Mineralogy[n 1] is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical (including optical) properties of minerals and mineralized artifacts. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes of mineral origin and formation, classification of minerals, their geographical distribution, as well as their utilization.

Mineralogy between its other sciences around
Mineralogy is a mixture of chemistry, materials science, physics and geology.


Mohs mineralogy vol 2 plate 19
Page from Treatise on mineralogy by Friedrich Mohs (1825)
Moon Mineralogy Mapper left
The Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a spectrometer that mapped the lunar surface[3]

Early writing on mineralogy, especially on gemstones, comes from ancient Babylonia, the ancient Greco-Roman world, ancient and medieval China, and Sanskrit texts from ancient India and the ancient Islamic World.[4] Books on the subject included the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, which not only described many different minerals but also explained many of their properties, and Kitab al Jawahir (Book of Precious Stones) by Persian scientist Al Biruni. The German Renaissance specialist Georgius Agricola wrote works such as De re metallica (On Metals, 1556) and De Natura Fossilium (On the Nature of Rocks, 1546) which began the scientific approach to the subject. Systematic scientific studies of minerals and rocks developed in post-Renaissance Europe.[4] The modern study of mineralogy was founded on the principles of crystallography (the origins of geometric crystallography, itself, can be traced back to the mineralogy practiced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and to the microscopic study of rock sections with the invention of the microscope in the 17th century.[4]

Nicholas Steno first observed the law of constancy of interfacial angles (also known as the first law of crystallography) in quartz crystals in 1669.[5]:4 This was later generalized and established experimentally by Jean-Baptiste L. Romé de l'Islee in 1783.[6] René Just Haüy, the "father of modern crystallography", showed that crystals are periodic and established that the orientations of crystal faces can be expressed in terms of rational numbers, as later encoded in the Miller indices.[5]:4 In 1814, Jöns Jacob Berzelius introduced a classification of minerals based on their chemistry rather than their crystal structure.[7] William Nicol developed the Nicol prism, which polarizes light, in 1827–1828 while studying fossilized wood; Henry Clifton Sorby showed that thin sections of minerals could be identified by their optical properties using a polarizing microscope.[5]:4[7]:15 James D. Dana published his first edition of A System of Mineralogy in 1837, and in a later edition introduced a chemical classification that is still the standard.[5]:4[7]:15 X-ray diffraction was demonstrated by Max von Laue in 1912, and developed into a tool for analyzing the crystal structure of minerals by the father/son team of William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg.[5]:4

More recently, driven by advances in experimental technique (such as neutron diffraction) and available computational power, the latter of which has enabled extremely accurate atomic-scale simulations of the behaviour of crystals, the science has branched out to consider more general problems in the fields of inorganic chemistry and solid-state physics. It, however, retains a focus on the crystal structures commonly encountered in rock-forming minerals (such as the perovskites, clay minerals and framework silicates). In particular, the field has made great advances in the understanding of the relationship between the atomic-scale structure of minerals and their function; in nature, prominent examples would be accurate measurement and prediction of the elastic properties of minerals, which has led to new insight into seismological behaviour of rocks and depth-related discontinuities in seismograms of the Earth's mantle. To this end, in their focus on the connection between atomic-scale phenomena and macroscopic properties, the mineral sciences (as they are now commonly known) display perhaps more of an overlap with materials science than any other discipline.

Physical properties

Calcit Scalenoeder - Egremont, England
Calcite is a carbonate mineral (CaCO3) with a rhombohedral crystal structure.
Aragonite redbrown crystals
Aragonite is an orthorhombic polymorph of calcite.

An initial step in identifying a mineral is to examine its physical properties, many of which can be measured on a hand sample. These can be classified into density (often given as specific gravity); measures of mechanical cohesion (hardness, tenacity, cleavage, fracture, parting); macroscopic visual properties (luster, color, streak, luminescence, diaphaneity); magnetic and electric properties; radioactivity and solubility in hydrogen chloride (HCl).[5]:97–113[8]:39–53

Hardness is determined by comparison with other minerals. In the Mohs scale, a standard set of minerals are numbered in order of increasing hardness from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond). A harder mineral will scratch a softer, so an unknown mineral can be placed in this scale by which minerals it scratches and which scratch it. A few minerals such as calcite and kyanite have a hardness that depends significantly on direction.[9]:254–255 Hardness can also be measured on an absolute scale using a sclerometer; compared to the absolute scale, the Mohs scale is nonlinear.[8]:52

