3: Minerals - Geosciences

3: Minerals - Geosciences

3: Minerals - Geosciences

2.3 Mineral Properties

Minerals are universal. A crystal of hematite on Mars will have the same properties as one on Earth, and the same as one on a planet orbiting another star. That’s good news for geology students who are planning interplanetary travel since we can use those properties to help us identify minerals anywhere. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, however identification of minerals takes a lot of practice. Some of the mineral properties that are useful for identification are as follows: colour, streak, lustre, hardness, crystal habit, cleavage/fracture, specific gravity (density), and a few others.


For most of us, colour is one of our key ways of identifying objects. While some minerals have particularly distinctive colours that make good diagnostic properties, many do not, and for many, colour is simply unreliable. The mineral sulphur (2.3.1 left) is always a distinctive and unique yellow. Hematite, on the other hand, is an example of a mineral for which colour is not diagnostic. In some forms hematite is deep dull red, but in others it is black and shiny metallic (Figure 2.3.2). Many other minerals can have a wide range of colours (e.g., quartz, feldspar, amphibole, fluorite, and calcite). In most cases, the variations in colours are a result of varying proportions of trace elements within the mineral. In the case of quartz, for example, yellow quartz (citrine) has trace amounts of ferric iron (Fe 3+ ), rose quartz has trace amounts of manganese, purple quartz (amethyst) has trace amounts of iron, and milky quartz, which is very common, has millions of fluid inclusions (tiny cavities, each filled with water).


Figure 2.3.2 The streak colours of specular (metallic) hematite (left) and earthy hematite (right). Hematite leaves a distinctive reddish-brown streak whether the sample is metallic or earthy.

In the context of minerals, “colour” is what you see when light reflects off the surface of the sample. One reason that colour can be so variable is that the type of surface is variable. It may be a crystal face or a fracture surface or a cleavage plane, and the crystals may be large or small depending on the nature of the rock. If we grind a small amount of the sample to a powder we get a much better indication of its actual colour. This can easily be done by scraping a corner of the sample across a streak plate (a piece of unglazed porcelain) to make a streak . The result is that some of the mineral gets ground to a powder and we can get a better impression of its “true” colour (Figure 2.3.2).


Lustre is the way light reflects off the surface of a mineral, and the degree to which it penetrates into the interior. The key distinction is between metallic and non-metallic lustre . Light does not pass through metals, and that is the main reason they look “metallic” (e.g., specular hematite in Figure 2.3.1 and pyrite in Figure 2.3.4b). Even a thin sheet of metal—such as aluminum foil—will not allow light to pass through it. Many non-metallic minerals may look as if light will not pass through them, but if you take a closer look at a thin edge of the mineral you can see that it does. If a non-metallic mineral has a shiny, reflective surface, then it is called “glassy” (Figure 2.3.4a). If it is dull and non-reflective, it is “earthy” (see earthy hematite in Figure 2.3.2). Other types of non-metallic lustres are “silky,” “pearly,” and “resinous.” Lustre is a good diagnostic property since most minerals will always appear either metallic or non-metallic. There are a few exceptions to this (e.g., hematite in Figure 2.3.2).


Figure 2.3.3: Minerals and reference materials in the Mohs scale of hardness. The “measured hardness” values are Vickers Hardness numbers. *Note that many modern copper coins are actually copper-plated steel, and are therefore harder.

One of the most important diagnostic properties of a mineral is its hardness. In 1812 German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs came up with a list of 10 reasonably common minerals that had a wide range of hardnesses. These minerals are shown in Figure 2.3.3, with the Mohs scale of hardness along the bottom axis. In fact, while each mineral on the list is harder than the one before it, the relative measured hardnesses (vertical axis) are not linear. For example apatite is about three times harder than fluorite and diamond is three times harder than corundum. Some commonly available reference materials are also shown on this diagram, including a typical fingernail (2.5), a piece of copper wire (3.5), a knife blade or a piece of window glass (5.5), a hardened steel file (6.5), and a porcelain streak plate (6.5 to 7). These are tools that a geologist can use to measure the hardness of unknown minerals. For example, if you have a mineral that you can’t scratch with your fingernail, but you can scratch with a copper wire, then its hardness is between 2.5 and 3.5. And of course the minerals themselves can be used to test other minerals.

