In this guide, readers will learn what apache tears are, the origin of their name, and how they form.
For rock hunters looking to score their own homegrown Apache Tears, it will also include popular locations for rock hunting, where and how to find them in these areas, and more tricks and tips for hunting them down.
Where To Find Apache Tears (EXPLAINED)
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.
What Are Apache Tears?
The rock we call Apache Tears was named for a Native American legend during which 75 Apache warriors faced the US cavalry.
After nearly two-thirds were wiped out, the remainder rode their horses off a cliff rather than die at the hands of the white man.
Those that came to mourn them had such grief and sorrow that the creator embedded these black stones with the tears of the mourners.
Because of the legend from which this stone gets its name, some consider the stone to have emotional healing properties.
While it doesn’t have much monetary value, and it is relatively easy and abundant, many crystal collectors value Apache Tears for this reason.
These stones are found in areas that were commonly Native American tribal areas.
They are obsidian, meaning they are nodes of volcanic glass.
Obsidian nodules form from lava cooling very quickly in the presence of water.
When the water soaks into the lava, it forms the fragile pyrite surrounding it.
The obsidian within the perlite has simply been rapidly cooled and not completely infiltrated by the water.
The cost of obsidian differs, depending on how unique (and colorful) the piece is.
What Do Geodes Look Like?
The “geodes” in which the obsidian forms are simply lumps of pyrite which may conceal the Apache Tears.
They are lumpy and gray in color, porous, and are many-layered with fractures concealing the nodule within.
The perlite may cling to the surface of the rock after it is broken, but tumbling and cleaning it should reveal the obsidian’s shiny surface.
What Should You Be Looking For When Hunting For Apache Tears and Geodes?
When hunting for these clusters of Pyrite that may contain obsidian, you’re looking for areas in canyons where the cliff edges have formed rhyolitic deposits.
These nodules of pyrite will be clustered together on the surface or deeper into the rock of these old ash deposits.
It would only take a hammer to break these lumps apart to get the rocks in the middle.
In many of the locations listed in this article, apache tears won’t require hunting to this extent.
They could also simply be scattered around, especially as mining waste near mountain valleys.
Finding Apache Tears
As Apache Tears are actually volcanic glass, the most common areas to find them are areas with volcanic activity.
Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada are prime hunting spots for this beautiful, black rock.
When looking at these hot spots, there are a few more common areas in which you are more likely to see success.
Apache Tears in Arizona
Where the original battle was theorized to have happened, an old perlite mine is situated nearby.
In Superior, Arizona, hiking trails lead to the entrance of the old mine.
The mine itself is on private property, but some lucky lookers might stumble into one.
Apache Tears in New Mexico
At Mule Creek, there are obsidian ledges in several locations near the Mule Creek Mountains which produce Apache Tears.
Getting to these locations is easy with a map or guide, but a pickaxe may be needed to free it from the pyrite.
Apache Tears in Utah
Along the southwest side of Topaz Mountain, obsidian can be found spread around the area designated for Black Spring.
In the Topaz Valley, near the Thomas Range, there is a valley where obsidian pebbles are all over the ground for collection.
Apache Tears in Nevada
There are a few sites on public lands that are known to have Apache Tears.
First, Fish Lake Valley is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Second, Scotty’s Junction off of Highway 95.
Both areas are easily accessible without major hiking, and both are on public land, so there’s no need to fear accidentally trespassing.
Finally, Apache Tear Canyon is a great location.
Obsidian nodules are plentiful here, so you likely won’t even need excavation materials.
Tips and Tricks For Hunting Apache Tears
Hunting Apache Tears is a great place to start for beginning rock hunters.
Not only are they fairly easy to find, but they also don’t require many tools.
If you’re just starting to get into hunting and collecting, read on for some tips and tricks to make your journeys easier.
#1 Use reliable sources for researching locations.
There are many great books about gemstones, crystals, rocks, and collecting them all.
Try some like the Modern Rockhounding and Prospecting Handbook.
Also, joining clubs and participating in forums could help you gain the knowledge and skills you need before you even go on an expedition.
#2 Stick to valleys and public lands.
Instead of engaging in anything risky at the beginning of your deep dive into rock collecting, take the beaten path and look for rocks that have already broken free of the pyrite and settled at the bottom of the mountain.
No climbing, hiking, or tools are required!
#3 Sniff out mining dumps for easy collection.
Some mines allow dumps to be picked through by the public.
It’s important to be aware of which ones are allowed to be accessed, though.
Reference the Bureau of Land Management’s Land Use Maps and other resources to figure out which mines are strictly off-limits.
#4 Take volcanic trails and visit parks near inactive volcanoes (or active ones if you’re feeling gutsy).
Rhyolitic deposits are where you’re likely to find apache tears, and these occur where volcanic ash has been deposited on cliff faces.
Not only are rhyolitic deposits good for obsidian nodules, but you can also find many other kinds of gemstones in these locations.
For those seeking apache tears, collection is easy, cheap, and relatively risk-free.
Remember to do your research on public access lands, and don’t be afraid to ask mine-owners for permission if you already know they’re on private land.
Bring your dog, as apparently, that may make them more likely to let you rifle through their mine waste.
Arizona Rockhounding Resources
If you like to have a physical book in hand (like when there’s no cell service), here’s a few popular options:
Rockhounding Arizona: A Guide To 75 Of The State’s Best Rockhounding Sites
Southwest Treasure Hunter’s Gem and Mineral Guide
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