Tenacity refers to the way a mineral behaves when it is broken, crushed, bent or torn. A mineral can be brittle, malleable, sectile, ductile, flexible or elastic. An important influence on tenacity is the type of chemical bond (e.g., ionic or metallic).[9]:255–256 Of the other measures of mechanical cohesion, cleavage is the tendency to break along certain crystallographic planes. It is described by the quality (e.g., perfect or fair) and the orientation of the plane in crystallographic nomenclature. Parting is the tendency to break along planes of weakness due to pressure, twinning or exsolution. Where these two kinds of break do not occur, fracture is a less orderly form that may be conchoidal (having smooth curves resembling the interior of a shell), fibrous, splintery, hackly (jagged with sharp edges), or uneven.[9]:253–254

If the mineral is well crystallized, it will also have a distinctive crystal habit (for example, hexagonal, columnar, botryoidal) that reflects the crystal structure or internal arrangement of atoms.[8]:40–41 It is also affected by crystal defects and twinning. Many crystals are polymorphic, having more than one possible crystal structure depending on factors such as pressure and temperature.[5]:66–68[8]:126

Crystal structure

The perovskite crystal structure. The most abundant mineral in the Earth, bridgmanite, has this structure.[10] Its chemical formula is (Mg,Fe)SiO3; the red spheres are oxygen, the blue spheres silicon and the green spheres magnesium or iron.

The crystal structure is the arrangement of atoms in a crystal. It is represented by a lattice of points which repeats a basic pattern, called a unit cell, in three dimensions. The lattice can be characterized by its symmetries and by the dimensions of the unit cell. These dimensions are represented by three Miller indices.[11]:91–92 The lattice remains unchanged by certain symmetry operations about any given point in the lattice: reflection, rotation, inversion, and rotary inversion, a combination of rotation and reflection. Together, they make up a mathematical object called a crystallographic point group or crystal class. There are 32 possible crystal classes. In addition, there are operations that displace all the points: translation, screw axis, and glide plane. In combination with the point symmetries, they form 230 possible space groups.[11]:125–126

Most geology departments have X-ray powder diffraction equipment to analyze the crystal structures of minerals.[8]:54–55 X-rays have wavelengths that are the same order of magnitude as the distances between atoms. Diffraction, the constructive and destructive interference between waves scattered at different atoms, leads to distinctive patterns of high and low intensity that depend on the geometry of the crystal. In a sample that is ground to a powder, the X-rays sample a random distribution of all crystal orientations.[12] Powder diffraction can distinguish between minerals that may appear the same in a hand sample, for example quartz and its polymorphs tridymite and cristobalite.[8]:54

Isomorphous minerals of different compositions have similar powder diffraction patterns, the main difference being in spacing and intensity of lines. For example, the NaCl (halite) crystal structure is space group Fm3m; this structure is shared by sylvite (KCl), periclase (MgO), bunsenite (NiO), galena (PbS), alabandite (MnS), chlorargyrite (AgCl), and osbornite (TiN).[9]:150–151

Chemical elements

Portable Micro-X-ray fluorescence machine
Portable Micro-X-ray fluorescence machine

A few minerals are chemical elements, including sulfur, copper, silver, and gold, but the vast majority are compounds. The classical method for identifying composition is wet chemical analysis, which involves dissolving a mineral in an acid such as hydrochloric acid (HCl). The elements in solution are then identified using colorimetry, volumetric analysis or gravimetric analysis.[9]:224–225

Since 1960, most chemistry analysis is done using instruments. One of these, atomic absorption spectroscopy, is similar to wet chemistry in that the sample must still be dissolved, but it is much faster and cheaper. The solution is vaporized and its absorption spectrum is measured in the visible and ultraviolet range.[9]:225–226 Other techniques are X-ray fluorescence, electron microprobe analysis and optical emission spectrography.[9]:227–232


CSIRO ScienceImage 1483 Olivine Adcumulate
Photomicrograph of olivine adcumulate, Archaean Komatiite, Agnew, Western Australia.

In addition to macroscopic properties such as color or lustre, minerals have properties that require a polarizing microscope to observe.

