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Official Alaska State Mineral, Gem, & Fossil

Gold flakes on scale

Alaska's state mineral is gold.

But what is a rock? To answer that, you need to know what a "mineral" is. A mineral is naturally occurring solid material always made from the same elements that are arranged in the same way.

Hunting for gold and other minerals is a favorite pastime for many people. You can find gold by panning dirt in a stream or looking for gold in the rocks where it formed (prospecting). Gold is a heavy mineral that builds up in nearby sediments by weathering out of its original rock and slowly sliding downhill to a stream bed.

Jade carving

Alaska's state gem is jade.

Rocks are made up of two or more minerals. Alaska doesn't have a state rock, but it does have a state gem, jade. A gem is a precious or semiprecious rock or mineral that looks pretty when it is cut and polished. Jade is usually green, and it is hard but easily carved. Most of the jade in Alaska is found on the Seward Peninsula.

Mammoth tooth

Alaska's state fossil is the Woolly Mammoth. Photo is of a Woolly Mammoth tooth found near Homer, AK. Photo credit: Janet Klein.

Geologists care about rocks because rocks can tell us what has happened in the Earth's past. Even traces of animals that lived long ago (fossils) can be found in rock. Find more information about Alaska fossils here.

The Woolly Mammoth is Alaska's state fossil. Woolly Mammoths roamed Alaska until about 12,000 years ago. At that time, summers in Alaska produced large grassy meadows that provided food for the animals.

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