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5 Best Rock and Mineral Identification Guide Books For 2021

When you’re a beginner at rockhounding, all rocks look the same. Is this light green rock a tourmaline? Or is it beryl? You never know! That’s why it’s always better to have a rock identification guide at your disposal. 

The identification guide will help familiarize your eyes with the rocks and minerals you may find at your mining destination. It’ll also tell you the differences between the seemingly similar rocks you find. In this article, we’ll list the best rock and mineral identification guides you can buy for your new rockhounding hobby!

The Top 5 Guidebooks for Rock and Mineral Identification

In this list, we compiled the top guidebooks for rock and mineral identification. You can take your best pick and go on with your adventure.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals

Perfect for mountain climbers, hikers, and geology enthusiasts, this valuable reference covers more rocks and minerals in North America than any other available guide.

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The National Audubon Society guide has almost 800 colored photographs for rocks and minerals, along with all their specimens. It’s easy to realize why it gained a place on our list. It’s hard to find that many rocks and minerals in one guide.

The book is compact enough to accompany you on your rockhounding trip. It serves as an excellent instant identifier for rocks. The full photographs also make it easier for you to name the rock and determine its worth.

One more thing to love about this guide is the variety of gems, rocks, and minerals inside. It doesn’t only list the types you may already know of, but it also lists all the variations and specimens with their different colors. 

On top of that, it tells you where to find each type. With this straightforward identification guide, you’re sure to put a name to every rock you find.

Rockhounding Arizona: A Guide To 75 of The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites (Rockhounding Series)

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Falcon State-by-State Rockhounding Guides
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The 15-book Rockhounding Series is one of the best rock and mineral identification guides on the market. There isn’t only a guide for Arizona, but you’ll find a lot of other states as well, including Alaska, Virginia, California, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

Whether you’re going for mountain searches, digs, or beach hunts, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the books of this series. To save the entire book series’s cost, you can pick the states where you’re going rockhounding and purchase its book.

The Rockhounding books are useful for both experts and beginners. They list the commercial sites that allow rockhounding, along with the unknown accessible sites you can visit. 

In addition to that, the books provide advice for rockhounding and identifying gems and rocks. If you’re new to the digging hobby, the series will be ideal for you.

Rocks & Minerals of Wisconsin, Illinois & Iowa: A Field Guide

Rocks & Minerals of Wisconsin, Illinois & Iowa (Rocks & Minerals Identification Guides)
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If you’re going rockhounding in the states of the Heartland, this field guide will make your mission much easier. It features descriptions and photographs of 96 rocks you may come across in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, including the rare specimens.

The book’s layout is pretty easy and straightforward, so you don’t face much of a hassle trying to get information out of it. Besides, the book’s photographs give you all the details you need to identify the rock you have at hand. You won’t have to guess or run to Google for help; at a glance, you’ll realize which rock you’re looking at.

The book’s compact size allows it to fit easily in your tool bag. You can take it along with you for your field trip, rather than try and memorize the rocks inside it. It’s always better to have a guide book at hand when you’re in the middle of digging. You wouldn’t want to miss a precious rock because you’re not familiar with its worth!

Rocks and Minerals (Dorling Kindersley Handbooks)

Rocks & Minerals of Wisconsin, Illinois & Iowa (Rocks & Minerals Identification Guides)
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If you want to learn about rock and mineral identification for the sake of it, rather than search in specific states, this guide will be a perfect choice for you. Rocks and Minerals handbook provides photos, descriptions, and info about various rocks and minerals you may encounter during rockhounding.

The book has an easy layout with large photographs, so it’s easy to lay your eyes on the rock you’re looking for. Additionally, the last few pages have information about meteorites, in case you’re interested in those, too. 

One more thing to love about this guide is its clear, large text that’s in line with the pictures. The book has small pieces of text to avoid getting you bored. You’ll be able to get the piece of information you’re seeking pretty quickly without reading a bunch of lines.

National Geographic Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals of North America

National Geographic Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals of North America (Pocket Guides)
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We saved the best for last! This pocket guide from National Geographic is the best companion you can have on your rockhounding trips. Its display of rocks and minerals is limited to North America, so you don’t drown in the sea of information.

National Geographic’s beginner guide includes photos and information about a large variety of rocks, along with gems, fossils, minerals, and land formations. The layout is logical and easy for you to skim through so that you can reach the rock you’re looking for faster. 

Along with photographs of the rocks and minerals, the guidebook explains the places where you’ll likely find these rocks. Plus, it addresses North America’s land formations that help with rockhounding.

The guide has clear identification points that enable you to search faster. It’s sure to make your rockhounding adventure much easier.

How to Get Into the Rockhounding World

If you’re a beginner to the rockhounding world, a mere book guide won’t be sufficient to teach you everything you need to know. There are a couple of more things you can do to widen your horizon. 

Do Enough Research

When looking to get into rockhounding, it’s better to search close to your area first. The first thing to look for is the unique geological traits. By getting familiar with those samples first, you won’t be exposed to any foreignness regarding territories. 

Besides, you’ll slowly get used to searching for specimens. That’s if your state’s formation allows for rockhounding. If not, look for the closest mining site.

Connect With Others

Rockhounding alone will only get you so far; it’s sometimes important to share your hobbies with others to learn the techniques better. 

First, check if there’s a collector’s club in your area. This will guarantee you learn the right approaches to collecting, along with the right tools to use. Plus, you can start some chats on your rockhounding trip. Associating with people that have the same hobby always gives you some useful insights.

Get the Right Equipment

The key to starting any hobby right is getting the right tools, especially when it’s something as intricate as hunting for rocks and minerals. 

Don’t get tricked by looks; you don’t need to get the most expensive tools out there to ensure their efficiency. As a beginner, you’ll only need the basic equipment, including safety glasses, shovels—short-handed preferred—, a rock hammer, chisel, bucket, mallet, gloves, and a pair of tough boots. 

Bear in mind that some sites won’t need any tools; you can find the rocks and minerals right on the ground without digging. So, make sure you know what you’re going to need before buying something unnecessary.

Document Every Rock

Documentation is an essential part of any activity. With rockhounding, it’ll provide a reference for you to get back to when you need it. You can start by keeping a record of the specimens’ unique names and their mined year. 

If you want to go an extra step, record the rock’s varietal and mineral name, along with some details about mining —depths and levels, for example. You’ll find the information pretty useful later on when you revisit certain sites.

Save the Identifying Labels

If, by any chance, you obtain specimens from others, make sure to keep their labels. Each rock’s history is what determines whether it’s rare. This is a required added value to your collection.

If you want to sell your rocks and minerals, this step will come in handy later on.

Make Sure Your Sources Are Reliable

There’s no better investment than a reference book or publication that tells you for sure the type of mineral you found. There are many excellent reference choices, and our top guide books above will be of great help for this.

No one can memorize all the rocks and minerals on his own; you’ll inevitably need some help, especially if you’re a beginner. A guide book always comes in handy.

Closing Thoughts

Rockhounding is easier than it implies. While you may think you’re going into a complicated world of mining, it’s actually pretty simple. As long as you have the right tools and your identification guide is in your pocket, you’ll be fine!

To choose the best rock and mineral identification guide, try to limit yourself to a few states. That guarantees you won’t have to look into hundreds of different photographs that’ll prove of no worth. Carrying a guide dedicated to your state or the ones around you is always the better choice.

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