Transmitted light

When light passes from air or a vacuum into a transparent crystal, some of it is reflected at the surface and some refracted. The latter is a bending of the light path that occurs because the speed of light changes as it goes into the crystal; Snell's law relates the bending angle to the Refractive index, the ratio of speed in a vacuum to speed in the crystal. Crystals whose point symmetry group falls in the cubic system are isotropic: the index does not depend on direction. All other crystals are anisotropic: light passing through them is broken up into two plane polarized rays that travel at different speeds and refract at different angles.[9]:289–291

A polarizing microscope is similar to an ordinary microscope, but it has two plane-polarized filters, a (polarizer) below the sample and an analyzer above it, polarized perpendicular to each other. Light passes successively through the polarizer, the sample and the analyzer. If there is no sample, the analyzer blocks all the light from the polarizer. However, an anisotropic sample will generally change the polarization so some of the light can pass through. Thin sections and powders can be used as samples.[9]:293–294

When an isotropic crystal is viewed, it appears dark because it does not change the polarization of the light. However, when it is immersed in a calibrated liquid with a lower index of refraction and the microscope is thrown out of focus, a bright line called a Becke line appears around the perimeter of the crystal. By observing the presence or absence of such lines in liquids with different indices, the index of the crystal can be estimated, usually to within ± 0.003.[9]:294–295


Hanksite, Na22K(SO4)9(CO3)2Cl, one of the few minerals that is considered a carbonate and a sulfate

Systematic mineralogy is the identification and classification of minerals by their properties. Historically, mineralogy was heavily concerned with taxonomy of the rock-forming minerals. In 1959, the International Mineralogical Association formed the Commission of New Minerals and Mineral Names to rationalize the nomenclature and regulate the introduction of new names. In July 2006, it was merged with the Commission on Classification of Minerals to form the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification.[13] There are over 6,000 named and unnamed minerals, and about 100 are discovered each year.[14] The Manual of Mineralogy places minerals in the following classes: native elements, sulfides, sulfosalts, oxides and hydroxides, halides, carbonates, nitrates and borates, sulfates, chromates, molybdates and tungstates, phosphates, arsenates and vanadates, and silicates.[9]

Formation environments

The environments of mineral formation and growth are highly varied, ranging from slow crystallization at the high temperatures and pressures of igneous melts deep within the Earth's crust to the low temperature precipitation from a saline brine at the Earth's surface.

Various possible methods of formation include:[15]


Biomineralogy is a cross-over field between mineralogy, paleontology and biology. It is the study of how plants and animals stabilize minerals under biological control, and the sequencing of mineral replacement of those minerals after deposition.[16] It uses techniques from chemical mineralogy, especially isotopic studies, to determine such things as growth forms in living plants and animals[17][18] as well as things like the original mineral content of fossils.[19]

A new approach to mineralogy called mineral evolution explores the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere, including the role of minerals in the origin of life and processes as mineral-catalyzed organic synthesis and the selective adsorption of organic molecules on mineral surfaces.[20][21]

Mineral ecology

In 2011, several researchers began to develop a Mineral Evolution Database.[22] This database integrates the crowd-sourced site Mindat.org, which has over 690,000 mineral-locality pairs, with the official IMA list of approved minerals and age data from geological publications.[23]

Access to such a database it possible to apply statistics to answer new questions, an approach that has been called mineral ecology. One such question is how much of mineral evolution is deterministic and how much the result of chance. Some factors are deterministic, such as the chemical nature of a mineral and conditions for its stability; but mineralogy can also be affected by the processes that determine a planet's composition. In a 2015 paper, Robert Hazen and others analyzed the number of minerals involving each element as a function of its abundance. They found that Earth, with over 4800 known minerals and 72 elements, has a power law relationship. The Moon, with only 63 minerals and 24 elements (based on a much smaller sample) has essentially the same relationship. This implies that, given the chemical composition of the planet, one could predict the more common minerals. However, the distribution has a long tail, with 34% of the minerals having been found at only one or two locations. The model predicts that thousands more mineral species may await discovery or have formed and then been lost to erosion, burial or other processes. This implies a role of chance in the formation of rare minerals occur.[24][25][26][27]

In another use of big data sets, network theory was applied to a dataset of carbon minerals, revealing new patterns in their diversity and distribution. The analysis can show which minerals tend to coexist and what conditions (geological, physical, chemical and biological) are associated with them. This information can be used to predict where to look for new deposits and even new mineral species.[28][29][30]


Americana 1920 Mineralogy - Valuable Minerals
A color chart of some raw forms of commercially valuable metals.[31]

Minerals are essential to various needs within human society, such as minerals used as ores for essential components of metal products used in various commodities and machinery, essential components to building materials such as limestone, marble, granite, gravel, glass, plaster, cement, etc.[15] Minerals are also used in fertilizers to enrich the growth of agricultural crops.


