Identify and also classify typical rock forming minerals.

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The solid planet is made of rocks, which are made the minerals. To recognize rocks you require to end up being familiar v minerals and also how they are identified. This outcome gives girlfriend the background necessary to recognize the terms provided in identify minerals.

This section will introduce you come minerals. Friend will find out the various techniques used by geologists come identify and also classify minerals.

What You’ll discover to Do

Identify minerals based on their physics characteristics.Sort minerals right into the correct mineral class.

Physical attributes of Minerals

What room Minerals?

All rocks except obsidian and coal room made of minerals. (Obsidian is a volcanic rock made of glass and coal is make of necessary carbon.) most rocks contain several minerals in a mixture characteristics of the details rock type. When identifying a absent you must very first identify the individual mineral that consist of that rock.

Minerals are naturally occurring, inorganic solids with a definite chemical composition and a decision lattice structure. Although countless minerals in the planet have to be identified, just ten minerals comprise most of the volume of the earth’s crust—plagioclase, quartz, orthoclase, amphibole, pyroxene, olivine, calcite, biotite, garnet, and also clay.

Together, the chemical formula (the species and proportions of the chemistry elements) and also the crystal lattice (the geometry of exactly how the atoms room arranged and also bonded together) recognize the physics properties of minerals.

The chemistry formula and crystal lattice of a mineral deserve to only be identified in a laboratory, but by examining a mineral and also determining number of of its physical properties, you have the right to identify the mineral. First, you need to come to be familiar with the physical properties of minerals and how to acknowledge them.

Minerals deserve to be established by their physical characteristics. The physics properties of minerals are pertained to their chemical composition and also bonding. Some characteristics, such as a mineral’s hardness, are much more useful because that mineral identification. Color is readily observable and also certainly obvious, however it is usually less reliable than various other physical properties.

How are Minerals Identified?

Figure 1. This mineral has actually shiny, gold, cubic crystals through striations, so the is pyrite.

Mineralogists are scientists who research minerals. Among the things mineralogists must do is identify and categorize minerals. If a mineralogist can use a high-powered microscope to determine some minerals, many are recognizable using physical properties.

Check out the mineral in Figure 1. What is the mineral’s color? What is the shape? room the individual crystals glowing or dull? room there currently (striations) running throughout the minerals?

Color, Streak, and Luster

Diamonds are famous gemstones since the way they reflect light makes them really sparkly. Turquoise is prized for its highlight greenish-blue color. An alert that specific terms room being used to define the illustration of minerals.


Figure 2. This mineral is shiny, really soft, heavy, and also gold in color, and is in reality gold.

Color is regularly useful, however should no be relied upon. Various minerals may be the exact same color. Real gold, as watched in figure 2, is very similar in shade to the pyrite in figure 1.

Additionally, part minerals come in numerous different colors. Quartz, for example, may be clear, white, gray, brown, yellow, pink, red, or orange. So color can help, yet do not rely on shade as the identify property. Number 3 shows one sample the quartz the is colorless and another quartz the is purple. A tiny amount that iron makes the quartz purple. Many minerals are colored by chemistry impurities.

Figure 3. Purple quartz, known as amethyst, and clear quartz space the exact same mineral regardless of the various colors.


Luster explains the reflection of light off a mineral’s surface. Mineralogists have special state to define luster. One simple means to classify luster is based on whether the mineral is metallic or non-metallic. Mineral that are opaque and shiny, such together pyrite, have a metallic luster. Mineral such together quartz have actually a non-metallic luster.

Luster is how the surface ar of a mineral mirrors light. The is no the same thing together color, for this reason it vital to distinguish luster native color. Because that example, a mineral described as “shiny yellow” is being explained in regards to luster (“shiny”) and also color (“yellow”), which space two various physical properties. Conventional names because that luster include metallic, glassy, pearly, silky, greasy, and also dull. That is often useful to an initial determine if a mineral has actually a metallic luster. A metallic luster way shiny like refined metal. For instance cleaned sleek pieces the chrome, steel, titanium, copper, and brass all exhibit metallic luster together do countless other minerals. Of the nonmetallic lusters, glassy is the most typical and means the surface of the mineral reflects light choose glass. Pearly luster is important in identify the feldspars, which room the most common kind of mineral. Pearly luster describes a ethereal irridescence or shade play in the reflected light, same way pearls reflect light. Silky method relecting light v a silk-like sheen. Greasy luster looks comparable to the luster of solidified bacon grease. Minerals with dull luster reflect very tiny light. Identifying luster take away a small practice. Mental to differentiate luster native color.

Different species of non-metallic luster are defined in Table 1.

Table 1. Six types of non-metallic luster.LusterAppearance
EarthyDull, clay-like
ResinousLike resins, such together tree sap
SilkySoft-looking with lengthy fibers

Can you complement the minerals in number 4 with the correct luster from Table 1?

