartz (amethyst, aventurine)
8. Topaz (spinel, zirconia)
9. Corundum (ruby, sapphire)
10. Diamond
Quickie MOHS
2.5 = fingernail
3.5 = penny

Rev. 7-18-09

5.5 = pocket knife
6.5 = steel file

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A crystal is the form a mineral takes
on as it grows. You have probably
seen crystals such as rose quartz or
amethyst. The biggest crystals are
usually found in areas where there is
room to grow – crevices and caves. Do
a search on the internet for the giant
selenite gypsum crystals found in the
Naica mine, Cave of Swords, south of
Chihuahua City, Mexico
– you WILL be

It’s kind of challenging to define what
a gem is. Usually gems are the hardest
stones, such as diamonds and ruby although opals give lie to that
definition! Gems are also usually
formed in igneous or metamorphic
rock. They are also usually quite rare
– in fact, the rarer the stone, the more
valuable it tends to be. Gems are
usually brighter and contain fewer
impurities than their semi-precious
Minerals are the building blocks of the
universe. Most rocks are made up of
minerals. Each mineral has a clearly,
scientifically defined chemical content
and the atoms are put together,
arranged, in a very specific way.

MOHS Scale of Hardness
The MOHS Scale of Hardness is a quick and
easy guide to help you figure out how hard a
rock is and it also aids you in identifying the
rock. The softest stone is Talc at number 1,
with diamond being the hardest at number
Harder minerals (higher numbers
number on the
scale) will scratch softer ones (the ones with
smaller numbers). i.e. quartz will scratch
orthoclase, apatite, fluorite, calcite, gypsum
and talc, but it will not scratch topaz,
corundum or diamond!

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

This is a great book
that was written by a
local geologist. With
this knowledge in
hand, combined with
information on what
formations are likely
to contain specific
stones, my rock hunts
are usually

Page: 5

Learn about the area in which you live, or
places you can easily visit. Usually it’s
possible to find a rockhound group,
lapidary or mineral society. They are
wonderful sources of information.
Government websites also have
information on the geography and
geology of most regions. It’s easy to
download maps or brochures that detail
what kinds of minerals and rocks may be
Take a class in geography, geology or
rockhounding. Not only will you meet
people with similar interests, but you may
also learn of some new collecting sites!

Map of world showing the distribution of major deposits plotted on digital
elevation model with draped geology from Geological Survey of Canada,
Open File 2915d, 1995.Data from the synthesis of ore deposits. Data
plotted and diagrams prepared by W.D. Goodfellow.

Whenever you are out looking for rocks,
have a rockhounding buddy with you and
make sure others know where you are
going and approximately when you will
Always get permission before entering
private land. When in doubt, check with
local authorities.
Be careful. Take a first aid kit and know
the local numbers for emergency
assistance. Avoid active slide areas – no
matter how great the “find”! Remember
that caves can be dangerous –only enter
with a trained spelunker.

The Skeen River, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

Know the type of rocks and minerals you
will encounter beforehand. You want to
avoid handling dangerous rocks and
minerals. Galena (grey and very heavy)
and sulfur (usually BRIGHT yellow) should
only be handled with gloved hands.
Finally, leave the places you rockhound as
you found them. Pick up litter and debris;
fill holes, respect landowners and others
who use the area.

Rev. 7-18-09

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Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

Page: 6

By placing a rock within the MOHS scale, you
are able to estimate the hardness of that
rock. This can be helpful in identifying a
When testing for MOHS, you don’t need to
scratch with all of your strength. Using
normal pressure, like what you use when you
are writing with a pencil, scrape the testing
stone or tool across your rock.

Repeat this until your stone is scratched. If
your stone is special, don’t use these tests, or
do them in an area you won’t notice.

Colour is extremely important in the
identification of many rocks. Once you have
seen the green of malachite you will always
remember it.

Fibrous malachite

The appearance, or luster, of rocks is also
helpful in their identification. Some will look
some will look dull like chalk (slate has a
“chalk” dullness), glassy – like a drinking
glass (think of quartz or obsidian); greasy
(graphite has a greasy feel); silky like silk
(asbestos types look silky).

When you look in rock identification books,
they usually provide the specific gravity (SG)
of a rock or mineral. This is basically a
comparison of the mineral or rock compared to
the weight of an equal volume of water. Water
has a SG of 1.
The mineral sample above is “galena”. This is a
toxic mineral you should avoid handling with
bare hands. It, and lead, are noticeably
“heavier” than most rocks.

Rev. 7-18-09

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Rocks that seem heavy for their size usually
have a high density. The density of a stone
generally refers to how tightly packed the
crystals are. i.e. Galena has an SG of~7.47.6 and is quite dense, whereas sulfur weighs
in at ~2-2.1 and isn’t nearly as dense as the

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners
Common Streak Colours

Page: 7


Limonite = Yellow-brown
Hematite = Red-brown
Gold = yellow
Galena = grey
Graphite = black
Pyrite = black
Magnetite = black
Chalcopyrite = black

When it comes to rock & mineral identification
– streaking is allowed! In fact, it is
encouraged! This is where the ceramic streak
plates in your kit will come in handy.