Mineral collecting is also a recreational study and collection hobby, with clubs and societies representing the field.[32][33] Museums, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Natural History Museum, London, and the private Mim Mineral Museum in Beirut, Lebanon,[34][35] have popular collections of mineral specimens on permanent display.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Commonly pronounced /ˌmɪnəˈrɒlədʒi/[1][2] due to the common phonological process of anticipatory assimilation, especially in North-American but also in UK English. Nevertheless, even modern descriptive UK dictionaries tend to record only the spelling pronunciation /ˌmɪnəˈrælədʒɪ/, sometimes even while their sound file instead has the assimilated pronunciation, as in the case of the Collins Dictionary.[2]


  1. ^ "Mineralogy". American Heritage Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Mineralogy". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  3. ^ "NASA Instrument Inaugurates 3-D Moon Imaging". JPL. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Needham, Joseph (1959). Science and civilisation in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 637–638. ISBN 978-0521058018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Nesse, William D. (2012). Introduction to mineralogy (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199827381.
  6. ^ "Law of the constancy of interfacial angles". Online dictionary of crystallography. International Union of Crystallography. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Rafferty, John P. (2012). Geological sciences (1st ed.). New York: Britannica Educational Pub. in association with Rosen Educational Services. pp. 14–15. ISBN 9781615304950.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Klein, Cornelis; Philpotts, Anthony R. (2013). Earth materials : introduction to mineralogy and petrology. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521145213.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Klein, Cornelis; Hurlbut, Jr., Cornelius S. (1993). Manual of mineralogy : (after James D. Dana) (21st ed.). New York: Wiley. ISBN 047157452X.
  10. ^ Sharp, T. (27 November 2014). "Bridgmanite – named at last". Science. 346 (6213): 1057–1058. doi:10.1126/science.1261887. PMID 25430755.
  11. ^ a b Ashcroft, Neil W.; Mermin, N. David (1977). Solid state physics (27. repr. ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 9780030839931.
  12. ^ Dinnebier, Robert E.; Billinge, Simon J.L. (2008). "1. Principles of powder diffraction". In Dinnebier, Robert E.; Billinge, Simon J.L. Powder diffraction : theory and practice (Repr. ed.). Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. pp. 1–19. ISBN 9780854042319.
  13. ^ Parsons, Ian (October 2006). "International Mineralogical Association". Elements. 2 (6): 388. doi:10.2113/gselements.2.6.388.
  14. ^ Higgins, Michael D.; Smith, Dorian G. W. (October 2010). "A census of mineral species in 2010". Elements. 6 (5): 346.
  15. ^ a b Moses 1918
  16. ^ Scurfield, Gordon (1979). "Wood Petrifaction: an aspect of biomineralogy". Australian Journal of Botany. 27 (4): 377–390. doi:10.1071/bt9790377.
  17. ^ Christoffersen, M.R.; Balic-Zunic, T.; Pehrson, S.; Christoffersen, J. (2001). "Kinetics of Growth of Columnar Triclinic Calcium Pyrophosphate Dihydrate Crystals". Crystal Growth & Design. 1 (6): 463–466. doi:10.1021/cg015547j.
  18. ^ Chandrajith, R.; Wijewardana, G.; Dissanayake, C.B.; Abeygunasekara, A. (2006). "Biomineralogy of human urinary calculi (kidney stones) from some geographic regions of Sri Lanka". Environmental Geochemistry and Health. 28 (4): 393–399. doi:10.1007/s10653-006-9048-y.
  19. ^ Lowenstam, Heitz A (1954). "Environmental relations of modification compositions of certain carbonate secreting marine invertebrates". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 40 (1): 39–48. doi:10.1073/pnas.40.1.39.
  20. ^ Amos, Jonathan (13 February 2016). "Earth's rarest minerals catalogued". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  21. ^ Hazen, Robert M.; Papineau, Dominic; Bleeker, Wouter; Downs, Robert T.; Ferry, John M.; et al. (November–December 2008). "Mineral Evolution". American Mineralogist. 93 (11–12): 1693–1720. doi:10.2138/am.2008.2955.
  22. ^ Hazen, R. M.; Bekker, A.; Bish, D. L.; Bleeker, W.; Downs, R. T.; Farquhar, J.; Ferry, J. M.; Grew, E. S.; Knoll, A. H.; Papineau, D.; Ralph, J. P.; Sverjensky, D. A.; Valley, J. W. (24 June 2011). "Needs and opportunities in mineral evolution research". American Mineralogist. 96 (7): 953–963. doi:10.2138/am.2011.3725.
  23. ^ Golden, Joshua; Pires, Alexander J.; Hazenj, Robert M.; Downs, Robert T.; Ralph, Jolyon; Meyer, Michael Bruce (2016). Building the mineral evolution database: implications for future big data analysis. GSA Annual Meeting. Denver, Colorado. doi:10.1130/abs/2016AM-286024.
  24. ^ Hazen, Robert M.; Grew, Edward S.; Downs, Robert T.; Golden, Joshua; Hystad, Grethe (March 2015). "Mineral ecology: Chance and necessity in the mineral diversity of terrestrial planets". The Canadian Mineralogist. 53 (2): 295–324. doi:10.3749/canmin.1400086.
  25. ^ Hazen, Robert. "Mineral Ecology". Carnegie Science. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  26. ^ Kwok, Roberta (11 August 2015). "Is Mineral Evolution Driven by Chance?". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  27. ^ Kwok, Roberta (16 August 2015). "How Life and Luck Changed Earth's Minerals". Wired. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  28. ^ Oleson, Timothy (1 May 2018). "Data-driven discovery reveals Earth's missing minerals". Earth Magazine. American Geosciences Institute. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  29. ^ Hooper, Joel (2 August 2017). "Data mining: How digging through big data can turn up new". Cosmos. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  30. ^ Rogers, Nala (1 August 2017). "How Math Can Help Geologists Discover New Minerals". Inside Science. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  31. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana. New York: Encyclopedia Americana Corp. 1918–1920. plate opposite p. 166.
  32. ^ "Collector's Corner". The Mineralogical Society of America. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  33. ^ "The American Federation of Mineral Societies". Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  34. ^ Wilson, W (2013). "The Opening of the Mim Mineral Museum in Beirut, Lebanon". The Mineralogical Record. 45 (1): 61–83.
  35. ^ Lyckberg, Peter (16 October 2013). "The MIM Museum opening, Lebanon". Mindat.org. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  36. ^ "Gems and Minerals". Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2010-05-22.

