Prospecting Tips and Hints

Last year I published an article How to Find Crystals that detailed some of the techniques I use and general prospecting tips, hoping to give several tips and hints to aid in expediting the learning curve of digging crystals.  I’ve gotten some great feedback from that article and appreciate all the comments.


One of the things I tried to cover in that blog posting was what to look for on the surface and how to know if you are in a good spot and should continue digging, or bury the hole and continue the prospecting elsewhere.  I knew it would be difficult to share that experience, as I’m still learning myself and it’s one of those things you can read about all day long but you don’t “get it” until you actually can see and experience how it is done.  The pictures and text in that article were helpful I feel; but it still left me with questions after reading it–knowing that I had a plan for this year’s prospecting trips…

That blog posting was just the first of many postings I plan to do sharing what I’ve figured out on finding pegmatite crystals.  I was able to get out digging late this spring and my goal was to take some video while I was on the hunt, hopefully showing what I look for on the surface and what I look for as I follow the pegmatite trail to the crystals (assuming I find crystals, which many times I don’t)!  This video hopefully will provide some tips and hints of what works for me in the toughest part of the process, the initial prospecting and test holes.

Unfortunately due to leaving the camera in the sun too long, the pocket extraction video was corrupt, but the good stuff from a prospecting perspective was saved showing progress as I was hunting for the pocket.  You’ll see that demonstrated in the video below.

I would love your feedback, questions and suggestions.  I plan to do other videos showing different techniques.

The small crystal pocket I eventually hit I’m calling the OneTwo.  It was mainly Microcline crystals, most were Carlsbad twinned!  On these, once cleaned up, opposite faces had a blue tint of Amazonite to them; not as deep of green color as you find elsewhere in the region, but still really nice and a lot of fun.  The smokey quartz I found all had secondary coatings of a darker colored quartz which will be very difficult to remove.

Interesting cluster of Amazonite / Microcline joined at a ~45 degree angle.
Amazonite Carsbad Twin
Carlsbad twinned Amazonite (light blue) with a small amount of cleavelandite sprays.
Carlsbad Amazonite
Nice little pair of Carlsbad twinned Amazonite with a bit of cleavelandite.
These are the largest crystals from the pocket, each about 3.5 inches tall. They had to be repaired as they came out in 3 pieces, the cap to the larger crystal was cleaved off and the two crystals had been separated and were found about a foot from each other in the pocket.
smokey quartz
Smoky Quartz showing the secondary quartz growth. These have been soaked in a heated chemical bath for several weeks and look at lot better than they originally did; but this is as far as I will clean them as the quartz underneath is not worth the effort.
Some of the nicer twinned amazonites from the OneTwo pocket.
Smoky Quartz
Examples of the coated smoky quartz from the OneTwo. The larger crystals are nearly 3 inches long.  There were mostly microcline crystals in the pocket; which is opposite of what I typically find in the region.


  1. Nice video! Too bad about the part that got garbled. Those twins are interesting showing different rotation angles. I would certainly dig deeper and around that location since you have twins and some color. I hope you find that the emails I sent you regarding digging and Taylor Mountain prove to useful for you.


    1. Thanks James. Yes, I got the info on Taylor Mtn, not sure if I will get up there this year or not, but I really appreciate the info. And on the digging info, I appreciate that too! Loved the pictures!

  2. Congrats on your recent find. I will soon be going up to Devil’s Head with a friend for a few days. I’m sure this info, combined with other tips I have learned from your site will come to great use! Thank you for sharing this knowledge.

  3. Loved the follow up post. I’m always a sucker for tips on prospecting so if you ever feel like writing more on this topic, please do. I end up on your site a lot!

    Would it be possible to get more zoomed out pics/videos of some of your dig spots? This video was great because you showed the initial float. Like you said, the hardest part is initial prospecting and picking a spot to dig. And everyone seems to be sharing videos zoomed in on the dirt after they are already into their dig!

    I have a hard time envisioning how a peg vein ‘runs through the hillside’ or into the ground. On many occasions I have found huge chunks of peg (boulder sized) with extremely large grains of quartz/feldspar. Usually at the bottom of a hill. I try to follow the source up the hill, but I can never seem to make sense of the landscape. All my digs have come up empty… never even really found a good peg vein yet. Anyways, some zoomed out shots would be interesting. Thanks!

    1. Hi Blake. There isn’t much signs of organization on the hillsides where I dig, so zoomed out shots of what I am finding is not overly helpful. The best thing to probably do is find other digs and follow that peg along the hillside by digging test holes what appears to be aligned with how it is trending. That is how I often find new spots to dig. Other times its simply test holes and luck. Once in a while it pays off. Happy prospecting!

