Thursday, August 22, 2013

Petoskey Stones

We had heard about Petoskey Stones, the State Stone for Michigan, so we took a short side trip to Petoskey, Michigan to see if we could score some of these unique stones. Petoskey sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is considered an upscale tourist community, and home to about 6,000.  Nothing like taking two teens for a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan to try to find some stones....

As we left Mackinaw City behind and started towards Petoskey, we spotted this barn off the two lane highway. Obviously abandoned, I wanted to look inside for treasure but Debi would have none of that, so alas, we only snapped a picture and moved on.

As you come into the City of Petoskey, you're greeted with a fabulous view of Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. Pardon the pun, but it really was a "picture perfect day"!

It appeared half the City was out on sailboats, and rightly so, with sunshine and warm weather.
First off, I had no idea what a Petoskey Stone was, let alone what one looked like, so I did the only logical thing. First stop was to a lapidary store for information. We stopped at Bailey's Place along Hwy 31. Talking to the owner, we spent about an hour learning all there was about these elusive stones. Of course, he had some for sale. all polished up, and they were beautiful, but we wanted to find our own. Now knowing what the raw stones looked like we set off to the beach. Jasmine loved the water.

Score ! We were able to find about 10 of these stones. Petoskey stones are from the Davonian period. (about 400 million years ago) They are unique in that they are actually fossils of a coral reef that was in this area that long ago. The thing that makes these stones special is that coral is still within the rocks in a fossilized form. When found, they appear to be simple limestone rocks as you can see here and below.

Here is one of the stones I found on the beach. In it's raw form it appears white and chalky with  many small indentations. Not what you would wear as a piece of jewelry. 

To bring out the beauty of the stone, you must polish, (sand) the stone. Starting with 35 grit sand paper, I polished off the rough edges and began to see some of the coral cells. I then moved up to 100, 220, 400 and finished with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. After about an hour or so of sanding, this rock is pictured below.

No XBox for us, we were polishing stones!!

Notice the coral cells. The small indentation at the lower left is a portion of a shell that is over 400 million years old. It would not polish out. If you look at the above picture, you can see this shell on the right side of the rock. It appears as a white dot in one of the cells.

I'm not quite finished with this rock yet. I'll polish it some more with 600 grit sandpaper to make it really smooth, then I'll have it dipped to preserve it's color and enhance the shine.

As excited as it was to find these awesome stones, once back at the campsite we still took time to admire Mother Nature's handiwork. This picture and the one below were taken from our campsite.
Another day comes to a close along the shores of Lake Michigan. We will soon head south to the Motor City.

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