Crystal Habit

When minerals form within rocks, there is a possibility that they will form in distinctive crystal shapes if they formed slowly and if they are not crowded out by other pre-existing minerals. Every mineral has one or more distinctive crystal habits , but it is not that common, in ordinary rocks, for the shapes to be obvious. Quartz, for example, will form six-sided prisms with pointed ends (Figure 2.3.4a), but this typically happens only when it crystallizes from a hot water solution within a cavity in an existing rock. Pyrite can form cubic crystals (Figure 2.3.4b), but can also form crystals with 12 faces, known as dodecahedra (“dodeca” means 12). The mineral garnet also forms dodecahedral crystals (Figure 2.3.4c).

Figure 2.3.4: Hexagonal prisms of quartz with striations visible on crystal faces (a), a cubic crystal of pyrite (b), and a dodecahedral crystal of garnet (c).

Because well-formed crystals are rare in ordinary rocks, habit isn’t as useful a diagnostic feature as one might think. However, there are several minerals for which it is important. One is garnet, which is common in some metamorphic rocks and typically displays the dodecahedral shape. Another is amphibole, which forms long thin crystals, and is common in igneous rocks like granite (Figure I5).

Mineral habit is often related to the regular arrangement of the molecules that make up the mineral. Some of the terms that are used to describe habit include bladed, botryoidal (grape-like), dendritic (branched), drusy (an encrustation of minerals), equant (similar in all dimensions), fibrous, platy, prismatic (long and thin), and stubby.

Cleavage and Fracture

Crystal habit is a reflection of how a mineral grows, while cleavage and fracture describe how it breaks. Cleavage and fracture are the most important diagnostic features of many minerals, and often the most difficult to understand and identify. Cleavage is what we see when a mineral breaks along a specific plane or planes, while fracture is an irregular break. One particularly distinct type of fracture, common in quartz, is called conchoidal fracture (top left photograph in Figure 2.3.5). Some minerals tend to cleave along planes at various fixed orientations (Figure 2.3.5), some do not cleave at all (they only fracture) . Minerals that have cleavage can also fracture along surfaces that are not parallel to their cleavage planes (Figure 2.3.6).

Figure 2.3.5: Common types of cleavage, and conchoidal fracture (top left), with illustrations to indicate cleavage directions and angles between cleavage planes. Figure 2.3.6: Cleavage and fracture in potassium feldspar. Feldspar minerals, including plagioclase and potassium feldspar, have two cleavage planes at right-angles to one another. Some feldspar samples may display other flat surfaces, but if you look closely these are fracture surfaces, not cleavage planes.

As we’ve already discussed, the way that minerals break is determined by their atomic arrangement and specifically by the orientation of weaknesses within the lattice. Graphite and the micas, for example, have cleavage planes parallel to their sheets (Figure 2.1.1), and halite has three cleavage planes parallel to the lattice directions (Figure 2.1.2). Quartz has no cleavage because it has equally strong Si–O bonds in all directions, and feldspar minerals have two cleavages at 90° to each other (Figure 2.3.6). When a mineral has more than one cleavage plane or cleavage direction, it is important to specify the number of cleavage planes and the approximate angle between them.

Tips for recognizing cleavage in mineral samples

There are a few common difficulties that students encounter when learning to recognize and describe cleavage. One of the main difficulties is that cleavage is visible only in individual crystals. Most rocks have small crystals and it’s very difficult to see the cleavage within those crystals. Use your hand lens to magnify your field of view, and make sure you have an adequate light source nearby. If crystals are very small, it may not be possible to see cleavage at all.

Some minerals have perfect cleavage, meaning that the cleavage planes are perfectly flat, they glint light back at you as you rotate the mineral around, and are generally easy to recognize. Mica and feldspar minerals commonly have perfect cleavage. Some minerals, on the other hand, have poor cleavage, meaning that the planes are not perfectly flat and may be harder to recognize. Talc is an example of the latter. Talc has one cleavage plane, but with a Mohs hardness of just 1, any recognizable plane is often scratched and uneven, making it more difficult to recognize that talc has cleavage at all!

