Nelsonite State Rock Initiative

The PVCC students and faculty who changed history.


At the start of the 2015 fall semester, two Piedmont Virginia Community College professors had an idea. It had never been done before, and neither knew if it would be successful. The plan was to bring honors students from the Historical Geology class and from the Government class to work together to make Nelsonite the state rock of Virginia.

In the beginning, eight students came together to work on the project, but through the difficulties and the personal sacrifices that had to be made outside of the classroom, only four remain: three honors geology students and one government student.

Our project ended last semester, but Nelsonite is still not the state rock because politics takes time. With the hours of dedication put in to this project, we were not going to give up until our goal came to fruition. We have a senator sponsoring us and we have a bill, what we need now is help from the people of Virginia and not to mention a little bit of faith.


Possibly more importantly, why a state rock? With the severity of the problems in the world and the ever-growing demand to face and resolve these issues, is it a waste of time to be focusing on symbolic elements such as state beverages, state flags, state mottos, or even state rocks? Absolutely not.

There are always going to be conflicts in the world--it is human nature. To lose sight of the small things, the seemingly insignificant differences a person can make in their own way is to admit defeat. Symbols mean something to people: "Virginia is for Lovers"; Texas is the "Lone Star State"; Florida is ripening with oranges; and if you are from Wisconsin, you may have a natural love for cheese, or you could very well be lactose intolerant--what’s important is that you have an identity to something, no matter how big or small.

The students at Piedmont Virginia Community College have worked countless hours on this project and have been given a chance to make a difference in our government. Whether it is students coming up and signing our petition, professors encouraging us to keep plugging, or a Virginia rock group reaching out and offering a helping hand, we have seen how a community can come together and work towards a common goal, no matter how big or small. It shows that people want to help, and they want to make a difference, sometimes we just need a common goal. Now, it may only be a small state rock, but someday, it could be a mountain.



What is it?

  • Nelsonite’s type locality is no other than Nelson County, Va.
  • Deposited over one billion years ago in Dike formations occurring in Roseland, Amherst, and Nelson Counties.
  • Composed mainly of Ilmanite and Apetite.
  • Ilmenite is the black metallic and slightly magnetic material, composed of iron, titanium and oxygen.
  • Apetite is a light colored nonmetallic mineral, composed of calcium, phosphorous, oxygen and fluorine or chlorine.
  • Nelsonite originates from liquid immiscibility in the magma chamber producing iron (Fe), titanium (Ti), and phospherous (P).
  • Nelsonite is heavy and dense due to its high concentration of iron and titanium.
  • Nelsonite is considered to be a rare earth element and is recognized and studied in, but not limited too, Nelson County, Va.; Amherst and Roanoke Counties; Carthage, N.Y.; Laramie, W.Va.; Washington State; Quebec, Canada; and China.

Why did we pick Nelsonite?

  • The Virginia State Geologist David Spears supports Nelsonite for the state rock of Virginia.
  • Nelsonite played a key role in boosting Virginias economy in the early 1900s through mining the titanium for paint. While it is no longer mined in the U.S., China mines nelsonite heavily for its rare earth elements.
  • Nelsonite was supported as the Virginia state rock by 27-0 vote at the annual 2015, Virginia Field Geologists Conference.
  • Virginia is one of five states that does not have a state rock.