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Get Out of Town, | May 09, 2018

Crystal clear

A local rockhound shares how to become a true geode hunter.

One of rockhound Charles Snider’s favorite geodes sits on a table. Snider said geode hunting is his favorite addiction and therapy.

Hoosiers don't have to dig deep to find crystal-filled treasures hidden under their feet.

Geodes, hollow rocks packed with crystals, formed 350 million years ago when minerals such as calcite seeped into underground pockets and hardened to form outer shells, according to the Indiana Geological and Water Survey. More minerals then collected inside the shell, forming crystals.

The calcite in geodes is especially plentiful in Southern Indiana, where its famed limestone also contains the mineral.

Hoosier Charles Snider works in finance, but he's a rockhound at heart. In 2013, he launched the blog "American Geode."

"I like to think of it as my favorite addiction and therapy," he says.

Snider offers this advice to novice geode hunters so they can get in on the action too.

Where to find them:

Wherever there's exposed rock in Southern Indiana, chances are there are geodes, Snider says. Just look for round, lumpy cauliflower-shaped rocks.

Snider suggests searching quarries, the Hoosier National Forest, rivers and creeks. Limestone is a tell-tale sign that geodes are nearby.

A serious geode hunter's toolbox includes steel-toed boots, goggles, a crowbar and a hammer - maybe even a wagon to lug your finds through woods.

How to break them open:

First, put on goggles. For Snider, an old tool once used to cut pipes doubles as a geode cracker.

"It's a nice, clean split," he says.

But you can also break them open with a chisel and hammer. The first step is to find where the two geode halves connect. Then, you place the chisel on this cleavage and hammer it down.

That first crack is the best part, the first glimpse at the mysteries inside an unassuming rock.

"The beauty of it is the surprise," Snider says. "It's discovering the treasures inside."

What to do with them:

Snider sells some of his finds to academics and interior designers across the country. While academics study his geodes, interior designers use them to spruce up homes.

Snider has sold hundreds for $10 to $40, but his favorite geode - a volleyball-sized rock with a smooth bluish-purple surface - is displayed on his mantle. His largest find is "Big Bertha," an 80-pounder that measures 20 inches across.

Maybe the most dazzling example of geode design is in Jasper, where a grotto dotted with Heltonville geodes was inspired by an Italian priest who escaped an earthquake in Italy.

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