  4. I’ve stumbled upon a very large chunk of quartz. It looks to have been mined already. There are 6 holes around it that have been filled and those holes have sunken a good bit. A section protrudes from the ground. I can tell it is large and much under ground by the distance between the trees that have quartz crumbles around the bottom of them. So far I’ve found three types of quartz Smokey, rose and milky. I’ve found pieces that look to have had crystals broken from it.
    My find is 80 miles from Asheville nc. Any information or guidance to where to begin will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    1. Howdy. Sounds very interesting. I have not had experience with this large of rock. I have seen crystals grow in cavities in solid rock, but busting rock is a lot of effort. Check for veins or seams and follow those.

      Sounds like this is not where it once was, the holes may have been where it was a fixed to s ok me thing to pull it out? I would look for areas around that may be worth digging as there could be other veins. Be curious of what you find. Good luck!

  5. Thank you so very much Davealex for the posts and the videos. I have been a pebble pup for a good decade and have only really committed to the passion this summer. I am self taught, while currently an ER RN, i had a past life where I got a biology Env Sci degree with lots of geology classes that have helped understand basics. I have been reading all the John Sinkankas books, pouring over the internet, and finding good pegmatite and massive quartz every day but have yet to have found as float or in situ a real euhedal crystal. I wrote a longer message which I might email to you detailing what I have found and how but didn’t want to leave something so long as a “comment”. So, in comment, your posts and videos are exactly the kind of explanations I have been looking for and I have found them to be very valuable. I can watch videos of people pulling crystals out of pockets all day and night—but few ever explain how they found them. None ever discuss the techniques of digging. And there is zero such resources for my area, New England, specifically Rhode Island. Further, I have been poking around the dirt with screw drives and all varieties of metal tools and while I use a brush to see better–i never thought one could damage a crystal–specifically quartz–with a steel screwdriver or the like given that a test for its hardness would be if it could be scratched with a steel knife/file?? Anyway, so many thanks to you Sir. I will email my very much too-long original “comment”, apologies in advance for length. Thank you for sharing to the rest of us. I personally believe such action is good karma that should keep you in endless pockets of beautiful crystals. Respectfully, Elaine 3mountaingirl, in the very pegmatite rich but crystal elusive environs of Rhode Island.