It can also be easy to misidentify flat crystal faces, or even smooth flat fractures, as cleavage planes. As already noted, crystal faces are related to how a mineral grows while cleavage planes are related to how it breaks. In most minerals cleavage planes and crystal faces do not align with one-another. An exception is halite, which grows in cubic crystals and has cleavage along those same planes (Figure 2.1.2). But this doesn’t hold for most minerals. For example, fluorite forms cubic crystals like those of halite, but it cleaves along planes that differ in orientation from the crystal surfaces. This is illustrated in Figure 2.3.7.

Figure 2.3.7: Crystal faces and cleavage planes in the mineral fluorite. The top-left photo shows a natural crystal of fluorite. It has crystal surfaces but you can see some future cleavage planes inside the crystal. The top-right photo shows what you can create if you take a crystal like the one on the left and carefully break it along its cleavage planes. Figure 2.3.8: Examples of a mineral with good (top) and poor (bottom) cleavage planes. [Image description]

Remember that cleavage planes are controlled at the molecular level by the crystal lattice, and so they tend to repeat themselves at different depths throughout the mineral. Planes that are parallel are considered the same direction of cleavage and should only count as one. If are unsure whether the flat surface you are examining is a cleavage plane, try rotating the mineral under bright light, like a desk lamp. If the mineral has cleavage, you will generally find that all of the cleavage surfaces of a given cleavage direction will glint in the light simultaneously (Figure 2.3.8). Crystal faces will also glint under the light, but do not repeat themselves at depth throughout the mineral. In some minerals, crystal faces have striations , as shown by the faint parallel lines on the faces of the quartz crystal in Figure 2.3.4a. Finally, if you have identified more than one cleavage plane or direction within a mineral, it can take practice to describe the angle between those cleavage directions. To help visualize the angle between two cleavage planes try extending the planes using both hands. Place one finger from each hand flat on each cleavage plane, and examine the angle between your fingers. Is the angle between your fingers close to 90°, or definitely not 90°? Remember, for the purposes of this course you do not need to describe cleavage with an exact angle. Geology students have to work hard to understand and recognize cleavage, but it’s worth the effort since it is a reliable diagnostic property for most minerals.

Density and Specific Gravity

Density , reported in units of grams per cubic centimetre (g/cm 3 ), is a useful diagnostic tool in some cases. Specific gravity (SG) is a related measure that geologist’s use to describe the density of a mineral. For the purposes of this course, the specific gravity of a mineral can be described as “low”, “moderate”, or “high”. Most minerals you will encounter in this course like quartz (2.65), feldspar, calcite, amphibole, and mica have “moderate” SG between 2.6 and 3.4, and it would be difficult to tell them apart on the basis of their SG alone. In comparison to these minerals, galena, for example, has distinctly high SG (7.5), while graphite has distinctly low SG (1.75). To determine this qualitatively in the lab, try comparing samples of quartz and galena of roughly the same size by hefting them in your hands. The sample of galena should feel much heavier than the similarly-sized sample of quartz. A limitation of using density (or SG) as a diagnostic tool is that one cannot assess it in minerals that are a small part of a rock that is mostly made up of other minerals.

Other Properties

Several other properties are also useful for identification of some minerals, including:

  • Calcite reacts (fizzes vigorously) with dilute acid and will give off bubbles of carbon dioxide.
  • Magnetite is strongly magnetic, and some other minerals, like pyrrhotite, are weakly magnetic.
  • Halite tastes salty – please do not lick the lab samples there are other diagnostic properties you should use to identify halite!
  • Sphalerite has a pale yellow streak that gives off a sulphurous (rotten egg-like) smell.
  • Talc feels soapy to the touch.
  • Plagioclase feldspar commonly has striations (Figure 2.3.9).
  • Some potassium feldspars have exsolution lamellae .
    Figure 2.3.9: Striations on light-coloured plagioclase feldspar (albite, a), and dark-coloured plagioclase feldspar (labradorite, b).

