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Hanksite: An Unusual Mineral

Updated on October 7, 2014
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Hanksite

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

Lots of Little Hanksite Crystals
Lots of Little Hanksite Crystals | Source
Mineral Traits
Hanksite Identifiers
MOHs Hardness
3 to 3.5
Luster
Vitreous, dull
Streak
White
Specific Gravity
2.6 to 2.7
Crystal Form
Short prismatic to tabular hexagonal
Transparency
Transparent, translucent

Other Hanksite Mineral Traits

*Brittle

*Uneven fracture

*Excellent basal cleavage

*Fluoresces yellow under shortwave UV light

*Associate minerals-Trona, Borax, Sulfohalite, Halite, Thenardite, Nahcolite

Get a Good Rock and Mineral Guide

Simon & Schuster's Guide to Rocks & Minerals
Simon & Schuster's Guide to Rocks & Minerals

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 with Borax Growth
Hanksite Crystal with Borax Growth | Source

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.

Discovery

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

Mud Inside of the Hanksite Crystal
Mud Inside of the Hanksite Crystal | Source

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.

Minerals of California
Minerals of California

Learn more about the minerals found in California with this reproduction of an interesting old book talking about just that.

 

Collecting Hanksite

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

Hanksite Crystals Blown Out of the Ground
Hanksite Crystals Blown Out of the Ground | Source

Crystals that were Blown Out of Ground

Crystals that were Blown Out of Ground
Crystals that were Blown Out of Ground | Source

Dry Mud-Coated Hanksite

Dry Mud-Coated Hanksite
Dry Mud-Coated Hanksite | Source

Hanksite's Chemical Formula

Na22KCl(CO3)2(SO4)9

Sodium-potassium chloro carbonate sulfate

Sensitive Hanksite

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

Brine to Clean the Crystals
Brine to Clean the Crystals | Source

Scraping Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal

Scraping Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal
Scraping Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal | Source

Scrubbing Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal

Scrubbing Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal
Scrubbing Mud Off of Hanksite Crystal | Source

It's a Messy Job

Scrubing Mud off the Hanksite Crystals
Scrubing Mud off the Hanksite Crystals | Source

Clean Hanksite Crystal

Clean Hanksite Crystal
Clean Hanksite Crystal | Source

Cleaning Hanksite from Gem-O-Rama

Crystal Healing

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's Name

Hanksite was named after Henry Garber Hanks (1826-1907). The first state mineralogist of California.

Hanksite Crystal

Hanksite Crystal
Hanksite Crystal | Source

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

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @kohuether lm: wow this is very interesting and information

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have actually found two samples of hanksite at the America Girl Mine on the Border of California and Airzona. I would love to send pictures to verify. Please email me and I will send pics. jessica61312@gmail.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Your website was very informative. I collected specimens to give to my students. Your information was easy to understand and I can print some of it for the kids.

    • AlishaV profile image
      Author

      Alisha Vargas 8 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Thanks so much! Hanksite isn't well known but it's one of my favorite minerals :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Very interesting and unusual lens. Blessed by an Angel

    • kohuether lm profile image

      kohuether lm 8 years ago

      I've never heard of this mineral before. Very interesting and informative!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      I don't have any hanksite, but I had fun learning about this mineral. Great work!