Athena Elliott may be a bling and glitter gal in the salon, but put her out in nature and you’ll find her on the hunt for rocks and fossils. Elliott — the owner of SPAthena in Houston and the creator/host of Nail Talk Radio — has always been a rock buff. As a kid she wanted to be an archeologist and dig for dinosaur bones. Now a member of the Houston Gem & Mineral Society, she’s content searching for precious stones at the various digs it sponsors across the state.

“Before each field trip, they tell us what we are looking for, all about the terrain, and what tools we need to bring along,” says Elliott, who also does her own research online. “I have a backpack with gloves, a chisel, hammer, screwdriver, and used prescription bottles for my specimens. Sometimes I have to bring my blinged-out hard hat!

“It’s funny, sometimes what I am digging for is nowhere in sight until I find my first specimen. Then all of a sudden it’s everywhere, because you know what you are looking for.” Of course, sometimes she doesn’t find what she’s looking for. “Once I dug for five hours in the same spot looking for Native American arrowheads. Instead I found a heavy-duty tool used for scraping fur from animal hides called an end scraper. I didn’t know what it was until I went home and looked it up.”

Elliott found one of the highlights of her collection during a trip to Hot Springs, Ark., that took her to Wegner Crystal Mines. “I settled down into a low spot in the ground that had been dug out by many people before me. The quartz veins that run in the ground span several miles. I found the perfect spot and started digging in the wet gooey clay lodged in the crevices,” she says. “Feeling with one hand and chiseling with my screwdriver, I dug out some awesome clusters. I had to sit back for a moment to realize how amazing it was to be the first person to actually touch a 300 million-year-old crystal.”

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