Searching for valuable rocks and minerals is an exciting and engaging hobby that sometimes requires lots of cash. But if you learn about the most valuable minerals, you can turn this pleasure into a profitable discovery.
Rock hunting, or amateur geology, has become quite popular among passionate of all ages who want to spend their spare time exploring the outdoors. You can start your searching adventure with a few tools, such as a hammer, a bucket, magnifying glass, and some safety goggles.
Now, I don’t want you to make the mistake of thinking that all rocks and minerals are worth a great deal of money. No, that is definitely not the case. Thus, it is essential to understand the particularities of an antique stone versus an ordinary mineral. So what constitutes a precious rock or mineral? What are the particularities that tell the value of a gemstone, and how can you evaluate them?
Find out if your rock collection is worthy, and learn to evaluate each stone personally and professionally before selling it on suitable platforms. Let’s look at their particularities to have a clear aesthetic and economic understanding of the outstanding stones.
Minerals, Rocks, And Gemstones: Main Differences
Before discussing the most valuable rocks and minerals, it is mandatory to have an overview of their main characteristics. Therefore, knowing the specific definition of rocks, minerals or gemstones will help you distinguish them better.
Mineralogy is the science of minerals, teaching people that minerals are shaped due to geological processes. Hence, minerals are naturally formed inorganic substances. They have particular chemical and physical compositions with uniquely ordered atomic and crystalline structures. There are over 2,000 known minerals, each of them with a specifically identifiable configuration.
The easiest way to identify minerals is based on these seven particularities: streak, color, cleavage, luster, hardness, fracture, and crystal shape.
The most common and precious minerals are diamonds, emerald, sapphire, ruby, and red coral.
On the contrary, rocks are some mineral accumulations that automatically don’t have a particular chemical composition. When it comes to minerals, we can talk about thousands of shapes and textures, from the purest elements to a fusion of silicates.
Conversely, we can separate rocks into three types:
The study of rocks is called petrology, constant research for scientific explanations for the earth’s formation.
Take these examples of rocks for easier understanding: agate, amethyst, quartz, tanzanite, zircon, turquoise, etc.
Scientists have been classifying these rocks as crystalline and amorphous gemstones. Crystalline gemstones are minerals with stable and definite atomic structures.
However, a mineral should have both aesthetic and economic value for being classified as a gemstone. Therefore, gems are some of the most precious minerals that are carefully selected to be cut, polished, and then used in jewelry making.
Some comprehensive examples of gemstones are garnet, ruby, and emerald.
To be classified as a gemstone, a mineral has to have economic and aesthetic value. It means that it’s selected to be cut, polished, and used in jewelry making because of its beauty and durability.
Even rocks can be defined as gemstones. But in order for this to happen, they have to have decorative applications, such as lapis lazuli. Although they do not have the ideal crystalline structure, even some organic materials have been labeled as gemstones. This applies to amber and coral.
The Rarest And Most Valuable of Them All
Gemstones are the rarest of them all; however, this statement is partially true. Let’s take amethyst, which used to be a rare gemstone, and now it is easily found. The same happens with tokens, which used to be valuable due to their rarity. Now, their price has dropped considerably.
The ideal way to distinguish minerals from gemstones is based on their composition and jewelry-making usage. Keep in mind that minerals are mainly crystalline. If a gem is crystalline, this means it is a mineral. If a mineral is surprisingly outstanding, it is considered a gemstone. The same principle applies to rocks as well.
How To Identify The Most Precious Rocks And Minerals
Before moving straight to the particularities of the most valuable rocks and minerals, it would be wise to know how to identify them at first sight. The most common way to recognize rocks and minerals is by color, sheen, specific gravity, cleavage, crystal shape, hardness, streak, crystal structure, habit, density, transparency, and fluorescence. Let’s get into more details so you can fully understand.
The color of rocks and minerals can be a deceiving factor in value. Even minerals with the same chemistry can have particular colors generated by minor impurities in the crystal composition (like pieces of evidence of titanium, iron, or manganese).
For instance, let’s take quarts, which can be either clear, red, yellow, white, green, brown, grey, purple, or sometimes even black.
Luster or sheen describes the quantity of light reflected from the rock’s or mineral’s surface. This characteristic is essential in determining the value of a mineral, as it indicates how the rock’s surface looks, disregarding the natural color. There are two principal divisions of sheen, metallic and non-metallic.
Nevertheless, different terms are used to describe non-metallic lustre, such as earthy, glassy, greasy, adamantine, pearly, resinous, and even silky.
The specific gravity or the relative density stands for the thickness of a material related to a reference substance, usually water. The best method to determine the particular gravity is to weigh a sample in the air, then re-weigh the same mineral while immersed in water.
The specific gravity is then calculated by simply dividing the weight result in the air by losing weight in water.
Now, water has an exact gravity of 1, while gold’s specific gravity is around 19. Usually, minerals have a particular gravity that ranges from 1.5 to 19.5.
When a crystal breaks, it splits along some cleavage planes, also famous as straight faces. These tiny parts are weak because of the atomic structure that a crystal comes with. Mica, a shiny silicate mineral, has a cleavage plane that allows it to break into very flat sheets.