Image Descriptions

Figure 2.3.8 image description: As you rotate a mineral with good cleavage (top) under a light source, you will see the light glint back at you all at once, as the rays of light are reflected by the mirror-smooth cleavage plane. Even if the cleavage plane causes the mineral to break along “steps”, you will still see a single glint off of these steps all at once. Minerals with poor cleavage (bottom) do not glint all at once, as their cleavage planes are rough and uneven, causing light rays to scatter. [Return to Figure 2.3.8]

Media Attributions

  • Figures 2.3.1, 2.3.7: © Steven Earle. CC BY.
  • Figure 2.3.2: © Karla Panchuk. CC BY.
  • Figures 2.3.3 and 2.3.6: © Siobhan McGoldrick. CC BY. Derivatives of Figures 2.6.3 and 2.6.5 © Steven Earle. CC BY.
  • Figure 2.3.4a, 2.3.4b, 2.3.9: © Candace Toner. CC BY-NC.
  • Figure 2.3.4c: Almandine garnet © Eurico Zimbres (FGEL/UERJ) and Tom Epaminondas (mineral collector). CC BY-SA.
  • Figure 2.3.5: © Lyndsay Hauber and Joyce M. McBeth. CC BY. Adapted from Randa Harris and M.C. Rygel. CC BY-SA 3.0.
  • Figure 2.3.8: © Siobhan McGoldrick. CC BY.

The mark left on a porcelain plate when a mineral sample is ground to a powder by being rubbed across the plate (typically considered to provide a more reliable depiction of the colour than the whole sample).

The lustre of a mineral into which light does not penetrate but only reflects off of the surface.

The lustre of a mineral into which light does penetrate.

A characteristic crustal form or combination of forms of a mineral.

An object with twelve surfaces, such as a garnet crystal.

The tendency for a mineral to break along smooth planes that are predetermined by its lattice structure.

a broken surface of a mineral that might be described as irregular, splintery, or conchoidal

a type of fracture distinguished by smooth, curved mineral surfaces resembling broken glass

a growth pattern that looks like a set of hairline grooves or faint parallel lines, visible on crystal faces of some minerals

Weight per volume of a substance (e.g., g/cm3) used widely in the context of minerals or rocks.

A number representing the ratio of a mineral's weight to the weight of an equal volume of water. A measure that geologist's use to describe the density of a mineral.

Bachelor of Science (Mineral Geoscience) Mid-Year Entry

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  • get hands-on with plenty of field work and exposure to industry in this high-demand field
  • learn about mining, engineering and mineral resources
  • explore Earth's mineral resources - their nature, origin, distribution, discovery and uses
  • see rocks in their natural habitat, study the oceans and learn how to read history from the Earth
  • take integrated and extended geology, tectonics and geophysics courses.

Where could it take you?

Mineral geoscience graduates are in high demand. You might work in exploration, making the calls on where next to drill for diamonds. You could journey below the surface as an underground mine geologist. Perhaps you&rsquoll work on solutions for repairing the environmental impacts of mining.

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3: Minerals - Geosciences

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Feature Papers represent the most advanced research with significant potential for high impact in the field. Feature Papers are submitted upon individual invitation or recommendation by the scientific editors and undergo peer review prior to publication.

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3.10 Additional Properties

Minerals possess many other properties (for example, solubility, radioactivity, or thermal conduction). Because they are of little use for mineral identification in most cases, we will not discuss them individually here.

●Figure Credits

Uncredited graphics/photos came from the authors and other primary contributors to this book.

