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Polished Rocks: The Ultimate Guide to Collecting

 

Noreena Jasper from Australia

Polished rocks are a great way to get into, or enhance your rock-collecting hobby. Whether you’re into the geological or metaphysical qualities of stone, you can find many pleasing attributes to polished rocks that you may not find in rough rock.

Tumbled stones are the most common form of polished rocks — and we maintain the largest selection of common and rare tumbled stones around. You may also find yourself drawn to other forms of polished rocks — including spheres, generator towers, merkabas, skulls, or other carvings.

Whatever your interest, you’re likely to find something below that will help you to grow your knowledge and help you along in this wonderful hobby and lifestyle.

What Are the Different Types of Polished Rocks?

There are many different types of polished rocks. There are nearly as many different varieties of polished stone as this is rough rock in the world. Deciding which is best for you will depend on your goals and intended use for the rocks.

  • Tumbled stone: These are the most common forms of polished rocks.  Pictured at the top of this page are Noreena Jasper tumbled stones from Australia. These small, smooth pebbles can come in hundreds of varieties and are great for displaying in a bowl, carrying in your pocket, or even as media for an art project. The possibilities are endless.

    Gemstone spheres
  • Spheres (pictured to the right): Another very popular form of polished stone finds a cutter smoothing rough rock into a perfect sphere. This polish stage takes specialized equipment to remove the sharp edges and shape each beautiful stone into a perfectly round ball.

  • Jewelry: Each piece of jewelry goes through an extensive polishing and cutting process to smooth rough edges and give it a shine and smooth rock texture.

  • Worry Stones: Used for generations by the young and old as a tool for relieving anxiety, worry stones are a flat, smooth rock made of many different materials that have a small divot polished onto the surface where you can rub your thumb in a soothing method.

  • Gemstone chips: Just like tumbled rock, these small chips go through a rock tumbler to remove sharp edges, define their small shape and give them a shine. Artisans use these in candles, wax melts, resin arts and other uses.
    Mexican Crazy Lace Agate Generator Towers
  • Generator towers (pictured left): You can also regularly find popular stone materials carved into towers. These not only have a pleasing shape and are great to display, but metaphysical practitioners appreciate “generators” as an energy-generating shape and design.

  • Other carvings: There’s no shortage of carved stone on the market today. Whether you’re into skulls, animals, hearts, bowls, dishes, wands or other designs, you can likely find it in a stone setting.

While collecting rough stone and mineral specimens is an age-old hobby that still thrives today, there’s a massive influx in collectors of polished stone because of the aesthetics, affordability, accessibility and functionality of each piece.

What to Do With Polished Rocks?

Polished rocks make great decoration, media for art projects, centerpieces or even furniture. Stone bowls, mortar and pestles and massage wands have been appreciated for centuries for their functionality and durability.

Whether you display your tumbled stones in a vase, a jar, on a shelf or in a cardboard box, there are many creative ways to bring a bit of nature into your everyday life.

Gemstone chips and tumbled rock are sought after for their use in sculpture, resin art, backsplashes, candle and wax melt making, and other uses. But they’re just as beautiful sitting on a table or a windowsill.

Many people choose to store their polished rock collection in a cardboard box or plastic container. Some individually bag each stone and label it for later identification. This ensures that you won’t forget the name of each crystal and gemstone.

Many collectors and metaphysical practitioners choose to carry specific pieces in their pocket, bra, purse, or other carry along bag. I personally have a favorite Smoky Quartz tumbled stone that’s traveled in my pocket to 10 different states and counting.

I spent many years as an elementary school teacher and used tumbled stones as in many types of lessons. They're great at teaching science (geology), math (counting, adding, subtracting), art and geography (collecting stones from all over the world).

Are Polished Rocks Safe for Aquariums?

In most cases, polished rocks are very safe for your aquarium or terrarium. Not only that, but they add a wonderful and natural splash of color and texture to your pet’s enclosure. We wrote an extensive blog post on this recently that breaks down which polished rocks are safe and unsafe.

 

A majority of the most popular crystal gem and natural stone materials are aquarium and terrarium safe. These include:

  • Quartz: There are so many varieties of quartz and each brings its own personality to your enclosure display.
  • Agate: Similar to quartz, there are hundreds of varieties of polished agate available. While some are a softer rock, they still take to polishing well and make a great addition to your aquarium or terrarium.
  • Petrified Wood: A true wonder of nature, this wood can date back to millions of years old and has agatized over the millenia and turned to stone — making it completely aquarium safe.
  • Chalcedony: Another popular crystal, chalcedony is found in a wide variety of locations throughout the world — and each has its own unique color and texture. The very popular Blue Lace Agate, which is growing increasingly rare as the only mine it comes from has been shut down, is actually a form of Chalcedony.
  • Amethyst: Perhaps the king gem of them all, Amethyst is desired and collected all over the world for its varying shades of purple, green, blue, pink and even black. Amethyst is found in nearly every country around the world and each locale tends to have a unique variety of this gemstone.

There are also many varieties of Jasper, limestone, feldspar, Moonstone and granite that are aquarium and terrarium safe — both on dry surfaces and in water — but not all varieties of these stones are safe for your pet.

For example, Bumblebee Jasper, despite its name, is not a Jasper. It’s actually a metamorphic rock that is thought to have traces of arsenic and other hazardous materials included within. While a polished version of this stone is safe for humans to handle, own, display and admire, it’s a bit too risky to include in a pet’s enclosure, either in large rough form or small polished pebble form, where it can seep into water or become a potential chew toy.

Malachite is another material with toxic qualities that you should avoid putting in with your pets. Similarly to Bumblebee Jasper, this beautiful green specimen is safe for display and handling in its polished form. As a rough specimen, you should always wash your hands after handling any potentially toxic material.

How are Polished Rocks Made?

This is a tough question, because there are many ways to polish stone. Tumbling with a rock tumbler is a common method — and one that anyone can do. Other methods of polishing and carving may include specialized machinery with varying grit sandpaper or grinding and polishing wheels.

A coarse grit, medium grit and fine grit wheel is all needed as you have to go through more than one polish stage to complete the process.

There are also naturally polished materials — such as river rock — that achieve its smooth surface and even texture from years of resting in a running river.

Are Rocks Worth Money?

Like anything in this world — something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay. One thing is certain, though, polished rocks have maintained their value for centuries.

Whether as fine jewelry, sculptures or personal carrying pieces, the market for polished rocks has absolutely exploded over the last decade.

Today, there’s a shortage of some popular gemstone and rough rock materials, which has demand higher than supply.

Blue Lace Agate, for example, is prized for its soothing colors and wonderfully textured pattern. Unfortunately, this Chalcedony-based material has only been found in one mine in South Africa and nowhere else in our world.

For the last several years, this mine has remained unworked because it’s no longer deemed safe. So whatever Blue Lace Agate is available on the market today may be all that’s ever offered for sale.

Moldavite, a “space rock” material in the Tektite family, saw unheard-of rises in value throughout 2021 as this gemstone — which once sold for as little as $3 per gram, exploded to values of more than $50 per gram as demand increased. 

This is all to say that polished rocks are here to stay. And as more people discover the beauty and properties of these pieces, the value will only increase. After all, Mother Nature isn’t in a hurry to make more.