Further reading

  • Gribble, C.D.; Hall, A.J. (1993). Optical Mineralogy: Principles And Practice. London: CRC Press. ISBN 9780203498705.
  • Harrell, James A. (2012). "Mineralogy". In Bagnall, Roger S.; Brodersen, Kai; Champion, Craige B.; Erskine, Andrew. The encyclopedia of ancient history. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah21217. ISBN 9781444338386.
  • Hazen, Robert M. (1984). "Mineralogy: A historical review" (PDF). Journal of Geological Education. 32: 288–298. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  • Laudan, Rachel (1993). From mineralogy to geology : the foundations of a science, 1650-1830 (Pbk. ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226469478.
  • Moses, Alfred J. (1918–1920). "Mineralogy". In Ramsdell, Lewis S. Encyclopedia Americana: International Edition. 19. New York: Americana Corporation. pp. 164–168.
  • Oldroyd, David (1998). Sciences of the earth : studies in the history of mineralogy and geology. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 9780860787709.
  • Perkins, Dexter (2014). Mineralogy. Pearson Higher Ed. ISBN 9780321986573.
  • Rapp, George R. (2002). Archaeomineralogy. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. ISBN 9783662050057.
  • Tisljar, S.K. Haldar, Josip (2013). Introduction to mineralogy and petrology. Burlington: Elsevier Science. ISBN 9780124167100.
  • Wenk, Hans-Rudolf; Bulakh, Andrey (2016). Minerals: Their Constitution and Origin. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781316425282.
  • Whewell, William (2010). "Book XV. History of Mineralogy". History of the Inductive Sciences: From the Earliest to the Present Times. Cambridge University Press. pp. 187–252. ISBN 9781108019262.

