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Frequently Asked Questions About Mineral Identification and Collecting

petrified log
Fluorite, Foster Mine, Gila Fluorspar District, Grant County, New Mexico.

Compiled by Shari Kelley, Virgil Lueth, and John Rakovan


How can I have a mineral or rock identified?
Mineral identification is available by appointment only. Contact John Rakovan, the State Mineralogist. You can (1) start by sending photographs of the specimen (please make sure they are in focus and well illuminated) (2) after making an appointment bring the specimen to Socorro or (3) mail the specimen (along with return postage) to Dr. John Rakovan, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Socorro NM 87801.
I think that I have found a meteorite. How do I know for sure?
  • Meteorites¬†are very rare and several common rocks and man made materials, including iron ore from magnetite skarn deposits, iron concretions from sandstones, and slag deposits near old smelters and blacksmith shops, are often confused with meteorites. However, people do find meteorites occasionally, especially in the open desert, on playas, or on ice where they stand out.
  • See Meteorite or Meteorwrong? ...the Path to Identification from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. The PDF has several photographs of meteorites and helpful tips.
  • Another great source of identification information can be found at https://sites.wustl.edu/meteoritesite/identification/
  • Visit the Meteorite Museum at UNM to see great examples of real meteorites.
  • We do not offer meteorite identification or evaluation. For commercial identification services see: http://meteorite-identification.com/verification.html
Where can I find gold in New Mexico?
See our free download about gold panning in New Mexico.
Where are good collecting localities in New Mexico?
  • You may want to download our free Rockhounding Guide to New Mexico (4.5 Mb PDF).
  • Two books, Gem Trails of New Mexico by James R. Mitchell and New Mexico Rockhounding: A Guide to Minerals, Gemstones, and Fossils by Stephen M. Voynick provide fairly up-to-date information about mineral collecting in New Mexico.
  • The book Minerals of New Mexico by Stuart Northrup gives a comprehensive list of mineral occurrences in the state.
  • Another resource is Rockhounding New Mexico by Melinda Crow.
  • Local “rockhound” groups can also be helpful in pinpointing collecting sites and providing information about local land status and collecting issues.
  • Several webs sites offer information about mineral collecting in New Mexico:
Is it OK to collect rocks or minerals along highway roadcuts?
The answer to this question is generally "yes" because highway right-of-ways are public property; however, the New Mexico Department of Transportation sometimes places signs at certain unstable or extremely busy roadcuts that clearly state that rock collecting is not permitted. Please pay attention to these signs for your safety and for the safety of passing motorists.
 
I’d like to visit the Mineral Museum in Socorro. What are the hours of operation? How do I get there?
Check the Mineral Museum’s web page for location and other useful information.
What do federal land management agencies say about collecting minerals on public lands?