Figure 4. (a) Diamond has an adamantine luster. (b) Quartz is not sparkly and also has a vitreous, or glassy, luster. (c) Sulfur reflects less light 보다 quartz, so it has a resinous luster.


Figure 5. The streak of hematite throughout an unglazed porcelain plate is red-brown.

Streak is the color of a mineral’s powder. Streak is a much more reliable residential or commercial property than color due to the fact that streak does no vary. Mineral that are the same shade may have actually a different colored streak. Numerous minerals, such together the quartz in the number 3, carry out not have streak.

To examine streak, scrape the mineral throughout an unglazed porcelain key (Figure 5). Yellow-gold pyrite has a blackish streak, an additional indicator that pyrite is no gold, which has a gold yellow streak.

Specific Gravity

Density describes how much issue is in a specific amount the space: thickness = mass/volume.

Mass is a measure up of the lot of issue in one object. The lot of an are an object takes increase is described by the volume. The density of things depends top top its mass and its volume. For example, the water in a drink glass has actually the same density as the water in the same volume that a swimming pool.

The details gravity the a problem compares its density to the of water. Substances that are much more dense have greater specific gravity.


Hardness is the stamin with i beg your pardon a mineral resists its surface being scraped or punctured. In working with hand samples without devoted tools, mineral hardness is mentioned by the Mohs hardness scale. The Mohs hardness range is based 10 recommendation minerals, indigenous talc the softest (Mohs hardness the 1), come diamond the hardest (Mohs hardness that 10). That is a relative, or nonlinear, scale. A hardness the 2.5 simply means that the mineral is harder than gypsum (Mohs hardness that 2) and softer 보다 calcite (Mohs hardness that 3). To to compare the hardness of 2 minerals view which mineral scratches the surface of the other.

Table 2. Mohs Hardness ScaleHardnessIndex MineralsCommon Objects
3calcite3.5-pure, untarnished copper
5feldspar5 to 5.5-stainless steel
5.5 to 6-glass
6apatite6 come 6.5-hard stole file

With a Mohs scale, anyone have the right to test one unknown mineral for its hardness. Imagine you have an unknown mineral. You discover that it can scratch fluorite or also feldspar, but apatite scratches it. You know then that the mineral’s hardness is in between 5 and 6. Keep in mind that no other mineral deserve to scratch diamond.

Cleavage and Fracture

Breaking a mineral division its chemical bonds. Since some bonds room weaker than various other bonds, each type of mineral is likely to break where the bonds between the atoms are weaker. For that reason, minerals rest apart in characteristic ways.


Figure 6. A close-up watch of sodium chloride in a water balloon aboard the International room Station.

Cleavage is the propensity of a mineral to rest along details planes to make smooth surfaces. Halite breaks in between layers that sodium and also chlorine to type cubes v smooth surfaces (Figure 6).

A mineral that naturally breaks into perfectly level surfaces is exhibiting cleavage. Not all minerals have cleavage. A cleavage to represent a direction of weak in the decision lattice. Cleavage surfaces have the right to be distinguished by just how they repetitively reflect light, together if polished, smooth, and even. The cleavage properties of a mineral are defined in regards to the number of cleavages and, if more than one cleavage, the angles in between the cleavages. The variety of cleavages is the number or direction in which the mineral cleaves. A mineral may exhibit 100 cleavage surfaces parallel to each other. Those stand for a single cleavage because the surfaces room all oriented in the same diretion. The possible variety of cleavages a mineral may have are 1,2,3,4, or 6. If an ext than 1 cleavage is present, and a machine for measuring angles is no available, just state whether the cleavages crossing at 90° or no 90°.

To check out mineral cleavage, host the mineral up in ~ a strong light and also move it around, relocate it about some more, come see just how the various sides reflect light. A cleavage direction will present up as a smooth, shiny, evenly bright sheen of irradiate reflected by one collection of parallel surfaces on the mineral.

Mica has cleavage in one direction and also forms sheets (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Sheets of mica.

Figure 8. This stormy diamond reflects its octahedral cleavage.

Minerals deserve to cleave into polygons. Fluorite forms octahedrons (Figure 8).

One factor gemstones space beautiful is that the cleavage planes do an attractive crystal form with smooth faces.


Fracture is a rest in a mineral that is not along a cleavage plane. Fracture is not always the same in the exact same mineral due to the fact that fracture is not established by the framework of the mineral.

Minerals may have characteristic fractures (Figure 9). Metals usually fracture into jagged edges. If a mineral splinters prefer wood, it might be fibrous. Some minerals, such as quartz, kind smooth bent surfaces once they fracture.

Figure 9. Chrysotile has actually splintery fracture.