External links



CI1 fossils

CI1 fossils refer to alleged morphological evidence of microfossils found in five CI1 carbonaceous chondrite meteorite fall: Alais, Orgueil, Ivuna, Tonk and Revelstoke. The research was published in March 2011 in the fringe Journal of Cosmology by Richard B. Hoover, an engineer. However, NASA distanced itself from Hoover's claim and his lack of expert peer-reviews.


Chrysocolla is a hydrated copper phyllosilicate mineral with formula: Cu2−xAlx(H2−xSi2O5)(OH)4·nH2O (x<1) or (Cu,Al)2H2Si2O5(OH)4·nH2O. The structure of the mineral has been questioned, as spectrographic studies suggest material identified as chrysocolla may be a mixture of the copper hydroxide spertiniite and chalcedony.

Clay minerals

Clay minerals are hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, sometimes with variable amounts of iron, magnesium, alkali metals, alkaline earths, and other cations found on or near some planetary surfaces.

Clay minerals form in the presence of water and have been important to life, and many theories of abiogenesis involve them. They are important constituents of soils, and have been useful to humans since ancient times in agriculture and manufacturing.

Cleavage (crystal)

Cleavage, in mineralogy, is the tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite crystallographic structural planes. These planes of relative weakness are a result of the regular locations of atoms and ions in the crystal, which create smooth repeating surfaces that are visible both in the microscope and to the naked eye.

Crystal habit

In mineralogy, crystal habit is the characteristic external shape of an individual crystal or crystal group. A single crystal's habit is a description of its general shape and its crystallographic forms, plus how well developed each form is.

Recognizing the habit may help in identifying a mineral. When the faces are well-developed due to uncrowded growth a crystal is called euhedral, one with partially developed faces is subhedral, and one with undeveloped crystal faces is called anhedral. The long axis of a euhedral quartz crystal typically has a six-sided prismatic habit with parallel opposite faces. Aggregates can be formed of individual crystals with euhedral to anhedral grains. The arrangement of crystals within the aggregate can be characteristic of certain minerals. For example, minerals used for asbestos insulation often grow in a fibrous habit, a mass of very fine fibers.The terms used by mineralogists to report crystal habits describe the typical appearance of an ideal mineral. Recognizing the habit can aid in identification as some habits are characteristic. Most minerals, however, do not display ideal habits due to conditions during crystallization. Euhedral crystals formed in uncrowded conditions with no adjacent crystal grains are not common; more often faces are poorly formed or unformed against adjacent grains and the mineral's habit may not be easily recognized.

Factors influencing habit include: a combination of two or more crystal forms; trace impurities present during growth; crystal twinning and growth conditions (i.e., heat, pressure, space); and specific growth tendencies such as growth striations. Minerals belonging to the same crystal system do not necessarily exhibit the same habit. Some habits of a mineral are unique to its variety and locality: For example, while most sapphires form elongate barrel-shaped crystals, those found in Montana form stout tabular crystals. Ordinarily, the latter habit is seen only in ruby. Sapphire and ruby are both varieties of the same mineral: corundum.

Some minerals may replace other existing minerals while preserving the original's habit: this process is called pseudomorphous replacement. A classic example is tiger's eye quartz, crocidolite asbestos replaced by silica. While quartz typically forms prismatic (elongate, prism-like) crystals, in tiger's eye the original fibrous habit of crocidolite is preserved.

The names of crystal habits are derived from:

Predominant crystal faces (prism – prismatic, pyramid – pyramidal and pinacoid – platy).

Crystal forms (cubic, octahedral, dodecahedral).

Aggregation of crystals or aggregates (fibrous, botryoidal, radiating, massive).

Crystal appearance (foliated/lamellar (layered), dendritic, bladed, acicular, lenticular, tabular (tablet shaped)).

Fracture (mineralogy)

In the field of mineralogy, fracture is the texture and shape of a rock's surface formed when a mineral is fractured. Minerals often have a highly distinctive fracture, making it a principal feature used in their identification.

