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Hanksite: An Unusual Mineral
Hanksite is a rare, unusual, and intriguing mineral.
Though Hanksite crystals may seem simple when you first look at them- Hanksite crystals often have simple shapes and don't seem nearly as impressive as some of the more complex crystals out there; their seemingly simplicity is part of their charm.
Hanksite may not look complex, but it has an unusual chemical formula and an interesting collection process, and the simple, crystal shapes are a refreshing change from the other ever-more complex evaporite minerals.
Lots of Little Hanksite Crystals
3 to 3.5
2.6 to 2.7
Short prismatic to tabular hexagonal
Other Hanksite Mineral Traits
*Excellent basal cleavage
*Fluoresces yellow under shortwave UV light
*Associate minerals-Trona, Borax, Sulfohalite, Halite, Thenardite, Nahcolite
Get a Good Rock and Mineral Guide
Learn more about many other amazing rocks and minerals with this handy guide. I have one and use it often.
Hanksite in Mineral Collections
Though it's a mineral even most geologist haven't heard of, Hanksite should be in everyone's rock collection.
Not only is it relatively rare, but it is also extremely unusual.
Hanksite is one of the few minerals that could be a member of both the carbonate and sulfate groups. Normally it is placed in the sulfate group, but may be in the carbonates section of some people's mineral collections.
It is also unusually easy to find nicely shaped specimens. Hanksite crystals are often very simple, which makes them a wonderful contrast to some of the more intricate minerals in a collection.
They do need some special care to be displayed though. Hanksite must be coated regularly with mineral oil or sprayed with a non-yellowing clear coat to prevent it from being destroyed by the humidity in the air.
Hanksite Crystal with Borax Growth
Hanksite Crystal Formation
Hanksite crystals form out of salty, mineral-filled water, called brine.
In most places around the world all water eventually makes it to the ocean. That means that rain that falls on one area will run down a hill until it hits a stream which will feed into a river which will eventually run into the ocean. As the water passes over the land it picks up salts and dissolved minerals from rocks and dirt and those go into the ocean too. That's why the ocean is salty.
There are a few places this doesn't happen though. In these areas, water evaporates faster than it is precipitated, so it doesn't make it all the way to the ocean. Instead there is usually a low spot in the area where the water runs, and then evaporates, leaving behind all the salts the water picked up on it's travels across the hillsides. These areas may have water under the ground, but rarely does water stay on the surface very long.
Badwater Basin is one of these places, as is Searles Lake.
Over time, the salts build up and build up. There are many different kinds of salts, so don't just think of table salt, although that can be one of them. In the case of Searles Lake, there are sodium and potassium. Deep below the surface of Searles Lake, there is some water, and lots of these salts. With the correct conditions, these salts can eventually grow into crystals such as Hanksite.
Hanksite was first discovered in 1885
Mud Inside the Hanksite Crystals
Often when looking at Hanksite crystals you may actually spot mud inside of them. Mud inside the Hanksite crystals comes from the crystal's formation, occasionally they form around bits of mud and may have a globule or two inside, or even be filled with mud.
Mud Inside of the Hanksite Crystal
Hanksite Deposit Locations
Hanksite is pretty much collected at only one spot in the entire world. That one place is Searles Dry Lake in San Bernardino County, California. It has also been found at a few other evaporite deposit locations, but mineral specimens almost never come from the other places. If you have a Hanksite crystal you can pretty much assume that it originated in Searles Dry Lake.
Learn more about the minerals found in California with this reproduction of an interesting old book talking about just that.
Hanksite grows deep under the surface of the lakebed, so no one would be able to get at it if we didn't have help. Luckily for us, at Searles Lake, the mineral company that normally mines the lakebed for Borax or Potash, once a year brings up some Hanksite for rock collectors at the annual Gem-O-Rama. There are two ways they do this.
One way is to scoop truckload after truckload of sticky, black mud from the lakebed, sticky, black mud that is full of Hanksite crystals. They then spread the mud out so we can go through it and find the mineral specimens we want.
The other way the mineral company brings the crystals to the surface is through something they call blow holes. They drill a deep hole into the lakebed, down all the way to where the crystals are. They then set off dynamite in the bottom of these holes. This loosens all the crystals down there. When that's done, they pump air down the hole, which forces up brine, which carries the crystals with it. This gets sprayed all over the ground and when they are done, people get to pick up the crystals they want.
Hanksite Crystals Blown Out of the Ground
Crystals that were Blown Out of Ground
Dry Mud-Coated Hanksite
Hanksite's Chemical Formula
Sodium-potassium chloro carbonate sulfate
Hanksite crystals will dissolve if immersed in regular water, or even left out in a humid area without protection.
They have to be washed carefully in brine, extremely salty water. Specifically, they should be washed in the brine where they formed to avoid having them become pitted or dissolving.
Brine to Clean the Crystals
Scraping Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal
Scrubbing Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal
It's a Messy Job
Clean Hanksite Crystal
Cleaning Hanksite from Gem-O-Rama
Hanksite crystals have been used for many years in crystal healing.
*Hanksite is called "the truth stone"
*It is good with all chakras, especially solar plexus and throat
*Its corresponding astrological sign is Taurus
*Hanksite's corresponding element is earth
*Metaphysical properties are awareness, insight, perception, and adeptness
*Hanksite is good to use in meditation
*Hanksite crystals stimulate the third eye
*Hanksite cleanses the body and environment of stagnant and undesirable energies
*Combines synergistically with Pink Halite, Labradorite, and Quartz
Hanksite was named after Henry Garber Hanks (1826-1907). The first state mineralogist of California.
Other Sites for Hanksite Information
Get Your Own Hanksite Crystals
Hanksite crystals are surprisingly inexpensive considering how rare and unusual they are. Pick up a few for yourself or for gifts while they are still relatively unknown and cheap.
Collect Your Own Hanksite Crystals
Want to go out and dig Hanksite crystals out of the mud? Want to see them shoot through the sky? Then you need to go to Gem-O-Rama.
Gem-O-Rama is an annual event that occurs near Death Valley, California in October.
Once a year, the company that owns Searles Dry Lake, opens it up for people to collect crystals there, one of the most common of which is Hanksite. They dig up piles of mud for collectors to dig through, looking for Hanksite crystals. They also shoot Hanksite and other crystals out of the ground at the blow hole field trip. It is really a great place to collect minerals, for professionals as well as amateurs.
For more information check out My Article on Gem-O-Rama