Properties of Minerals
What are the characteristics of a mineral?How are minerals identified?
mineral is a naturallyoccurring, inorganic solid that has acrystal structure and a definitechemical composition.
For a substanceto be considered a mineral, it must haveall five of these characteristics.Geologists have identified more than3,000 different minerals. Of these, onlyabout 100 are common. About 20minerals make up most of the rocks of Earth’s crust. These minerals are knownas rock forming minerals. To beclassified as a mineral, a substance mustoccur naturally in Earth’s crust. Amineral must also be
Thismeans that the mineral cannot arise frommaterials that were once part of a livingthing. A mineral is always a solid, witha definite volume and shape.The particles of a mineral line upin a pattern that repeats over and over again. The repeating pattern of amineral’s particles forms a solid called a
All minerals have acharacteristic crystal structure. Amineral has a definite chemicalcomposition—it always contains certainelements in definite amounts. An
is a substance composed of asingle kind of atom. The vast majorityof minerals are compounds. In a
two or more elements arecombined so that the elements no longer have distinct properties. Some elementsoccur in nature in a pure form. These,such as silver and gold, are considered to be minerals.
Each mineral has its ownspecific properties that can be used toidentify it.
Mohs hardness scale
ranks ten minerals from softest tohardest. The color of a mineral can beused to identify minerals that alwayshave their own characteristic color. The
of a mineral is the color of its powder. Even though the color of amineral may vary, its streak does not.Another simple test is a mineral’s
the term used to describe how a mineralreflects light from its surface. Eachmineral has a characteristic density. Nomatter what the size of a mineral sample,the density of that mineral alwaysremains the same. The crystals of eachmineral grow to form that mineral’s particular crystal shape. Geologistsclassify these shapes into six groupsaccording to the number and angle of thefaces. The way a mineral breaks apartcan help to identify it. A mineral thatsplits easily along flat surfaces has the property called
Most mineralsdo not split apart evenly. Instead, theyhave a property called fracture.
describes how a mineral lookswhen it breaks apart.Some minerals can be identified by special properties. Minerals thatglow under ultraviolet light have a property known as
Magnetism occurs naturally in a fewminerals, such as magnetite. Uraniniteand a few other minerals are radioactive.Calcite gives off carbon dioxide when adrop of vinegar is placed on it. A fewminerals, such as quartz, have electrical properties.Page 1 of 8