3.1 Calcite crystals on, James St. John, Wikimedia Commons
3.2 Halite crystals, Géry Parent, Wikimedia Commons
3.3 Pyrite cubes in sandstone, Teravolt, Wikimedia Commons
3.4 Rose quartz, Géry Parent, Wikimedia Commons
3.6 Garnet, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.7 Garnet, Teravolt, Wikimedia Commons
3.10 Halite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.11 Actinolite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.12 Cerussite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.13 Wulfenite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.14 Hematite, Géry Parent, Wikimedia Commons
3.15 Pyrophyllite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.16 Pyrite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.17 Gypsum, Y. Chen, Wikimedia Commons
3.18 Natrolite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.19 A bogus diamond from the movie Congo,
3.20 Chrysotile, Andrew Silver, Wikimedia Commons
3.21 Chrysotile,
3.22 Stibnite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.23 Chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and fluorite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.24 Calcite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.25 Topaz, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.26 Sphalerite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.27 Amber, Anders L. Damgaard, Wikimedia Commons
3.28 Opal, Raike, Wikimedia Commons
3.29 Cordierite, John Sobolewski, Wikimedia Commons
3.30 Ulexite, Andrew Silver, Wikimedia Commons
3.31 Satin spar,
3.32 Herkimer diamonds, Maat Publishing, Wikimedia Commons
3.33 Diamond, unknown source, Wikimedia Commons
3.34 Muscovite, Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez, Wikimedia Commons
3.35 Talc, John Krygier, Wikimedia Commons
3.36 Kaolinite, Marie-Lan-Taÿ-Pamart, Wikimedia Commons
3.37 Hematite, newtonsdisciple.dom
3.38 Iceland spar, ArniEin, Wikimedia Commons
3.39 Dogtooth spar on orpiment, Marie-Lan Taÿ Pamart, Wikimedia Commons
3.40 Molybdenite on quartz, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.42 Pyrite on dolomite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.43 Chalcopyrite that is tarnishing, James St. John, Wikimedia Commons
3.44 Amethyst and citrine, Géry Parent, Wikimedia Commons
3.45 Sphalerite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.46 Sphalerite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.47 Azurite on malachite, Marie-Lan Taÿ Pamart, Wikimedia Commons
3.48 Hematite streak,
3.49 Sulfur streak, Raike, Wikimedia Commons
3.50 Willemite and other minerals, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.51 Limonite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.52 Opal, Dpulitzer, Wikimedia Commons
3.53 Labradorite, Shaddack, Wikimedia Commons
3.54 Moonstone, Larvik K., Wikimedia Commons
3.55 Moonstone showing chatoyancy, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.56 Star of India, American Museum of Natural History, Wikimedia Commons
3.57 Tiger’s eye, Simon Eugster, Wikimedia Commons
3.58 Jade figurine and cabochon, Gemological Institute of America
3.59 Biotite, James St. John, Wikimedia Commons
3.61 Quartz, James St. John, Wikimedia Commons
3.62 K-feldspar, Open BC texbooks
3.64 Kyanite,
3.65 Anthophyllite,
3.67 Halite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.68 Calcite, Giovanna Canu Eva Santini, Wikicommons
3.69 Fluorite, James St. John, Wikimedia Commons
3.71 Calcite, Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons
3.73 Borax, Marie-Lan Taÿ Pamart, Wikimedia Commons
3.74 Barite, Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons
3.75 Gold on quartz, Bryan Barnes, Wikimedia Commons
3.76 Diamond, unknown source, Wikimedia Commons
3.78 Graphite,
3.80 Magnetite, DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons
3.82 Native copper, Marie-Lan Taÿ Pamart, Wikimedia Commons
3.83 Hydrochloric acid effervescing on calcite, Kentucky Geological Survey

Video 3-1: Crystal habit, Envisioning Chemistry, YouTube
Video 3-2: Crystal habits, TMartScience, YouTub
Video 3-3: Play of coclors, TMartScience, YouTube
Video 3-4: Mineral lusters, TMartScience, YouTube
Video 3-5: Chatoyancy and asterism, TMartScience, YouTube
Video 3-6: Mineral fracture and cleavage, TMartScience, YouTube
Video 3-7: Mineral cleavage, Scott Brande, YouTube

What are the requirement for Mineral Resources War Asset score to be 100?

5 answers to this Mass Effect 3 question

Answer by GioKoutsi

i got 10 from my save
cant remember but i had around 100k each

there is a way to increase military strength for ever until you are bored with multiplayer and promoting level 20 chars and not mining at mass effect 2 :P

Answer by FernandoBueno

Not 100% sure what you're referring to here. Are you referring to the War Asset you gained when importing Shep from ME2?