All minerals have actually fracture. Fracture is breakage, which wake up in direction that are not cleavage directions. Some minerals, such as quartz, have actually no cleavage whatsoever. When a mineral through no cleavage is damaged apart through a hammer, it fractures in every directions. Quartz is said to exhibit conchoidal fracture. Conchoidal fracture is the method a thick piece of glass breaks v concentric, curving ridges on the damaged surfaces. However, some quartz crystals have actually so countless flaws that rather of exhibiting conchoidal fracture they just exhibit rarely often, rarely fracture. Irregular fracture is a typical term because that fractures that perform not exhibit any type of of the attributes of the various other fracture types. In introductory geology, the crucial fracture species to remember room irregular, which most minerals exhibit, and also conchoidal, watched in quartz.

Crystal Shape

All minerals space crystalline, however only some have actually the opportunity to exhibit the forms of your crystals, their decision forms. Countless minerals in an introductory geology lab do not exhibit their decision form. If a mineral has room while the grows, that may kind natural crystals, with a crystal shape reflecting the geometry that the mineral’s internal crystal lattice. The shape of a crystal follows the the opposite of its decision lattice. Quartz, because that instance, creates six-sided crystals, showing the hexagonal the contrary of its crystal lattice. There space two complicating factors to mental here: (1) minerals perform not always type nice crystals as soon as they grow, and also (2) a crystal challenge is various from a cleavage surface. A crystal challenge forms throughout the growth of the mineral. A cleavage surface is created when the mineral is broken.

Other identify Characteristics

There space some properties that only assist to differentiate a small variety of minerals, or even just a solitary mineral. An instance of together a special residential property is the effervescent reaction of calcite to a weak solution of hydrochloric acid (5% HCl). Calcite fizzes or effervesces as the HCl solution dissolves it and creates CO2 gas. Calcite is easy to identify even without trial and error the reaction come HCl, by its hardness, luster and cleavage.

Another special residential property is magnetism. This can be tested by see if a little magnet responds to the mineral. The most usual mineral the is strong magnetic is the mineral magnetite. A special home that shows up in some sample the plagioclase feldspar is its tendency to exhibit striations top top cleavage surfaces. Striations are perfectly straight, fine, parallel lines. Magnification might be forced to watch striations top top plagioclase cleavage surfaces. Other special properties might be encountered ~ above a mineral to mineral basis.

Some minerals have actually other unique properties, some of which are detailed in Table 3. Have the right to you name a distinctive property that would enable you to instantly determine a mineral that’s been described quite a little in this chapter? (Hint: the is most likely discovered on her dinner table.)

Table 3. Part minerals have actually unusual nature that can be provided for identification.PropertyDescriptionExample of Mineral
FluorescenceMineral glows under ultraviolet lightFluorite
MagnetismMineral is attractive to a magnetMagnetite
RadioactivityMineral gives off radiation that can be measured through Geiger counterUraninite
ReactivityBubbles kind when mineral is exposed to a weak acidCalcite
SmellSome minerals have actually a distinctive smellSulfur (smells favor rotten eggs)
TasteSome minerals taste saltyHalite

Classifying Minerals

Minerals are classified follow to their chemical properties. Except for the native facet class, the chemistry basis for classifying mineral is the anion, the negatively fee ion the usually mirrors up in ~ the finish of the chemistry formula the the mineral. Because that example, the sulfides are based on the sufur ion, S2–. Pyrite, because that example, FeS2, is a sulfide mineral. In some cases, the anion is that a mineral class is polyatomic, such as (CO3)2–, the carbonate ion. The major classes of mineral are:

silicatessulfidescarbonatesoxideshalidessulfatesphosphatesnative elements


Based ~ above the polyatomic anion, (SiO4)4–, which has a tetrahedral shape. Many minerals in the earth’s crust and mantle are silicate minerals. Every silicate minerals are built of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra (SiO4)4– in various bonding kinds which produce different decision lattices. You have the right to understand the nature of a silicate mineral such as crystal shape and also cleavage by learning which type of decision lattice it has.

In nesosilicates, likewise called island silicates, the silicate tetrahedra are separate from every other and bonded totally to non silicate atoms. Olivine is one island silicate.In sorosilicates or paired silicates, such together epidote, the silicate tetrahedra room bonded in pairs.In cyclosilicates, additionally called ring silicates, the silicate tetrahedra room joined in rings. Beryl or emerald is a ring silicate.In phyllosilicates or sheet silicates, the tetrahedra space bonded at three corners to kind flat sheets. Biotite is a paper silicate.In single-chain inosilicates the silicate tetrahedra space bonded in single chains. Pyroxenes space singele-chain inosilicates.In double-chain inosilicates the silicate tetrahedra room bonded in double chains. Amphiboles room double-chain inosilicates.In tectosilicates, also known as framework silicates, every corners the the silicate tetrahedra space bonded come corners of other silicate tetrahedra, forming a finish framework of silicate tetrahedra in every directions. Feldspar, the most typical mineral in earth’s crust, and quartz space both structure silicates.