Each mineral has a specific shape that, when crystallized, reflects all the internal arrangement of its atoms. While some crystal shapes are easier to recognize due to their popularity (see octahedral diamond), others have more particularities. Most of the ideal crystal shapes can be classified as geometric shapes.
Rocks and minerals can be easier to identify based on their relative hardness. The simplest way to tell if a substance is harder or softer is by its ability to scratch another substance. To measure the hardness of rocks and minerals, specialists use the Mohs Scale of Hardness, a relational scale where one stands for the minor hardness of a mineral and 10 for the hardest body.
For instance, quartz has a hardness of 7, so it will easily scratch any other mineral that scores less than this value.
Diamonds have the highest hardness so that they can scratch any other mineral. There are different materials (quite common if you ask me) used to determine the hardness of rocks and minerals, like steel and fingernails.
Professionals and scientists generally use streak more often than color as a reliable identification mark for minerals. But what’s the difference? The streak is the specific color of a powdered mineral and can be determined by scratching a sample on an unglazed white porcelain slate (in simpler words, a streak plate). Even with some impurities in the mineral’s body, the color of the streak will remain consistent.
Atoms are generally organized in a crystal lattice structure and compose a common internal framework. Everything is symmetrical within the lattice and, truth be told, quite fascinating. But why is crystal structure so crucial in valuing a rock or a mineral?
Crystal composition influences different properties of minerals, like hardness, cleavage, and crystal shape.
The form or the habit refers to the particular shape in which minerals and rocks usually grow. This shape is very characteristic and spectacular, like in the case of this mesolite, isn’t it?
Most minerals do not have this perfect shape, especially the individual crystals. Usually, these are some aggregates of crystals with a pretty special appearance, such as tiny rounded balls, needle-like masses, or radiating like a fan. Any specific mineral may display multiple habits, not just a single one.
Take a look at the mesolite above, and take the time to notice the acicular habit and the needle-like crystals.
Density represents the mass per unit volume, and calculating it is a simple process: just do a precise measurement of volume and mass, and that’s it.
Precious stones and minerals, like zircon, rubies, and diamonds, are the easiest to identify while calculating their density.
Transparency refers to the clarity of a mineral. Just look at the outline of an object, and if you can see through it, it means the mineral is transparent. But if a mineral transmits light, yet you cannot see objects clearly, experts call it a translucent stone.
On the other hand, if a mineral does not emit light, it is termed opaque. As an example, let’s take quartz: it can be transparent or perfectly opaque.
Some minerals share a distinctive color once placed under ultraviolet light (for instance, the green or blue flow of fluorite, the green radiance of willemite, even the pink glow that comes from manganese-bearing calcite).
The color of rocks and minerals can be different based on the type of ultraviolet radiation (short-wave or long-wave).
Most Valuable Gems, Minerals, And Rocks
People most probably think about diamonds whenever someone talks about “the most valuable rocks and minerals.” But diamonds are not even in the top 3. You’ve read that correctly.
The list below might surprise you and be a wake-up call regarding some inherited minerals in your collection.
Brace yourself, as rubies are the fifth most expensive rocks in the world. Although, at first sight, rubies are tiny and plentiful, these red gems’ quality is what establishes their price. The largest, blood-red colored and with clean cuts are the most valuable.
It is impossible not to recognize the vibrant red color in rubies and their pure shine. Rubies are classified like diamonds due to their color, quality, and grade. A pure ruby, without flaws, can be valued as high as a million dollars per carat.
To enhance their beauty, jewelry masters accompany rubies with other precious gems to enhance their beauty so that the final price can go even higher.
This spectacular piece of jewelry is centered on a massive ruby.
Garnets come in various colors so you can find these gemstones in brown, orange, purple, red, green, and even yellow. However, the blue garnet is the rarest and most valuable of them all.
The very first blue stone of Garnet was found in Madagascar, in the 1990s and then in other states, like Russia, Turkey, and the US. Currently, this pricey stone can value a million and a half dollars per carat. The presence of vanadium gives the intense blue shade during the developmental process.
Serendibite is not a very common mineral; most probably, only passionate have heard about it. But why do you think this mineral is so rare? Well, because it can be extracted only from two places: Sri Lanka and Northern Buma.
Serendibite contains tiny amounts of molecules from other minerals, like silicon, oxygen, boron, aluminum, magnesium, calcium, or boron. All these have bound together in a complex formation process.
Ever since the title, most of you are probably expecting to find diamonds on the list of most valuable minerals in the world, but actually, only red diamonds make it to the top five. A red diamond is in fact, the most expensive one in this family, as well as the rarest type of them all.
Only very few pieces are mined yearly in Australia at Argyle Mine. Their unique purplish-red color is what distinguishes red diamonds from garnets or rubies.
Watch this collection of the most precious red diamonds in the world.
Finally, we have made it to the most precious mineral gemstone – Jade or Jadeite. One carat of this costly gem goes up to three million dollars. The rarity and beauty make this mineral so unique and pricey. This valuable stone was once used to make heads and jewelry during ancient times, which is quite impressive.