Answer by GarrusVakarian

Note sure if this will help, but my Imported Shepard from a PS3 version of ME2 (so only used the digital comic for ME) has the following (which is more than enough to get the 100 mineral war assets for ME3):

Palladium: 165815
Iriduim: 156622
Platinum: 113426
Element Zero: 34146

Answer by Lyria

I've replayed Mass Effect 1 & 2 several times and imported into Mass Effect 3 several times in order to answer this.

GarrusVakarian (so jealous of that user name) is correct in that using the digital comic for ME and getting a lot of resources in ME 2 will give you 100 on the Mineral Resources War Asset.
However, there is a huge caveat. If you actually played ME 1 your score will be different because in ME 1 there are collection quests (minerals, elements, insignia, etc.). There are more minerals in ME 1 than the requirement needed to complete the quest. If you actually get more of a mineral/element than you need it deFlags that section of the quest and it looks like you didn't complete the quest.
For instance if you need 20 of one of the minerals in Mass Effect 1, and get 21 it takes the grayed out completed mineral and makes it White again indicating that that section isn't complete. You can still complete the quest in ME but the flag in the import file gets wonky and when you finally import your ME2 save into ME3 the game thinks you didn't complete that mineral quest in ME 1.

Answer by UpUpAway_95

I've just disproved Lyria's theory. I had an ME1 game save where I had over completed the Valuable Minerals quests and the icons had reverted back to white. When I first imported this save into ME2 and then imported the resulting ME2 game save into ME3, I was given 25 Mineral Resources War Asset. That ME2 game save had over 100,000 for each of palladium, platinum, and iridium and over 50,000 in Eezo before I launched the Suicide Mission. I had scanned all planets I probed to depletion.

I recently went back into that ME2 game save and completed ALL the N7 side quests, along with scanning those planets involved to depletion. I ended with over 150,000 in each of palladium, platinum, and iridium, but still had less than 100,000 of Eezo. These side quests were done after the suicide mission. This time, when I imported that game save into ME3, it gave me 100 Mineral Resources asset.

If the problem was related to the ME1 game save, this would not have changed since I did not alter the ME1 save flags (or any other aspects of the file) other than actually going back into the ME2 game and finishing the side quests as described.

The actual amount of resources required might be less than the 150,000 I acquired. I think the real key to this is fully completing the side quests and, perhaps, scanning and/or depleting those planets involved in those quests.


Luster describes the way a mineral reflects light. Measuring it is the first step in mineral identification. Always check for luster on a fresh surface you may need to chip off a small portion to expose a clean sample. Luster ranges from metallic (highly reflective and opaque) to dull (nonreflective and opaque.) In between are a half-dozen other categories of luster that assess the degree of a mineral's transparency and reflectivity.

How Food Works

Minerals are elements that our bodies must have in order to create specific molecules needed in the body. Here are some of the more common minerals our bodies need:

  • Calcium - used by teeth, bones
  • Chlorine
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Fluoride - strengthens teeth
  • Iodine - combines with tryosine to create the hormone thyroxine
  • Iron - transports oxygen in red blood cells
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium - important ion in nerve cells
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

We do need other minerals, but they are supplied in the molecule that uses them. For example, sulfur comes in via the amino acid methionine, and cobalt comes in as part of vitamin B12.

Food provides these minerals. If they are lacking in the diet, then various problems and diseases arise.

For More Information on Vitamins and Minerals

Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health
[email protected]

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
888-644-6226 (toll-free)
866-464-3615 (TTY/toll-free)
[email protected]

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
888-463-6332 (toll-free)
[email protected]

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.

Content reviewed: January 01, 2021

What Are The Most Common Minerals On Earth?

What are the most common minerals on earth? The answers is not as easy at is seems and depends if we consider the entire earth or just the part that is directly accessible to us.

The most common mineral in absolute is Bridgmanite, known also as Silicate-Perovskite. It´s composed of magnesium, iron and silicon dioxide and it's estimated to make up 38% of earth's volume. However this mineral is stable only under high temperature and pressure as found in earth's mantle and it's virtually absent from earth´s surface. Samples were first found in a meteorite (believed to be remains of a fragmented planetoid) that fell from space in 1879 but only in 2014 described as a mineral.