These are based on the sulfide ion, S2–. Examples include pyrite, FeS2, galena, PbS, and sphalerite, ZnS in that pure zinc form. Part sulfides room mined as resources of such steels as zinc, lead, copper, and tin.


These are based upon the lead carbonate ion, (CO3)2–. Calcite, CaCO3, and also dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2, room carbonate minerals. Lead carbonate minerals tend to dissolve reasonably easily in water, especially acid water, and natural rain water is contempt acid.


These are based on the oxygen anion, O2–. Examples include iron oxides such as hematite, Fe2O3 and magnetite, Fe3O4, and also pyrolusite, MgO.


These have a halogen aspect as the anion, whether it it is in fluoride, F–, chloride, Cl–, bromide, Br–, iodide, I–, or astatide, At–. Halite, NaCl, is a halide mineral.


These have actually the polyatomic sulfate ion, (SO4)2–, as the anion. Anhydrite, CaSO4, is a sulfate.


These have the polyatomic phosphate ion, (PO4)3–, as the anion. Fluorapatite, Ca5(PO4)3F, which provides your teeth hard, is a phosphate mineral.

Native Elements

These are made of nothing yet a solitary element. Gold (Au), indigenous copper (Cu), and diamond and graphite, which room made that carbon, room all native aspect minerals. Recall that a mineral is defined as normally occurring. Therefore, elements purified and crystallized in a laboratory do not qualify together minerals, uneven they have also been discovered in nature.

Mineral group Tables

In tables 1–3, hardness is measure up on Mohs Hardness Scale. As you read through the tables, friend can click the images of minerals to check out a bigger version the the photo.

Table 1. Nonmetallic Luster—Light ColorTypical ColorHardnessCleavage/FractureMineral NamePhoto that Mineral
colorless 7conchodial fracturequartz
variable7conchodial fracturechalcedony (chert, etc.)
pink or white5–62 airplane at appropriate anglesorothoclase (feldspar)
white5–62 airplane at right anglesNa-plagioclase (feldspar)
white come gray5–62 planes at right anglesCa-plagioclase (feldspar)
variable44 planesfluorite
colorless or white33 planes in ~ odd anglescalcite
pink or white33 planes at odd anglesdolomite
colorless or white2.5–33 planes in ~ odd angleshalite
colorless or white2.51 planemuscovite
colorless or white22 planes at ideal anglesgypsum
variable11 planetalc
Table 2. Nonmetallic Luster—Dark ColorTypical ColorHardnessCleavage/FractureMineral NamePhoto the Mineral
dark green3–62 airplane at right anglespyroxene
black4.5–62 planes at odd angleshornblende (amphibole)
black2.51 plane biotite
green21 plane chlorite
Table 3. Metallic LusterTypical ColorHardnessCleavage/FractureMineral NamePhoto the Mineral
black or dark gray6irregularmagnetite
brassy yellow6irregularpyrite
coppery yellow4irregularchalcopyrite
silver33 planes at right anglesgalena

How to identify Minerals

First, girlfriend need great light and a hand lens or magnifying glass. A hand lens is a small, double-lens magnifying glass that has actually a magnification strength of at the very least 8× and also can it is in purchased at some bookstores and nature stores.

Minerals are established on the basis of your physical properties, which have been defined in the the vault section. To identify a mineral, girlfriend look at it closely. In ~ a glance, calcite and quartz watch similar. Both are usually colorless, v a glassy luster. However, their other properties lock are totally different. Quartz is much harder, hard enough to scrape glass. Calcite is soft, and also will not scrape glass. Quartz has no mineral cleavage and fractures the same irregular means glass breaks. Calcite has actually three cleavage directions which accomplish at angles other than 90°, so that breaks into solid pieces through perfectly flat, smooth, shining sides.

When identify a mineral, you must:

Look at it closely on every visible political parties to see exactly how it mirrors lightTest its hardnessIdentify that cleavage or fractureName its lusterEvaluate any type of other physical properties necessary to recognize the mineral’s identity

In the mineral tables that accompanies this section, the minerals space grouped follow to their luster and also color. Lock are likewise classified ~ above the communication of your hardness and also their cleavage or fracture. If you deserve to identify number of of this physical properties, you have the right to identify the mineral.

A basic lesson on how to recognize minerals is checked out in this video.

Check her Understanding

Answer the question(s) below to see exactly how well you recognize the topics spanned in the vault section. This quick quiz does not count towards your class in the class, and you can retake it an unlimited variety of times.

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Use this quiz to examine your understanding and decide whether to (1) study the vault section additional or (2) relocate on come the next section.