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Written By: HeySal on February 7, 2012 2 Comments

As much as I enjoyed rock hunting in NV, it’s not really a user friendly place for much else, so I’m hitting the road again next week. .  I didn’t realize I picked up so much great stuff out here until I went to pack and found out how much of it I’m going to pack with me. You should see how much I’m leaving behind.  Silver Springs has turned out to be a phenomenal base for the avid rockhound, even if it is an employment black hole.

Anyway – I just thought you fine folk would like a little picture tour of what can be picked up out here not far from the Silver Springs area.

Mason Pass sits just to the west of a pleasant little town called Yerrington.  If you like blue minerals, this is a trip you have to take.  Crysacolla, azurite, turquoise, and malachite (yeah, I know. Malachite is green) all can be found in varied quantities in the Mason Pass area.  Here’s a few of my finds from there.  Gorgeous stuff, all of which  is usually found as seam material. The rocks have plenty of seams throughout though, so when you find blue, you can break the boulders up into smaller samples and still have beautiful specimens.  I got several angles on these for ya.

Here’s a view from a different angle for ya.

Petrified Wood:

Petrified wood is prevalent in many areas of Nevada in various color combinations and in varying amounts.  Here’s a few pieces I picked up right near home where it is a rare find. There are some areas just a little bit NW of where I lived that it is much the same in quality, but is much more common a find.  Getting back to it can be a pain in the butt, though. The trails are sandy and rocky, and sometimes you just have to park and walk in.  Needless to say – you will  probably want to go further to the South or East to hunt for Nevada wood than the Silver Springs area.  In some locations wood becomes much more similar to the colorful woods of Arizona.  My region wasn’t one of those locations.

The smaller chunk in front is what the wood in my general vicinity usually looks like:

Here’s a better picture of the big piece in back. I’m not sure if you can see the rings, but you can in person. This piece is a bit more unusual. It’s mostly black and agaty, but the agate seems to tend toward opal in spots.  The color is also blue in a few spots rather than black.  I can hardly wait to get a slice off of this piece!

Agates.  What you can find a lot of in my neck of the woods is agates.  I can honestly say it hasn’t sucked living where I have agates within a walking distance of me.  They are all over the place in pockets on the north side of 50 once you get past highway 95 in the Springs.   You almost have to be trying not to find agates not to find them out here.

Here’s just a general view of some of the different colors of agate that’s out in this area.

That big agate at the back is actually a dark royal or navy blue. I’ve never seen one near the color of this one. Most of the darker agate here is grey.  This is another one I’m extremely anxious to get a slab and a few cabs from. As you can see these stones are pretty rich in color.  They are more translucent than a picture allows me to show you, but you get the idea, I’m sure, if you’ve ever hunted agate before.

Here’s a closer shot of a blue crazy lace and a carnelian. The banding on the lace doesn’t show in this picture, but it is beautiful in person.  Perhaps when I get some of this cabbed I can find a higher resolution camera so you can see more of the details.

blue and carnellian agate

This agate shows how multi-colored a lot of the agates are and gives a little more detail than the other pics I got of my agates.

Well the agate shots didn’t show as much detail as I had hoped, so I’m just going to skip over the rest of them and get to another rock that comes in all sorts of variations out here – jasper.

The most famous of the jaspers in Nevada is called Wonderstone. Some of this jasper is a matte stone, other is quite waxy.  It is just gorgeous either way.  There are a couple of hills out West of Fallon between Grimes Point archaeological site and Middlegate.  One is called Wonderstone mountain and the other is Yellow Hill.  There is another by the old camp of Wonderstone.  I’ve heard of others, but never saw them.  Here’s a few pictures of some of this incredible stone.

Most of the Wonderstone is pink, maroon, and yellow as you will see in the pics – but this particular prize shows how diverse the colors can be.

Here’s a pic of more conventional and common Wonderstone specimens.

Wonderful Wonderstone

Here’s a close up of the large stone on the bottom:

eye shaped markings in wonderstone

While Wonderstone is the most widely known of the Nevada jaspers, there are jaspers of all colors out here.