As the composition of earth's crust is different to the inner earth also other minerals are here common. When earth first formed the entire planet was molten. In this magma ocean light elements like oxygen, silicon, aluminum, sodium, potassium and calcium tended to float upwards, heavy elements like magnesium and iron tended to sink to the bottom. The light elements formed the rocks of earth's crust. The heavy elements formed earth's core, believed to be almost a pure iron-nickel alloy, maybe even with a crystalline structure. That would make it a metallic mineral comprising almost 1% of earth´s volume. The outer core is liquid and therefore not considered a mineral here. Earth´s mantle makes up almost half of the total volume of the planet and is a mix, composed in a smaller part of iron, magnesium and mostly silicon and oxygen, forming the mentioned Bridgmanite and other less abundant silicates. The crust occupies almost 2.5% of Earth's volume and just ten minerals make up more than 95% of it. On earth's surface 25% of the 5,000 recognized minerals are silicates. The feldspar-group, a very complex mixture of oxygen, silicon, aluminum and trace elements like sodium, potassium, calcium and more exotic elements like barium, are by far the most common minerals, making up almost 58% of all to a geologist accessible rocks, especially magmatic and metamorphic ones. Dark silicate minerals with traces of iron, like pyroxene, amphiboles and olivine, are important minerals with 16.5%. The common quartz, silicon dioxide with some trace elements, follows with 12.5%. The mica group and various metal oxides make up 7% and carbonate minerals, despite often forming entire mountains, just 1.5%. The remaining 5% comprise more of 7,000 known minerals, however many extremely rare, described only from few or just one locality.

How the abundance of just three of the most common mineral groups, feldspars, dark minerals and free quartz, make up the variety of rocks can be seen in the following samples, all magmatic rocks. The first photo shows a sample of quartz diorite, composed mostly of greyish quartz with white feldspar filling the space between the quartz crystals.

Instructions: Identifying Minerals

For a person to understand and identify minerals, he or she must pick up, handle, rotate, and examine each mineral. You need to:

  • Reach out and pick up each mineral.
  • Turn the mineral in the light to see what its luster is and how its cleavage surfaces may be oriented.
  • Hold the mineral up close to examine it carefully for such things as impurities and striations.
  • Test the mineral for hardness by seeing what it scratches and what scratches it.

  • Hold the mineral up to a magnifying lens to look at it in better detail.
  • Conduct other tests on the mineral if necessary.

Get your box of minerals out.

Get out your testing aids:

    1. glass plate
    2. streak plate
    3. magnifier (hand lens, also called a loupe)
    4. small magnet
    5. piece of (stainless) steel
    6. bottle of dilute hydrochloric acid (HCl)

    Get a digital camera out. Make sure you also have a USB cable for it so you can download digital photos from it to a computer.

    To identify each actual mineral :

    1. Test its mineral properties (see list above) and determine most of them (color, luster, hardness, cleavage, and so on).
    2. Look in your book or look online for lists or flow charts of minerals and their physical properties.
    3. Do not just do picture-matching. That prevents the development of new skills, such as testing for hardness or identifying the number and angle of cleavages. Identify at least four mineral properties before looking up a list or flow chart of minerals to identify the mineral.
    4. Be as specific as possible. If you have quartz and it is light, translucent pink in color, call it rosy quartz, which is a variety of quartz. If you have feldspar and it is white or clear and has striations on some cleavage surfaces, call it Na-plagioclase, a specific type of feldspar. If you have a mica and it is black, call it biotite, which is the name of black mica.

    Each person in a lab pair must identify, photograph, and put onto PowerPoint slides a total of 8 different minerals. Your PowerPoint slides are put together into one slide show.

      • In your lab pair, none of your photographed minerals can be the same ones as your lab partner.
      • If you work solo, without a lab partner, you must do 10 minerals instead of just 8.

    Here is a list of possible minerals (there may be a few others in the minerals box that are not listed here):

    Watch the video: ODH026: Critical minerals geosciences, renewables and sustainability Bénédicte Cenki-Tok