Finding Inspiration in the Desert: Gem Hunting

Nothing inspires like the beauty of our natural world.

One of the most exciting ways to interact with nature in New Mexico is to try your hand at rock hounding for the many precious gems and minerals found throughout the desert.  We’ve been lucky enough to go on many such excursions, including bringing along a few Starry Night residents to experience the thrill of finding our own crystals.

Many artists who come to Starry Night are equally as inspired as us when they see the bright colors and shapes of the different minerals. The truth is, we have boxes upon boxes of beautiful gems that we’ve collected.

We save them for any artistic projects in the future, and never miss an opportunity to bring them out and share them with friends.

calcite (edited)New Mexico Calcite

The Fluorite Mine

On a recent trip to the small pit known only as “the fluorite mine,” artist Carolyn Barrett and photographer Nicole Lane came along, donning flashlights and small backpacks. We first entered the mouth of a very large mine shaft for further inspection, while maintaining a close, safe proximity to the exit. We found a ceiling above us that glittered of white calcite, which felt larger than life to three petite women standing underneath its span. Some type of bats came from deeper down in the mine, twitted to and fro, disappeared into the darkness, and then flitted their way back again.

When we reached the fluorite mine, we first spent an hour or more outside, sifting through the piles for pieces of purple fluorite, nice rhombuses of white and clear calcite, baromite, and sun bleached blue fluorite. My backpack was heavy before I even went into the mine to look for the blue gems we had come for! We spent a couple of hours inside the cool, shady mine shaft, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the glitter in front of our flashlights.

 Fossil Beds

After we had our fill of gem collecting, we came up to the surface for a snack and some water. We decided to conclude our excursion to the mines, with a hike up the hill a few yards to a fossil bed where we spent another hour searching for fossilized sea shells and other beings from millions of years ago…perhaps things yet younger than the fluorite veins that run many layers beneath them in the earth.


The final stages of rock collecting will teach you the hardest lesson – whatever you put in your backpack, you get to carry back to the car! This brings about another interesting fact, regarding the infamous Leaverite. The name of this “mineral” is a joke to help you remember that a rock may be a Leaverite, “Leav-er-rite where you found it.”  Get it?



Join the ongoing conversation in our Starry Night Artists group.

Interested in getting free resources from us? Join our mailing list.

Dedicated to nurturing the careers of emerging artists, Starry Night’s programs are designed to lower the traditional barriers that artists face when trying to establish themselves, and help them to start making a living doing what they love.  To learn more about our comprehensive online training program, Artist Resources & Tools, click here.