The green jaspers in the pic above come from the area just SW of Fernley.

This next jasper and the pic under it came from another hill composed completely of jasper.  You can tell the hill  is pure jasper even from a distance. It is red.  The guy holding the jasper in the first pic here is a friend of mine, Aaron Aveiro, who took almost all of the pics here.  (Thanks Aaron).   He liked the piece he is holding up because of the vugs of dark drusy that form a face in the rock.  These are just small samples of the gorgeous agate from that hill.  If you are hearty enough and have the right equipment, you could pull specimens the size of my jeep off of that hill.

I don’t remember exactly where I picked up some of the jaspers. You can find a mix of these jaspers when hunting in the agate fields, or you just go to a hill made out of the stuff.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  A lot of the jaspers have  agate in them, too. Sometimes just seams, but some actually qualify to justly be called jaspagate.  When I get some of these beauties worked into cabs I’ll get some more detailed pictures of them.

Well that’s one longshot from being an all inclusive list of what you can find in Nevada – in fact it’s just a tiny start.  There are fire opals, black opal, garnets, topaz, quartz crystals, and a whole list of other gemstones throughout the state.   When, some day in the future you come back here to the Gazette, don’t be one bit surprised if you find that a group of us went out and got a whole new line up of pics of other mineral finds from out here.  I might be moving – but have an open invitation to visit this summer, so I’ll probably drag part of the RHS1 gang with me.  I don’t think I’ll have to twist many arms to get them to come, either.

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Written By: HeySal on November 1, 2010 One Comment

Finding a great agate or piece of jasper is a thrill for any rockhound, but being able to identify exactly what it is that has been found is quite a headache for the beginner. These headaches can be relieved very easily though with just a little bit of knowledge about the different quartz group stones.

Agate and jasper are actually chalcedony, which in turn is cryptocrystalline quartz. All are SIO2. When you pick up a stone you can rule out that it is a piece of regular massive quartz quite quickly just by looking to see if you can see the grains of the stone. If you can see grains, you do not have an agate or jasper. Most likely, what you have then is massive quartz or some other type of stone. Many new rockhounds will mistake massive quartz for a piece of agate, so don’t feel bad if you do. It’s a very frequent mistake.

Jasper and agate will appear to be made of wax. If the rock is just plain clear to white translucent with no markings or patterns, it is considered chalcedony. If it is opaque, that is, if you cannot see into or through it, it is jasper. Jasper is most frequently earth tones or red but you can find jasper in just about any color or color combination and it can contain some very lively patterns. One well known form of jasper is called “picture” jasper, and just as the name suggests, the lines and markings look just like a scenic picture of mountains and valleys or forests and so on. Geometric patterns are also common in jasper stones.

If a stone is an agate, it will be translucent as is chalcedony, but an agate will have patterns. Most commonly, agates have bands, and are appropriately called banded agate. Sometimes the bands are also translucent, sometimes some are opaque. There are many agates named to describe how they look, such as plume, orbicular, or flower and many that are named for the place they are found, such as Dryhead or Lake Superior. For instance, moss agate is a clear to semi-clear agate that looks like moss was embedded in the stone. No two agates are alike and many fantastically patterned stones will not have specific type or place names.

There are also stones which you will find that have both jasper and agate in them. Both the opaque and translucent parts of these stones will appear waxy. These are often referred to as jasp-agate. Once you become familiar with the look of both jasper and agate, you will be able to recognize jasp-agate with no problems. One other stone that can be confused with agate or jasper is opal.

Opal will have flashes of color if it is precious opal. It can be also be common opal which is plain translucent or opaque and a just about any color or a mix of colors. Opal generally looks more glassy than waxy, and it is much more brittle and breakable than agate or jasper.

If you still aren’t sure when you find a rock if it is jasper, agate, or opal, you should take it with you and ask someone about it. Your local rock shop or club or even a jeweler’s shop can identify it for you. You will have few problems identifying these stones after the first or second time. Once you learn to identify these basic stones, you will be surprised how many different types of gemstones you will start noticing on your hunts.

© Sally Taylor, RHS1

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