My grandfather Jim lives in Creede, a small used-to-be-mining town in Colorado (where Johnny Depp is filming part of a movie this summer!). He’s got an amazing amount of knowledge about everything around Creede: hiking/snowmobiling trails, animals, fossils, mushrooms, and where to find cool rocks. When we were up there last summer, one of the places he took us to a place he called Crystal Mountain – where you can find a bunch of quartz crystals. We brought home a couple boxes full.
We found several small hexagonal quartz crystals, but we also found several rocks with sections of quartz crystal clusters in them.
Jim also told us how we should clean off the cluster ones when we got home – which worked out excellently. We soaked them in water and scrubbed them with a rough brush first, since they’re rocks and were covered in dirt. Then we soaked them in a diluted hydrochloric acid solution. My dad had some hydrochloric acid (also called muriatic acid) which he uses to adjust the pH in his pool. BE VERY CAREFUL WITH ACID. We did this in a pool chemical bucket and used thick gloves intended for use with strong chemicals like this. Fill up the bucket with water then add some acid. As soon as we put them in the acid, many of the rocks started bubbling. We decided this was probably some of the rocks (i.e. limestone) interacting with the acid and dissolving. Once this had died down, we picked out the rocks and rinsed them off again. In some of them, a lot of the rock-looking-rock had dissolved away, leaving even more shiny crystals than we could see when we picked them up. In many, some of the orange rusty tint had faded leaving prettier rocks. Below are just a few of the ones we brought home.
We’ve now got a few clusters of these guys around the house, which look pretty cool and are a nice reminder of our trips to Creede.
You also need to be very careful when disposing of materials like this. We neutralized the leftover acid with a little baking soda at a time until it stopped reacting and a pH strip read neutral, then put it down a storm drain with lots of hose water. Seriously though, acid isn’t something you should play with if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is more of a show-and-tell than my typical “if I can do it you can too!”, but I wanted to share anyways. Look – shiny pretty rocks!