Below are a couple of examples where knowing
the streak colour of stones can be quite useful.
The colour streak for gold is yellow and Fool’s
Gold (Pyrite) has a red streak!
Hematite (a popular jewelry making stone) has
a read streak, while galena (a toxic stone with
similar outward features) has a grey streak.

To find out what colour streak your rock has,
you will scratch it across both plates – the
white and the black unglazed ceramic.
Sometimes you’ll be surprised, as the streak
left by a stone may be completely different
than the colour of its actual physical
appearance! Minerals harder than the plate
will not leave a streak.
It is important to note that most silicates
(most of the stones we use in jewelry fall into
the silicate class) have a white streak and this
may not help identify them.

Next we will play with the vinegar and the
nail. This tiny experiment can help you find
out if there is calcite (calcium carbonate)
present in your rock. Calcite is one of the
most common minerals on earth - ~4% of the
earth’s crust (by weight).
Holding your rock firmly in your hand, scratch
the surface with either a pocket knife or the
nail in your ID kit. If you can’t scratch up a
little bit of “shavings”, you definitely don’t
have a rock that contains calcite.
Now, drop one drop of vinegar onto the pile of
“shavings”. If it fizzes, calcite is present. If it
doesn’t, you probably don’t have calcite in
your rock.

Rocks that contain calcium carbonate:
• Calcite (it IS calcium carbonate!)
• Limestone
• Marble (it is compressed limestone)
• Carbonatite
• Mexican Onyx
• Iceland Spar

Rev. 7-18-09

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Some folks use Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid in
10% dilution for this test. Because Muriatic
acid can be extremely dangerous to handle,
it’s not something I suggest. Handling
Muriatic acid requires special training and
hazard containment procedures.
Calcite can be the “glue” in:
• Sandstone
• Slate

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

Page: 8

I hope this tutorial will help you identify some of
the basic stones in your world. Remember, even
experts have times when they can’t identify a
rock specimen and need have it examined under
a special microscope or have a chemical analysis.

The rock above is the one we’ll identify in this tutorial.

Take out your first rock and give it a good lookover. You might already have a good idea if you
are using a rockhound guide or map of deposits.
Can you tell if it is Igneous, Sedimentary or
My sample at left is Igneous – it looks
like it cooled quickly because I don’t see
any specific crystal formations.
What kind of fracture or cleavage does it have?
The “fractures” are conchoidal. With my
jeweler’s loupe I can see little “dishes”
or bowl shapes.

The best way to learn about
rocks is to meet with other
enthusiasts and explore as
many different stones as
possible. One of the best
ways I learn about stones is
through The Mineral of the
Month Club.
I wish you a future filled
with fascinating and
beautiful rocks and
minerals! In my humble
opinion, even a plain old basalt river rock is
gorgeous enough to be used in making jewelry;
in fact it is one of my favourites!

Where in the MOHS is this rock? Now we’ll use
the MOHS scale to test my rock. Will #1 on the
MOHS scale scratch it?
In fact, this stone isn’t scratched until
we get to #8 on the MOHS scale. I tested
it with zircon and it does scratch my
stone. I also dragged my stone across
the glass plate, just a little pressure is
necessary. It scratched the plate. Now I
know my stone is softer than #9.
I tried scratching it with my nail and couldn’t get
any “shavings”.
This tells me two things: 1. I don’t have
calcium carbonate present in my rock
and my rock is harder than the knife so
the MOH is greater than~5.5.
I know by observation that my stone is pink in
appearance, as well as translucent and glassy. I
also know that the area is known for quartz;
specifically rose quartz is frequently found. I
looked in my mineral book and sure enough,
everything matches up to rose quartz.
With all of the information I now have, I
know that my stone is rose quartz.

Rev. 7-18-09

All Rights Reserved

For comments or
questions, please go to
Please do not distribute
or copy.
Copyrights 2008, Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm
All photos contained within this tutorial are the
exclusive property of Shelby Raymond.
Map photo on page 5 is the property of the
Government of Canada, do not use without their
express permission.

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones

Identify that Rock: a Basic Tutorial for Beginners

Page: 9

• A Field Guide to the Identification of Pebbles. Eileen Van der Flier-Keller. Harbour
Publishing.2006. ISBN-10:1-55017-395-2 (This is an AWESOME little reference for identifying river
rocks and “regular” stones!)
• Rocks & Minerals. DK Publishing.2003. ISBN-13: 978-0-7894-9587-7
• Guide to Minerals, Rocks & Fossils. A.C. Bishop, A.R. Woolley, W.R. Hamilton. Firefly Books.
ISBN: 1-55407-054-6
• National Audobon Society - First Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals. Edward Ricciuti, Margaret
W. Carruthers. Scholastic Inc. 1998. ISBN: 0-590-0584-8
• Mineral of the Month Club, (Please tell them Shelby Raymond
referred you! Thanks.)
• The Mineral and Locality Database,
• Amethyst Galleries' Mineral Gallery,

Rev. 7-18-09

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2008 Shelby Raymond, Skeena Storm Stones