Tips for Buying Rare Rocks and Minerals Online

Dec 23, 2017

A major part of being a mineral collector is building relationships with vendors and hunting down the best specimens. Chances are you’ll want to grow your collection over time, and there are plenty of online vendors with vast collections to choose from. With so many options, how do you know which online vendors to focus on?

Here are a few tips to help you find a great online vendor:

Tip #1: Stay Informed About Your Specimens

Before deciding on a vendor, it’s important to have a clear idea about the rare rocks and minerals that you want to add to your collection. There are many species to choose from, each with unique properties, colors and luster that all work into its price.

If you’re unsure about what rare rocks and minerals you want to start your collection, look at complete exhibits and make a list of species that capture your interest. You’re likely to trade and upgrade your collection overtime, so feel free to experiment with your interest. For example, you may start your collection with a type of quartz crystal and move into rarer species months or years down the road.

Chinese minerals from Mount Xuebaoding in Sichuan Province often have a deep orange color. Gemmy clear quartz and muscovite accent an orange scheelite crystal.

 

 

Tip #2: Look at the Display

When shopping online, the best vendors will have a professionally taken photograph for each of their specimens. You’ll want to be weary of vendors who use generic photographs, as mineral colors can vary depending on lighting.

Take into consideration how the specimen will fit into your existing display space. If you’re using a glass cabinet, use the photograph provided as a reference to see if you like how well it sits with your collection.

Keep in mind that you’re free to ask the vendor for other photographs of the piece for sale. For example, crystalline structures can come in many shapes and clusters. Looking at the specimen from different angles can help you determine if it fits with your collection.

In fine mineral photography, it's often necessary to take many pictures in your quest to produce the best fine mineral photographs. Sometimes photos showing multiple angles of a specimen help determine if the piece is a right fit.

 

Tip #3: Be Intentional about Building Relationships with Vendors

After researching species and are settling on a budget, you’ll be more informed and comfortable shopping for your collection. You can shop from an online catalog, specialized vendors, a club’s collection or an exhibit.

Well-established vendors will have variety in the specimens available for you to choose from. When getting to know an online vendor, look for their archive of specimens and any published work. This will give you an idea of the types of species that they specialize in, helping you with price bargaining.

The key is to build relationships with these vendors. Over time, they’ll add new species to their collections and you’ll be on the shortlist of people to contact before specimens go on sale.

Tip #4: Look for Detailed Specimen Descriptions

The single most important feature in any online sale is a detailed description about the specimen. Information about a specimen's size, properties, condition, and origin should all be available to the customer.

For example, benitoite is a rare barium titanium silicate mineral that has grown in popularity for its deep blue, purplish colors. Authentic specimens of benitoite are only found in the mines of San Benito County, California. Knowing where a specimen comes from can have a major influence over its described authenticity and price.

Benitoite crystal from Dallas Gem Mine area in San Benito, California. Copyright The Arkenstone, Joe Budd Photo.

 

Tip #5: Know Where You’re Shipping From

Understand that rare rocks and minerals can get heavy and shipping prices can go up, depending on where it’s being shipped from. Keep in mind that exceptionally fragile specimens may find it more challenging to ship, and the vendor may recommend that you pick it up in person.

Some vendors will go to various mineral shows, showing their collections in exhibits and galleries. Keep track of vendors who are hitting the road and inquire about picking up your specimens along their travels. The Arkenstone is flexible with bringing specimens for delivery at shows in Denver, Tucson, Munich, and even China! Plus we host a semi-annual San Francisco Road Show.

There are many great online vendors that sell expansive collections of rare rocks and minerals. The hobby is also made of many close communities and clubs where rockhounds come together and talk about each other’s collections. Ask your fellow club members or rare rock and mineral collecting clubs about any vendors that they recommend.

 

Our favorite learning opportunity is the annual Dallas Mineral Collecting Symposium, sponsored by The Arkenstone and friends. The symposium will feature an expert speaker series about word-famous collections and also provide opportunities to mingle with top mineral dealers, collectors and enthusiasts.

Don’t forget to check our listings for our other shows. The Arkenstone is proud to offer specimens in many displays around the world.