Fracture differs from cleavage in that the latter involves clean splitting along the cleavage planes of the mineral's crystal structure, as opposed to more general breakage. All minerals exhibit fracture, but when very strong cleavage is present, it can be difficult to see.


Gemology or gemmology is the science dealing with natural and artificial gemstone materials. It is considered a geoscience and a branch of mineralogy. Some jewelers are academically trained gemologists and are qualified to identify and evaluate gems.


Impactite (or impact glass) is rock created or modified by the impact of a meteorite.

Inclusion (mineral)

In mineralogy, an inclusion is any material that is trapped inside a mineral during its formation.

In gemology, an inclusion is a characteristic enclosed within a gemstone, or reaching its surface from the interior.

According to Hutton's law of inclusions, fragments included in a host rock are older than the host rock itself.

James Dwight Dana

James Dwight Dana FRS FRSE (February 12, 1813 – April 14, 1895) was an American geologist, mineralogist, volcanologist, and zoologist. He made pioneering studies of mountain-building, volcanic activity, and the origin and structure of continents and oceans around the world.

Lustre (mineralogy)

Lustre or luster is the way light interacts with the surface of a crystal, rock, or mineral. The word traces its origins back to the Latin lux, meaning "light", and generally implies radiance, gloss, or brilliance.

A range of terms are used to describe lustre, such as earthy, metallic, greasy, and silky. Similarly, the term vitreous (derived from the Latin for glass, vitrum) refers to a glassy lustre. A list of these terms is given below.

Lustre varies over a wide continuum, and so there are no rigid boundaries between the different types of lustre. (For this reason, different sources can often describe the same mineral differently. This ambiguity is further complicated by lustre's ability to vary widely within a particular mineral species.) The terms are frequently combined to describe intermediate types of lustre (for example, a "vitreous greasy" lustre).

Some minerals exhibit unusual optical phenomena, such as asterism (the display of a star-shaped luminous area) or chatoyancy (the display of luminous bands, which appear to move as the specimen is rotated). A list of such phenomena is given below.


Mafic is an adjective describing a silicate mineral or igneous rock that is rich in magnesium and iron, and is thus a portmanteau of magnesium and ferric. Most mafic minerals are dark in color, and common rock-forming mafic minerals include olivine, pyroxene, amphibole, and biotite. Common mafic rocks include basalt, diabase and gabbro. Mafic rocks often also contain calcium-rich varieties of plagioclase feldspar.

Chemically, mafic rocks are enriched in iron, magnesium and calcium and typically dark in color. In contrast the felsic rocks are typically light in color and enriched in aluminium and silicon along with potassium and sodium. The mafic rocks also typically have a higher density than felsic rocks. The term roughly corresponds to the older basic rock class.

Mafic lava, before cooling, has a low viscosity, in comparison with felsic lava, due to the lower silica content in mafic magma. Water and other volatiles can more easily and gradually escape from mafic lava. As a result, eruptions of volcanoes made of mafic lavas are less explosively violent than felsic-lava eruptions. Most mafic-lava volcanoes are shield volcanoes, like those in Hawaii.


Mindat.org is a non-commercial online mineralogical database, claiming to be the largest mineral database and mineralogical reference website on the internet. It is used by professional mineralogists and amateur mineral collectors alike.

It contains a significant database of minerals, localities and mineral photographs, and is updated constantly by registered users adding and editing entries.

As of 2016, it included:

45,289 mineral names (this includes mineral varieties, synonyms and discredited names), of which 5,091 are minerals or mineraloids recognized by the International Mineralogical Association.

261,955 mineral localities worldwide, with information on 903,204 mineral occurrences within these sites.

Over 647,000 photos of minerals have been uploaded, arranged into galleries from collectors and institutions worldwide who wish to share their mineral collections online.

48,657 users registered to upload photos and/or edit data.


A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic (such as calcite) and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry (such as mellite). Moreover, living beings often synthesize inorganic minerals (such as hydroxylapatite) that also occur in rocks.

In geology and mineralogy, the term "mineral" is usually reserved for mineral species: crystalline compounds with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure. Minerals without a definite crystalline structure, such as opal or obsidian, are then more properly called mineraloids. If a chemical compound may occur naturally with different crystal structures, each structure is considered different mineral species. Thus, for example, quartz and stishovite are two different minerals consisting of the same compound, silicon dioxide.

