Mineral Cleavage

Mineral cleavage is the tendency of a mineral to break along planes of weak bonding on the molecular
level. Cleavage occurs different ways. There is cleavage in one direction, two directions and two
different types of three directional cleaving. Cleavage is further broken down into two terms, difficulty
and quality. Difficulty is how hard or easy it is to produce the cleavage. There are three categories, easy,
hard, and difficult, which are named in order of the ease of producing the cleavage. Quality refers to
how smoothly the minerals break. The order from high to low quality goes as follows: perfect, imperfect,
distinct, good, fair, and poor. These two aspects, difficulty and quality, can be present at more than one
level in a single mineral. For example, feldspars have cleavage in two directions, one being perfect and
easy to produce and the other being good and hard to produce. What happens if you don’t see cleavage
in the mineral you are examining? Then it is quite possible that particular mineral does not have
cleavage. The absence of cleavage is called fracture. If a mineral isn’t showing cleavage, then it probably
has fracture that can be just as distinctive. As you might guess, this can be just as useful in identifying
minerals. There are five types of fracture that are used in mineralogy: conchoidal, earthy, hackly,
splintery, and uneven.

Mineral cleavage and fracture are best understood if they are broken down by type and described
individually. Learning the concept is not just about knowing the definitions, but knowing what to look
for when examining minerals.
One directional cleavage is the easiest to
spot and identify. This occurs with minerals
such as gypsum, biotite, and micas. There is
only one plane of cleavage that runs parallel
to the zone of weak bonding. As you can see
in figure one, Mica displays one directional
cleavage, it is made up of one directional
planes stacked on top of each other, much
like a stack of printer paper. Mica’s cleavage
is perfect and easy to produce.

Figure 1: Mica

Two directional cleavage is
slightly harder to visualize.
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Figure 2: Feldspar

Figure 2 shows feldspar, which has cleavage in two directions, always at 90° angles.

Figure 3 shows an example
of three directional cleavage.
This example is halite and as
you can see it looks a lot like
blocks stacked around and
Figure 3: Halite on top of one another. Halite
always cleaves at 90° angles.

Figure 4: Calcite

This is another example of
3 directional cleavage. You
can see that the difference
here is the angle in which
the mineral cleaves. Calcite
happens to cleave at 60°
and 120°.

Image Sources
Figure 1: http://www.luh.de/uploads/media/glimmer
Figures 2-4: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/geology/grocha/mineral/cleavage.html

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