Minerals Make Life

Snappy little video, light on details but, again, snappy. They mention kyanite. I am investigating why they relate it to skyscrapers.

They also point out  beryllium, which the Los Alamos Nation Lab says, “Is applied as a structural material for high-speed aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and communication satellites.” It is widely considered as a strategic or critical mineral. A hundred years ago, it would have been called a war material.

Berylliym  interests me because I visited the Harding Mine, now known as the Harding Pegmatite Mine in Taos County, New Mexico last year. At one point in the 1950s the Harding Mine was the leading American source of beryllium. Photos and information on how to visit that mine will appear in my book.

The beryl family, by the way, includes gem material  such as aquamarine and emerald. But I am starting to ramble.

The Kelly Mine in Magdalena, New Mexico

Magdalena, New Mexico. Known for Smithsonite, a zinc ore. Beautiful country all around.


A proud rock shop owner known simply as Otero, displays his rough material and his cabs, the findings made by a native woman silversmith.


To know more about Smithsonite, named for the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, watch this video:

Read more about the mine, its small dig fee, directions, and the beautiful town of Magdalena in my upcoming book.

Picture Sandstone: Common and Extraordinary

Rockhounds should look for anything special, not necessarily what they first start out searching for. An intense gold interest may blind a person to something common yet wonderful, right under their feet. Sedimentary rocks and their related formations are a good example.

Erik Christiansen and Kenneth Hamblin say that a rock formation is,  “A distinctive body of rock that serves as a convenient unit for study and mapping.” The USGS goes a bit further, writing that, “A rock formation is a body of rock of considerable extent with distinctive characteristics that allow geologists to map, describe, and name it.”  Sedimentary rocks are usually named for the formation they were found in. There are hundreds of sedimentary based formations.

To serve as an example of a sedimentary rock and its related formation for my book, I bought the treated sandstone you see pictured below. It’s about three inches by five. It shows what can be done with a common rock, transforming it into something that rivals fine wood grain in its beauty. Being sandstone, it was assuredly easy to slab it with a rock saw into a square.

The seller’s description reads as follows:

“This is natural sandstone that formed 180 to 220 million years ago by wind and water as part of the geological formation ‘Shinarump.’ The colors and design were induced by a mineral spring containing iron oxides. If you like the unusual and beautiful works of nature, you will enjoy this picture sandstone product. Truly ‘Nature’s most beautiful painting.’ This piece comes from northern Arizona. The design and patterns are natural, its color is achieved by heat treating the stone. This caused the iron oxides found naturally in the stone to react, the richer the iron the deeper the color.”

Wikipedia has this good introduction to the Shinarump conglomerate, which is found throughout the Colorado plateau. You can read it by clicking here.

A New Rockhounding Book

Welcome to a new site promoting a new book coming out in early 2020. The working title is A Beginner’s Guide to Rockhounding and Prospecting in the Southwest.

My name is Thomas Farley and I am a freelance writer living in Las Vegas. A longtime prospector for gold, I have in the last few years developed an interest in all rocks, gems, and minerals.

In my spare time I can be seen roaming the low and high deserts of California and Nevada, looking for agates, fluorescent minerals or uranium ore.

I have five Rock&Gem articles to my credit, so far, and I’ve penned multiple articles for Outdoor California. And an old article on gold for an American Heritage publication.

This site is simply a placeholder for Future Things. Visit my blog for everything I am working on now.

Thanks for visiting!