Petoskey: State Stone of Michigan

Every state in America, has its own state gem, mineral, stone, rock, etc. or a combination of them, which are special to that state.

The Petoskey Stone is unique to the Great Lakes that surround Michigan. The stone can

an open handful of petoskey stones with the beach in the background and a pair of bare feet
several Petoskey stones. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

be found on the shores of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The Petoskey Stone is a beautiful and natural fossil.

Long before dinosaurs roamed the earth, over 350-million years ago during the Devonian period, Michigan was located near the equator. Covered by a warm, shallow salt water sea, the colonial coral hexagonaria percarinata thrived with other marine life in tropical reefs.  The earth’s plates moved and pushed Michigan north to the 45th parallel and above sea level, which created dry land formations.

map of America, highlighting Michigan in red
A map of America with the two Michigan peninsulas in red. Credit:

Recently, about 2-million years ago, glacial action scraped the earth and spread the

map of Michigan, showing the city of Petoskey
The red indicates the county that the city of  Petoskey is in. Credit:

fossils across the norther Lower Peninsula, depositing major concentrations in the Petoskey area. The prehistorical fossil, unique to the Traverse City Group rock strata, is called the Petoskey Stone. Michigan’s Official Stone.


Hexagonaria percarinata consists of tightly packed, 6-sided corallites, which are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyps. The center of each polyp was the mouth and contained tentacles that reached out for food. The hexagon shape of each cell and thin lines radiating out from the dark “eye” in the center are distinguishing features unique to this fossil. In a round about way, they also helped determine its common name, Petoskey.

close up of the petoskey stone pattern
Close up of the Petoskey Stone (credit Wikipedia Commons)

Pet-O-Sage, which means “Rays of the Rising Sun” in the Ottawa language, was the birthname given in 1787 to the son of a French fur trader and his Indian wife. Pet-O-Sage grew up in an area northwest of the present day Harbor Springs. He became a respected land-owner and businessman and like his father, was recognized as an Ottawan Indian Chief. In 1873, the settlement on the Bear River was named Petoskey, in his honor.

Petoskey became a summertime destination for Victorian tourists and the unusual fossil specimens were popular souvenirs.

Study the Petoskey Stone and you’ll see in each cell, the pattern of the “rays of the rising sun” a romantic tie to the origins of the resort area.

close up of a petoskey stone
Close up of Petoskey Stone (credit Wikipedia Commons)

June 1965, the Petoskey Stone was named Michigan’s official State Stone. Miss Ella Jane Petoskey, the only living grandchild of Chief Petoskey, attended the formal signing. In the city that bears his name, a bronze statue of the dashing Petoskey stands on a bluff, overlooking the Little Traverse Bay.

Petoskey Stones can easily hide, when away from the water.

Let it be known now, should you be wanting to go find yourself some Petoskey Stones, you need to understand one thing. You need to know what you are looking for. You see, it has been my experience, that the Petoskey Stone can be an elusive creature. When it is dry, it looks like ordinary limestone. Nothing special. Get that nothing-special rock wet and watch it transform into the distinct Petoskey pattern.


before and after images of petoskey stones. Dry and then wet.

You may also notice that the raw, natural Petoskey stone is quite an ugly duckling.

a raw, unpolished petosky stone
Unpolished Petoskey stone. Credit: John Mortimore

And then when you take the time to polish that stone, or pay someone to do so, you end up with an amazing piece of art. A Petoskey stone is a ‘soft’ stone and one of the easiest to polish by hand. This is often a school project for young children.

polished petoskey stone
A polished Petoskey stone. Credit: wikipedia commons
a polished petoskey stone
A polished Petoskey stone. Credit:

It’s very common to find unique Petoskey stone jewelry. Quite often times, rock shops will offer both the raw and polished Petoskey stone.

CONCLUSION: When you hold up your right hand and look at your palm, you have a portable Michigan map. The tip of the middle finger is approximately where Petoskey is located, home of the state stone, Petoskey. You don’t have to go all the way north to find the beautiful Petoskey fossil, even though I recommend you do, for it is beautiful up there. Petoskey stones can also be found, up and down the west coast (where the pinkie is, on your ‘hand’ map) as Lake Michigan continues to wash them ashore.

One of the best times to hunt for these stones and many other goodies, is when the lake begins to unthaw in late winter/early spring. You see, during the winter months, the lake is covered by ice. We see complete stillness on its surface, while Mother Earth/Gaia is busy cleaning her waters and floor bed. Then she pushes her collection to the shore for us to explore. That is why you will see many people on the beaches long before the snow or ice waters leave. It’s actually kinda funny to see people in their winter gear, combing the shoreline for their treasures.

In closing this post, I send my heartfelt gratitude to Mohamad for his generosity and kindness of bringing guest authors, such as myself, to his blog. I also thank all of you for reading, exploring and injoying the beautiful state of Michigan.


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