Types of Rocks in Ecuador: A Guide To the 7 Most Common You’ll Spot

Ecuador contains some of the most amazing stones in South America.

In this article, you’ll learn more about the geology of Ecuador.

Types of Rocks in Ecuador: A Guide

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.

Introduction

Visitors to Ecuador can expect to find limestone, sandstone and quartz. Many visitors enjoy collecting Tagua nuts which are used for carving and jewelry.  

The local lapidary is small and many of the stones used in jewelry are imported from Peru and other countries.  

The economy of Ecuador has traditionally depended largely on gold mining. There were significant governmental changes in the late 1980s that opened the country for mining. 

There are concerns about how mining has impacted indigenous land distribution and ancestral territories. 

When visiting Ecuador be sure to venture off the beaches and explore the National Parks and nature preserves. 

The Galapagos Islands are located in Ecuador. The islands do not have many interesting rocks and stones, but the carefully preserved condition of the islands would be a memorable trip. 

Galapagos Basalt

The Galapagos Islands are formed from volcanic basalt. This volcanic rock is formed when lava is excreted and cools when it comes in contact with the air or water. 

The islands are geologically very young and there is not very much diversity of rocks and stones. 

As the basalt breaks down over time in rain and wind it leaves a fertile volcanic soil. 

Galapagos is still volcanically active and has has many recorded eruptions, the most recent being 2009. 

It is strictly prohibited for visitors to collect or remove any natural material while visiting the Galapagos Islands, so do not risk slipping anything in your pocket. 

Limestone

The coastlines of Venezuela contain plentiful limestone and it is possible that it can contain interesting fossils. 

Limestone is a fine grained relatively soft stone.

When you find a piece of limestone be sure to examine it closely for any smooth, discolored or hollow areas. These things may indicate the presence of fossils. 

Limestone forms when calcium rich sediment cements together often on the ocean floor.

The formation of the rocks is relatively quick resulting in the presence of fossils. 

Limestone that has large visible shells or fossil fragments are called fossiliferous limestone. 

Tagua Nuts

Tagua nuts are easy to find in Ecuador and they are used in jewelry making and carving.

These nuts are the fruit of the Tagua palm tree and they are very hard. 

Tagua nuts are sometimes referred to as vegetable ivory as the light color and hardness makes it a beautiful carving medium. 

Anyone who enjoys wood carving should try their hand at Tagua carving. 

Many local artisans create stunning carvings and jewelry that can be purchased in Ecuador.  

Blue Opal

Blue opal is often found in Peru, but it can also be found in Ecuador. 

This bright blue variation of opal, a silicate mineral.

It can often be found with sandstone which is plentiful in the mountains of Ecuador. 

Opal can be found in many colors, black being the most rare, but blue being a desirable color for jewelry. 

Much of the blue opal sold in Ecuador is imported from Peru, but with local guidance you may find some local examples. 

Sandstone

Sandstone is the result of many grains of sand being cemented together into a solid stone. 

Sandstone is most commonly made up of quartz and feldspar sand particles.

They can become solid stone through compaction and lithification of the sand grains.

Large sandstone deposits often hold large quantities of water. 

Sandstone is often found with limestone in areas that were once covered in warm salt water. 

Sillimanite

Sillimanite is a gray to black silicate stone that contains aluminum.

It has a silky or greasy luster and it is often found embedded into quartz. 

It is transparent or semi transparent and can be green, gray, brown or yellow.

It generally breaks along its individual fibers. 

The stone looks like small twisted fibers when examined closely or sliced. 

Sillimanite was once used for aluminosilicate products which can withstand temperatures up to 800 degrees.

Kyanite and other aluminum containing silicate rocks are now used for the production of aluminosilicate glass.  

It is often found with kyanite and quartz. 

Quartz

Quartz is an abundant mineral on Earth, but the beautiful hexagonal crystals are still collected by many. 

Quartz has a glassy or greasy luster and is often white or colorless.

The large hexagonal crystals are easy to identify. 

Quartz crystals can be found around in many places all over Ecuador, but beautiful green quartz crystals have been found in the Guayas Province.

The beautiful green quartz called Prase is often described as “leek-green” which describes the elongated crystals that are often found in the green color.

Any green colored quartz can be described as Prase. 

Mine Waste Gold

The economy in Ecuador relies on mining, there are many large scale industrial gold mines in the country. 

Some people have begun legal and illegal gold hunting in the mining waste from larger operations. 

This practice is traditionally done by women who go to the mines and collect the waste from the mining operation.

They sift through the waste to pick out any gold that has been left behind by industrial mining. 

This interesting mining operation was begun by women and still 3 out of 10 of the workers here are women. 

You can support this industry by supporting the incredible work of Project Gold in Ecuador and purchasing their mercury free gold mined by small-scale, equitably staffed mining in the country. 

If you are interested in the small scale mining that is going on in Ecuador there is contact information on the Project Gold website. 

Rocks in Ecuador

Ecuador is an interesting place to visit for those interested in geology. 

Be sure to obey any posted regulations when collecting sand shells or stones in Ecuador. Protected locations will not allow the collection or removal of any natural material. 

In some areas failure to obey these laws can result in large fines and jail time. 

When purchasing rocks and minerals in Ecuador be sure to ask about the origin of the rocks you hope to purchase as many items are imported from Peru or Colombia. 

Types of Rocks in Ecuador