The International Mineralogical Association (IMA) is the world's premier standard body for the definition and nomenclature of mineral species. As of November 2018, the IMA recognizes 5,413 official mineral species. out of more than 5,500 proposed or traditional ones.The chemical composition of a named mineral species may vary somewhat by the inclusion of small amounts of impurities. Specific varieties of a species sometimes have conventional or official names of their own. For example, amethyst is a purple variety of the mineral species quartz. Some mineral species can have variable proportions of two or more chemical elements that occupy equivalent positions in the mineral's structure; for example, the formula of mackinawite is given as (Fe,Ni)9S8, meaning FexNi9-xS8, where x is a variable number between 0 and 9. Sometimes a mineral with variable composition is split into separate species, more or less arbitrarily, forming a mineral group; that is the case of the silicates CaxMgyFe2-x-ySiO4, the olivine group.

Besides the essential chemical composition and crystal structure, the description of a mineral species usually includes its common physical properties such as habit, hardness, lustre, diaphaneity, colour, streak, tenacity, cleavage, fracture, parting, specific gravity, magnetism, fluorescence, radioactivity, as well as its taste or smell and its reaction to acid.

Minerals are classified by key chemical constituents; the two dominant systems are the Dana classification and the Strunz classification. Silicate minerals comprise approximately 90% of the Earth's crust. Other important mineral groups include the native elements, sulfides, oxides, halides, carbonates, sulfates, and phosphates.

Mohs scale of mineral hardness

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is a qualitative ordinal scale characterizing scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of harder material to scratch softer material. Created in 1812 by German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs, it is one of several definitions of hardness in materials science, some of which are more quantitative. The method of comparing hardness by observing which minerals can scratch others is of great antiquity, having been mentioned by Theophrastus in his treatise On Stones, c. 300 BC, followed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, c. 77 AD. While greatly facilitating the identification of minerals in the field, the Mohs scale does not show how well hard materials perform in an industrial setting.

Parent body

In meteoritics, a parent body is the celestial body from which originates a meteorite or a class of meteorites.


Pleochroism (from Greek πλέων, pléōn, "more" and χρῶμα, khrôma, "color") is an optical phenomenon in which a substance has different colors when observed at different angles, especially with polarized light.

Streak (mineralogy)

The streak of a mineral is the color of the powder produced when it is dragged across an un-weathered surface. Unlike the apparent color of a mineral, which for most minerals can vary considerably, the trail of finely ground powder generally has a more consistent characteristic color, and is thus an important diagnostic tool in mineral identification. If no streak seems to be made, the mineral's streak is said to be white or colorless. Streak is particularly important as a diagnostic for opaque and colored materials. It is less useful for silicate minerals, most of which have a white streak or are too hard to powder easily.

The apparent color of a mineral can vary widely because of trace impurities or a disturbed macroscopic crystal structure. Small amounts of an impurity that strongly absorbs a particular wavelength can radically change the wavelengths of light that are reflected by the specimen, and thus change the apparent color. However, when the specimen is dragged to produce a streak, it is broken into randomly oriented microscopic crystals, and small impurities do not greatly affect the absorption of light.

The surface across which the mineral is dragged is called a "streak plate", and is generally made of unglazed porcelain tile. In the absence of a streak plate, the unglazed underside of a porcelain bowl or vase or the back of a glazed tile will work. Sometimes a streak is more easily or accurately described by comparing it with the "streak" made by another streak plate.

Because the trail left behind results from the mineral being crushed into powder, a streak can only be made of minerals softer than the streak plate, around 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. For harder minerals, the color of the powder can be determined by filing or crushing with a hammer a small sample, which is then usually rubbed on a streak plate. Most minerals that are harder have an unhelpful white streak.

Some minerals leave a streak similar to their natural color, such as cinnabar and lazurite. Other minerals leave surprising colors, such as fluorite, which always has a white streak, although it can appear in purple, blue, yellow, or green crystals. Hematite, which is black in appearance, leaves a red streak which accounts for its name, which comes from the Greek word "haima", meaning "blood." Galena, which can be similar in appearance to hematite, is easily distinguished by its gray streak.

Tenacity (mineralogy)

In mineralogy, tenacity is a mineral's behavior when deformed or broken.

Common minerals
History of geology
Сomposition and structure
Historical geology

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