  6. So….mere hours after posting a long comment about my stumbling around pegmatites and yet seeming unable to find any pockets, and having not found any crystals. After writing that this morning while caffeinating myself….I decided to visit the infamous “Diamond Hill”, a park in northern RI that used to be a “ski area” (if you know RI at all you would understand the quotation marks). Not at all meant as any derogatory, as I learned to ski there, my father patrolled there and have many fond memories. Today it is a recreation area. Earlier searches of this area on mindat and such showed graffiti marred quartz outcrops and various trash. USGS maps show it as a large quartz “vein” running N>S along a main fault. A quartz reef might be a better term. Either way, all searches indicated that this area was pretty well played out being maybe one of a half-of-a-handful of such locales in all of Rhode Island which has been poked and prodded by prospectors for literally centuries now. I had a nice hike tho, and figured, if anything, I might learn–as you indicated–by seeing where other folks dug. What I noted right away was very little in the way of “holes” (either terrific rockhounding ethics and back-filling or little actual digging) but many areas on the rock outcrops where plates were hacked off and veins dug out. It looked a little sad with the “Bill and Ted were here 88” graffiti in blue spray paint in the background. Still, beautiful druse quartz covered many of the surfaces, and while many attempts were made at hacking these un-hackable crystals off, much still remained and I continued to enjoy my walk. I finally decided to explore/bushwhack style and found my first crystal bearing vugs. So beautiful, some had again been hacked out, many veins been excavated clean, but some remained deep enough to hang on through the years. I found an area that was particularly vuggy. All contained smaller crystals, fingernail specimens at best. I was able to wiggle a little chunk of these crystals from an exposed and weathered area that looked like it would go and sure enough it came out. I couldn’t bear to hack at anything, but, I thought, nothing else but more of this solid reef up to the summit. The only real option is to try digging. So, I started scratching away below my little vuggy area. Nothing that looked like the ginormous grains of biolite or muscovite and microcline that I had literally been tripping over. This rock was different. By all accounts it should be almost 100% quartz, not even quartzite—-just a little mountain of quartz. But trees and shrubs and vegetation were growing out of it, and I figured I would dig deeper–just a learning opportunity if anything. I has to clean out about 2-3 feet of a mixture of years of quartz float in every size mixed with loam/soils before I found the beginning of the foot of the momma rock again. I kept scratching away, trying to expand the area a foot in either direction from where the stringers and vuggy rock was disappearing in to the soil. I found some straight lines, some massive quartz “walls” and ?maybe? something next to it that could have been a feldspar? No Mica of any color, huh? Keep digging….I am now getting closer to the mid-line-of-vuggy-ness and hitting what must have been my first run in with calcite? it would be in every form from crumbles, to white mud, to straight lines again, walls/plates. some color change with some iron or limonite and all of a sudden as i am brushing material away ….those lines, that symmetry I have been looking for for 20 years catches my eye. It was a puny little guy, but there in front of me was my first wee-little proper euhedral quarts crystal. I think I may have teared up. I kept scrutinizing it sure I must have the worlds most fantastically crystal shaped lump of dirt and like always—I don’t find crystals–so long did I do this, cleaning the little shrimp in water, staring at it on my carhartts….that it didnt occur to me to look back at where it came from. I look at what I guess I can actually now call my first pocket and there was this U shape staring at me…it looked like some sort of alien dentures were upside-down in the dirt. A beautiful little U-shpaed cluster, the top of a little pcoket, all with little, longer that they are wide quartz crystals. I must have brushed gently around that thing for another hour. Every once in a while using my bonsai-chopstick (its a soft metal and rounded-blunt, something else I learned from coming here—don’t poke your crystals with a screwdriver!). Oh, did I mention that I had actually, for the very first time ever left my geo hammer behind in the car? I realized just a bit too far in and thought, eh–I have a small sledge and all my chisels–probably wont ever miss it. And I really didn’t. Short story long, again, I came home with my first-ever euhedral crystals via smaller crystals, all mostly in little clusters. I have been home, showered, made everyone dinner, and am still afraid to unwrap the “rocks” in my baggies and paper towel (thank god I had some paper towel with me!! Note to self–bring a roll of TP or something that bears more material—fragile crystals need a LOT of protection). Anyway–I am afraid that when I unwrap them, they really will be just some mangly dirt-and-root-clumps with some very pointy features….its crazy. I have come home daily and set all my “smoky chips”, microclone crystals and mica books out on a screen and rinsed before soaking or further cleaning….now I have the best specimens of my short rockhounding career and I am afraid to unwrap them. The depth of my psychosis runs deeeeeepppppp. 🙂 I did indeed bring some clumps of crap home bc I wanted to really look at the material surrounding this particular pocket. Looked like a graphic granite of opaque white calcite with the “graphic” grains of quartz….if that can be a thing. It too was in varying stages from well lithified actual plates of rock to weathered, crumbling stuff. Gonna study the heck outta that.
    If there was ever a testament to your posts having helped one “put it all together” I feel like this may be one. Many thanks again.

    1. Love the entire story, thank you for sharing! I could sense the excitement you have in general and during your adventure! Did you unwrap the crystals? It sounded like they were still wrapped up when you wrote this…if so, that is just torture, for both you and me! LOL! I’m really glad you found something useful in my posts; that makes me really happy and also makes me realize I haven’t posted anything in a while. Where does time go? I’ll commit to writing some more before the end of the year. I need to commit to going out prospecting some more too. I’ve been leading field trips for the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club so I have been out digging for all sorts of crystals actually, so that is definitely content to write about! If you have pictures let me know how to see them! I hope you have many more fun adventures and continue to uncover gems!

  7. Hi, i took a drive up to Harris Park, CO. Yesterday. I was looking for the LGMC honey bee claim and saw a guy getting ready to go dig. I’m new to the rock hounding experience and just joined the club in June 2019. Don was a local who was heading to his claim. Since i am new he gave me some tips of finding smokies and flourite. Don told me a section to go to. I went there and a huge area was already dug up so I started poking a round but found nothing. Don stopped to see me on his way out and told me i had to dig into that pinkish beige chunky granite and there are pockets in it. I was digging in the top dirt. I gave up too much work..i have health issues and that’s too difficult for me. He showed me where the Littleton claim was but it was getting dark so I left.
    Tonight is our club meeting and I saw that you will be the guest speaker tonight ! Low and behold !!!! I have many questions tonight ill be hounding you with. Haha. Looking forward to your speech tonight.

  8. Great Presentation at the LGMC meeting Friday night !!! It Was very educational. It was also nice meeting you and chatting for a bit. See you at the claim on Saturday. Very excited ?

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