Collecting crystals can truly enrich your life, but it shouldn't put you in the poorhouse. Here's some helpful tips for building a mineral collection on a limited budget:
Consider getting an assortment of tumbled stones, then buying larger specimens of the ones that are the most useful or appealing to you. (That Amethyst cathedral can wait!) If you don't have a crystal shop nearby, you can often find gemstone assortments and build-your-own bins in museum gift shops and other attractions. As you acquire larger pieces, you can pass your smaller stones on to friends, or use them in crystal grids, spellwork, or arts and crafts.
Appreciate common stones.
"A rich man is not he who has the most, but he who desires the least." Fortunately, you don't have to deprive yourself to enjoy the wonderful treasures the Earth has to offer. When you cultivate wonder and admiration for commonly found stones, your collection will grow quickly. Quartz, Jasper, Agate, Carnelian, and Hematite are just some of the stones that are useful, beautiful, and relatively inexpensive.
Don't buy snake oil.
Some gemstones command sky-high prices due to their supposed rarity or metaphysical powers. No crystal is a panacea, and no stone is so rare that it's in danger of disappearing from the planet forever. Buying that $200 Lemurian seed crystal for "only" $100 could severely limit your exploration of other stones. Remember that the true value of a stone is measured by its worth to you.
If you must have a piece of Larimar or Moldavite in your new collection, don't feel that you need to go all-out with the purchase. Just as a single cell contains a plant's or animal's entire genetic code, a small piece of crystal has the same molecular structure and energetic properties of its big brother.
Attend a swap meet.
If there's a gem and mineral club in your area, check it out. Many clubs host conventions and informal meetups, where you can pick up crystals on the cheap. (Hint: Many rockhounds are more interested in geology than in pretty sparklies or New Age woo-woo, and will let their best stuff go for a song!)
If you want to learn to cut, polish, and display gemstones, these groups are an invaluable resource. Many clubs also offer classes you can take and lapidary equipment you can use for a small donation. Members are usually happy to answer any questions about your new treasures. Bring your curiosity, a notepad, and something to offer in trade.
Find (or make) your own.
No matter where you live the world, there are local stones and gems to be found. You can gather petrified wood in the desert, sea glass at the beach, and fossils anywhere that was once a forest or sea. Quartz, Mica, and Sandstone abound in even the plainest locales. The specimens that you pick up from the ground may not be as lovely as the ones in shops, but they will be special because you found them. (Always respect the law and property owner's rights when rock-hunting.) A rock tumbler--borrowed or purchased--can help you find hidden gems in ordinary piles of stone.
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