People who ask "identify this rock" questions usually have limited knowledge of geology or mineralogy. In spite of that, the questions give us an opportunity to teach them a little if we go beyond just giving them the name as an answer. Most of this is done to some degree in many of the answers, but these suggestions are worth keeping in mind.

This topic is about how to provide good answers to "identify this rock questions". The guide to how to ask questions is found here.

I suggest that where possible we:

  • be sure to include whether this is a rock or mineral name. Be clear when something has a variety or common name
  • let them know a little about the rock/mineral, like it's chemical composition and whether it is igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary
  • give some information about what distinguishing features were used to come up with the identification (crystal habit, colour, cleavage, grain size, etc.)
  • indicate how certain you are about the id, and give possible other identifications and why they were ruled out. I think it is ok to provide tentative identifications if it is clear that it isn't 100% certain
  • suggest tests that can help confirm the id (like what hardness to expect)

Please answer with any other ideas to include.

  • $\begingroup$ Related: earthscience.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124/… $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ give a little geological history of the stone if possible. That is useful for a student. But you can only do that if they give you a precise location [+outcrop picture better] to be sure what's the geological unit of the piece. Not saying "a paper" about his history, but something quick as "Your gneiss found at Rocky Mountains was formed on Cretacic at the Laramide Orogeny. The presure results in metamorphism forming banded structures and recrystallizing the rock". $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 4:05
  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of A guide for asking "Identify this rock" questions? $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 15:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate. I'm suggesting a guide for answering questions, not for asking them. $\endgroup$
    – haresfur
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 23:02

2 Answers 2


As of 2019-07-30, Rock identification questions are off-topic on Earth Science Stack Exchange.

Therefore, they should not be answered at all.


How about when the rock or what ever has been identified that the name of what ever goes in the title, please.

When rocks are identified can we put the name of it in the title?

  • $\begingroup$ @Universal_learner earthscience.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1624/… $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I know it but no progress. While plentiful of disagreements about that tag $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ It will not be a perfect fix but it will narrow down the search. Duplicates will be handed out to everyone but the highest votes.. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ To have as solved two different examples of gypsum wouldn't be a duplicate, just two different gypsum. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 6:58

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