Yet, even though these stones and minerals are the most expensive ones, there are other examples that are worth mentioning.
Emerald is a green gemstone that takes its color from to the amount of vanadium and chromium it contains. The usual hardness is around 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale.
Taaffeite is the only gemstone identified from a faceted stone. It is mined in very few samples per year, making it one of the rarest gemstone minerals and, therefore, precious.
Australian black opals are the most valuable and popular ones, characterized by a dark body tone, with dark grey and jet black varieties.
Red Beryl is a scarce stone and a precious mineral with a unique appearance.
Musgravite is a rare oxide mineral in the category of gemstones. Due to its rarity, this mineral can be sold for roughly $35.000 per carat.
Fire opal has a translucent body with warm colors, ranging from gold to orange. Sometimes, this stone can show bright green flashes.
Valuing Precious Rocks and Minerals
Now that you know about some of the most valuable rocks and minerals, it’s time to move on to a more practical chapter. So if you are interested in rockhounding, buying, or selling some gems, you should know the signs to look for to see if your rocks are truly valuable. You can do this process by yourself or ask for professional advice, as you will see in the chapter below. Here are some tricks:
How To Value Rocks And Minerals by Yourself
All collectors probably like to know if the rocks collection they have is money-worth or not. With so many types of rocks and minerals, it is quite intimidating and overwhelming to know the specifics of each item, making the whole process difficult. However, there are some factors that can determine the rock’s value and you can check by yourself:
Properly Identifying The Type Of Specimen
This is a crucial step, and truth be told is not an easy one. Nevertheless, knowing what your rock or mineral is called is essential. If you seek some help, these two sources would be helpful: Online communities, such as this Reddit Forum or a local rock shop, might help you identify your collection pieces.
The Origin Of Your Rocks
Among collectors, some areas of the globe are more desirable than others. This is why it is essential to have a well-cataloged collection with location information about each piece.
Get to Know the History of Your Collection
The history of rock will make it more valuable than if it is not labeled at all. You can take a picture of your rock, upload it on Google Images and hope to get a well-documented history of your minerals. This, unless you already know where and from who it comes from.
Examine the quality
The harder a mineral is, the more likely it is to be money-worthy. Try scratching it with a fingernail, and if this works, then that is a very soft rock. If it scratches with a penny, its hardness would be at 3 Mohs, while a glass scratch would indicate a 5.5 hardness.
Size and Weight
Size and weight might not be the most important parameters in valuing a rock or mineral, but they are significant. Generally, a high-quality, tiny specimen will value more than a lower-quality, large one.
Take a careful look at the rocks’ surface. If they are whole intact, they will clearly be worth more than broken ones. Damage can mean internal fractures too. Sometimes, little flaws may add value and aesthetic quality. However, not all collectors would agree with this statement.
If you cannot value the rocks and minerals you have, here are some great places to get started with:
Where To Get Rocks And Minerals Valued Professionally
One of the most common questions rock collectors would think about is, “Where can I find a true authority to tell me what my minerals are worth?“. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this, as there are very few mortars and brick stores that actually have knowledgeable people.
While it is easier to find somebody that can simply identify a quart or jasper, few would know the variations of materials based on pattern, origin, or color. There are also a few lapidary artists that are able to custom cut the rocks, as this is a highly-skilled job.
Firstly, look for a lapidary club in your area. Some may have shops or hold classes for people willing to learn. This club list is helpful. Another great resource would be a rock or mineral show near you, where professionals gather and display their collections.
Rocks shops might also have willing experts to share their knowledge. Keep in mind that some of them might charge you for this information.
Finally, although rare, a Rock and Mineral Museum may have a great collection of valuable rocks and minerals and professionals to guide you.
Where To Buy And Sell Valuable Rocks And Minerals Collections
The best place to sell and buy valuable minerals collections would be reputable rock shows and shops. This would allow you to see the specimens and talk with the leaders personally. However, we live in the internet era, and lots of rock collectors and passionate have moved their activity online. Here is where you can find some trusted dealers and websites that specialize in rock and mineral deals:
If you are not able to find or sell your collection to the mineral shop or show, try the most well-known auction site, eBay. The biggest benefit is the sheer volume of rock specimens, so you may find anything you want.
However, keep in mind that eBay is not all milk and honey, and, unfortunately, there are lots of fake sellers. Do some research first, and check the seller’s ratings to see if they are reputable suppliers.
Online Rock and Mineral Auction Sites
If you are looking for specialized dealers, check these trustworthy websites:
One of the best tools to sell and buy your wholesale minerals and rocks is Etsy.com. It allows you to find a multitude of specimens and also expand your inventory to online outlets.
I would not recommend Amazon for selling and buying truly valuable rocks and minerals, but it can be a great source to develop this hobby and learn more about the gems’ particularities.
So what makes rocks and minerals valuable? The quality of that specimen determines rocks, gems, and minerals’ value, how well cataloged they are, their rarity, as well as their history. Color, shape, transparency, size, density, weight, or structure is other factors that determine how much rocks are worth.