Digging Quartz Crystals: Dirty, Muddy and Fun

Some Basics

Mineral Identification
Collecting Tools, and How to Use Them


Introduction to Geology
Our Changing Earth
The Geologic Time Scale
Stories Fossils Tell
Earthquakes and Faults
The Ouachita Mountains
Energy Resources: Fossil Fuels

Quartz Crystals

Introduction to Quartz
Digging Quartz Crystal
Cleaning Quartz Crystal
What's it Worth?
Types of Quartz
Geology and Mineralogy
Quartz as Gems
Experiments You Can Do

Other Collectable Minerals


Managing a Collection

Making Your Collection the Best
Cleaning Minerals
What to do...

Minerals Special to Arkansas

Some are New to Science


No Gold in Arkansas


Digging Quartz Crystals

photo of quartzIf you have never dug quartz in Arkansas, you might want to do this as soon as you arrive. Here are a few suggestions concerning what you need . The best places to find crystals are the mines where you can dig for a fee, and these are listed on the fee pay mines page.

Tools for working the tailings

What you need depends on the type of mine you visit. If you are working the tailings piles or mine waste dump, then you need the following: 3 tined garden scratcher (some folks like a short-handled one, but I want a long handle so I don't have to stoop over or sit on the ground so much); old boat cushion (to sit on), several pairs of cheap gloves, a rock hammer, wrapping paper (old newspaper will do), and a bucket or cardboard box to put your crystals in.

Tools for working the veins
If you are working the veins in the ground, then you need the above tools plus a three foot pry bar with a bend on the end which is sharpened to a point, a 4-pound sledge hammer, an 8-pound sledge hammer, a 5 to 6 foot chisel-edged stout pry or breaker bar, heavy leather gloves, and a lot of energy. See Tools and How to Use Them.

Den 5 at the Stanley Mine
Kids like to hunt crystal
You can have a lot of fun, especially if you have kids along, by having everyone working with scratchers in loose mine tailings so that they recover small very clear crystals. Kids really like to do this and can recover a large amount of crystal by staying in one spot and scratching around. As you walk over the ground, keep an eye out for a sparkle. It might be the tip of a nice crystal, the rest of which is covered in muddy clay. (You'll have to show the kids what to look for, or you'll come home with a truck full of yard rocks. )

Finding a pocket
Sometimes when you are working on a vein you may open up a pocket or vug (a cavity into which all the crystals point to the middle). Often such pockets will yield very good crystal specimens, but you must take considerable care in working the crystal out. Quartz is brittle and nothing sounds worse than to be trying to recover good specimens and hearing the crystals grinding or crunching against each other! I'd rather leave it in the ground than break it all to pieces trying to get it out.

qtz pocket
     When a pocket is discovered that looks good, dig down beside it and come in from the side to collect the material, if possible. You'll have a lot less damage. Most of the pockets are tightly packed with clay. Don't try to remove the clay right then !! It's Mother Nature's packing material. You can clean the crystal later. Wrap the crystals or the cluster with a single sheet or half sheet of newspaper and pack in your box or bucket to take home.

Personal Gear
A word about clothing and other things. If you are planning on working with heavy hand tools, remember to bring along plenty of food and drink, Gatorade-type drinks are very good during the hot summers we have here. Broad brimmed straw hats are good for everybody. Digging is dirty work. What kind of clothing to wear? Old clothes that you can use for the trip and don't mind if they ever come clean again. The red to orange clay associated with the quartz crystals will penetrate and stain all your clothes and even your skin after a while. You might look like you put on some old style cheap suntan lotion that turned orange!!
     Sunscreen is a necessity as few sites have shade trees where you will want to dig. Also bug spray. If you have never encountered an Arkansas chigger, take our advice and use the bug spray to keep these itchy red bugs off. Plan on making a day of the trip and try to return to your motel or camp in time to go swimming. This really feels good at the end of a long day in the summertime.

Take a first aid kit, too. Quartz is like glass, it will cut you.

Take a trash bag and haul your trash out with you.

Note to Collectors: Please be aware that knowing about these minerals and where they can be found does not grant the right to trespass on private property or mining claims. Even if you consider taking some samples as "just collecting," property owners might consider your actions trespassing and theft. The status of mineral collecting on national forest and Corps of Engineers land is changing, and access is very restricted. Please check with the appropriate landowner, lease or claim holder, or district supervisor before attempting to enter a collecting locality.