Christmas Gifts for Budding Geologists
Geology is a fascinating science for all ages.
While some people show no interest whatsoever in stones, rocks, gems, minerals and even common beach pebbles, many people do.
From childhood through to adulthood, the quest for pretty or interesting stones is an interest that never wanes.
Rock-hounding, as it is often called, is just one branch of geology, the study of the rocks that make up the Earth's surface.
Rocks and stones tell us the whole history of the planet from when it first formed millions upon millions of years ago.
A simple beach pebble washed in by the tides, could be the remnants of ancient rocks laid down when the planet was covered in boiling volcanoes, and the planetary mass that makes up our continents were one.
While geology books are invaluable, nothing beats getting out in to the field and collecting your own stones and rocks, which you can later try to identify.
So what Christmas gifts are suitable for budding geologists?
The first thing any child will ask when they start showing an interest in rock-hounding is "what type of stone is this?"
There is a whole world of educational gifts suitable for budding geologists, from collection bags to rock tumblers.
Collecting rocks and minerals
All rock-hounds need a field kit for collecting specimens.
This will include:
- A rock hammer specially designed for extracting minerals from rock crevices, and splitting open geodes.
- A sheath for the hammer so that it can be worn from a belt. It is less likely to get lost this way.
- Goggles to protect the eyes from crystal fragments.
- A magnifier, to allow close-up views of the rock surface.
This rockhound field kit shown here contains an Estwing Supreme 22oz Pointed Tip Rock Hammer, reputedly the world's most popular rock hammer.
Rock hammers are probably the most important tools to geologists, budding or otherwise.
Other geological field tools the budding geologist will find invaluable are hard hats and chisels.
Sometimes the rock hammer/pick you are using will fail to dislodge the gem or mineral you are trying to obtain, and this is where a rock chisel will come in handy.
There are many various sizes of chisels available, and obviously a major factor will when buying will be the size of the person using it.
A heavy chisel may be too difficult for a child to lug around, and a small, lightweight one will be much more useful.
Safety hard hats
Adult or child, safety hard hats are a must for budding geologists.
It is a requirement by law to wear one should you visit any quarries where stones are removed for commercial purposes.
Hard hats protect your head from any falling rocks and stones.
It is also strongly advisable to wear safety hard hats when searching for stones, rocks and beach pebbles near cliff faces.
You just never know when there could be a rock-fall, and you would not want your head to be exposed.
Safety hard hats are also quite good for keeping warm and dry in inclement weather when out and about rock-hounding.
Rocks and minerals specimen kits
Being able to have, hold and examine rocks and minerals that are already named, is a huge help to budding geologists.
No matter how many books you read on geology, the descriptions and photographs are only rough guides to identifying specimens.
Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable rocks and minerals specimen kits available to buy.
The American Educational 2100 The U.S. Mounted Rocks and Minerals Collection is probably the most comprehensive collection available.
With a collection of 100 common and rare rocks and minerals, this will be a super aid to any budding geologist.
This rock collection comes with a special educational guide to rocks and minerals, with a clear explanation about the three basic types - igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.
Smaller collections are also available.
Geology books for beginners
No matter which books your budding geologist has already, there is always something different and new to learn in geology books, most of which are written with amateurs in mind.
Professional geology books tend to use a lot of big words that are impossible for beginners to understand.
Among Christmas gifts for your young rockhound has to be a book or two.
Must have books include those that identify rocks and minerals, with photographs and information about the various types around.
Even better are the books that tell you where these rocks can be found worldwide. This is of especial interest to those who are interested in mineralogy and gemstones.
Mineral test kits
No serious budding geologist can be without a mineral test kit.
Finding rocks and minerals is only the first part of collecting them. They have to be identified, and visual identification is not usually enough, unless you are already expert.
A good test kit will contain:
- a streak plate to test if the mineral leaves deposits when rubbed across it
- a glass plate for testing hardness
- a hand lens for closer magnification of the stone
- a dropper bottle for hydrochloric acids to test how the mineral reacts (Note: most test kits do not include the acid, so that will have to be sourced separately)
- a magnet - handy for checking if the rock contains iron
- a means of testing hardness on the Mohs scale. Some kits contain stainless steel, a nail and a penny
Mohs hardness picks
Professional Mohs scale testing kits
If you have read how to use the Mohs scale to determine the hardness of rocks and minerals, you will find it is pretty hit or miss affair.
Using fingernails, pennies, picket knives, glass and sharp quartz to test other pebbles and minerals to find out if they can scratch them or not, gives us only a rough idea.
A proper Mohs testing kit is available with picks capable of testing each rating on the scale of 1 - 10.
This will give you accurate results each time, allowing the easy identification or narrowing down of a group of possible minerals.
No budding geologist should be without a good Mohs testing kit.
Just pick up those picks, and try scratching the stone with first one end, then the other, of each pick, until you reach the level where it simply will not scratch the surface.
Then you will know the exact hardness of your stone.
Then all you have to do is look up your chart or book outlining stone hardnesses. With any luck, there will be only one type of rock with the same hardness level, color and specific gravity.
Specific gravity kit
All rocks and minerals can be identified by their specific gravity.
All you really need is a graduated cylinder, some water and a set of scales capable of accurately measuring grams.
You weigh the rock, add it to water in a graduated cylinder and note the difference in the rise of water.
From this, the specific gravity of that stone can be measured and compared against the known specific gravity of similar minerals.
There are all sorts of science kits available to buy which will make great Christmas gifts for the budding geologists in your family.
From 'break your own giodes' kits to crystal growing kits, it is never too early to pique a child's interest in science and the world around us.
Just click through to Amazon to see the dazzling range of geological kits available, designed to bring hours of fun to your child as well as hands-on experience in what could become a life-time quest for knowledge.
Rocks, minerals, gemstones and crystals are so much a part of the modern day world, we would be lost without them.
Many have uses in the precision industry, as well as cosmetics, house-building, jewelry and many others too abundant to mention.
Then of course, after collecting all those rocks and minerals, we can beautify them by putting them through a rock tumbling machine to smooth and polish them for posterity.