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Properties of MineralsS E C T I O N 4 - 1
Objectives What are the characteristics of a mineral?How are minerals identified?
A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic solid that has a crystal structure and a definite chemical composition.
For a substance to be considered a mineral, it must have all five of these characteristics.
Geologists have identified more than 3,000 different minerals.Of these, only about 100 are common.
About 20 minerals make up most of the rocks of Earth’s crust.These minerals are known as rock forming minerals.
1 - Natural To be classified as a mineral, a substance must occur naturally in Earth’s crust.
2 - Inorganic A mineral must also be inorganic.This means that the mineral cannot arise from materials that were once part of a living thing.
3 - Solid A mineral is always a solid, with a definite volume and shape.
4 - crystal The particles of a mineral line up in a pattern that repeats over and over again.
The repeating pattern of a mineral’s particles forms a solid called a crystal.All minerals have a characteristic crystal structure.
5 – definite chemical compositionA mineral has a definite chemical composition— it always contains certain elements in definite amounts.
An element is a substance composed of a single kind of atom.
The vast majority of minerals are compounds.In a compound, two or more elements are combined so that the elements no longer have distinct properties.
Some elements occur in nature in a pure form.These, such as silver and gold, are considered to be minerals.
Each mineral has its own specific properties that can be used to identify it.
The Mohs hardness scale ranks ten minerals from softest to hardest.
The color of a mineral can be used to identify minerals that always have their own characteristic color.
The streak of a mineral is the color of its powder.Even though the color of a mineral may vary, its streak does not.
Another simple test is a mineral’s luster, the term used to describe how a mineral reflects light from its surface.
Each mineral has a characteristic density.No matter what the size of a mineral sample, the density of that mineral always remains the same.
The crystals of each mineral grow to form that mineral’s particular crystal shape.Geologists classify these shapes into six groups according to the number and angle of the faces.
The way a mineral breaks apart can help to identify it.A mineral that splits easily along flat surfaces has the property called cleavage.
Most minerals do not split apart evenly.Instead they have a property called fracture. Fracture describes how a mineral looks when it breaks apart.
Some minerals can be identified by special properties.Minerals that glow under ultraviolet light have a property known as fluorescence.
Magnetism occurs naturally in a few minerals, such as magnetite.
Uraninite and a few other minerals are radioactive.
Calcite gives off carbon dioxide when a drop of vinegar is placed on it.
A few minerals, such as quartz, have electrical properties.
What is this? Are you sure this is a rock? What else could it be? What tests could you do to determine the type of rock you just picked up?
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