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Background Information:

Rocks normally consist of several minerals, some essential, some accessory.

A rock may be thought of as a "mineral environment." Each rock type was
formed under certain specific conditions, resulting in the formation of a fairly
predictable group of minerals. Rocks fall into three classes according to their
origin: Igneous - Sedimentary - Metamorphic
COAL: A sedimentary rock, formed from decayed plants, is mainly used in
power plants to make electricity.
LIMESTONE: A sedimentary rock, it is used mainly in the manufacture of
Portland cement, the production of lime, manufacture of paper,
petrochemicals, insecticides, linoleum, fiberglass, glass, carpet backing and
as the coating on many types of chewing gum.
SHALE: A sedimentary rock, well stratified in thin beds. It splits unevenly
more or less parallel to bedding plane and may contain fossils. It can be a
component of bricks and cement.
CONGLOMERATE: A sedimentary rock with a variable hardness, consisted of
rounded or angular rock or mineral fragments cemented by silica, lime, iron
oxide, etc. Usually found in mostly thick, crudely stratified layers. Used in the
construction industry.
SANDSTONE: A sedimentary rock more or less rounded. Generally thickbedded, varicolored, rough feel due to uneven surface produced by breaking
around the grains. Used principally for construction, it is easy to work, the redbrown sandstone of Triassic age, better known as "brownstone," has been
used in many eastern cities.
GRANITE: An igneous-plutonic rock, medium to coarse-grained that is high in
silica, potassium, sodium and quartz but low in calcium, iron and magnesium.
It is widely used for architectural construction, ornamental stone and
PUMICE: An igneous-volcanic rock, it is a porous, brittle variety of rhyolite and
is light enough to float. It is formed when magma of granite composition erupts

at the earths surface or intrudes the crust at shallow depths. It is used as an

abrasive material in hand soaps, emery boards, etc.
GABBRO: An igneous-plutonic rock, generally massive, but may exhibit a
layered structure produced by successive layers of different mineral
composition. It is widely used as crushed stone for concrete aggregate, road
metal, railroad ballast, etc. Smaller quantities are cut and polished for
dimension stone (called black granite).
BASALT: An igneous volcanic rock, dark gray to black, it is the volcanic
equivalent of plutonic gabbro and is rich in ferromagnesian minerals. Basalt
can be used in aggregate.
SCHIST: A metamorphic uneven-granular, medium to coarse grained,
crystalline with prominent parallel mineral orientation. Goes from silvery white
to all shades of gray with yellow to brown tones depending on the mineral
concentration. Some schists have graphite and some are used as building
GNEISS: A metamorphic uneven granular medium to coarse grained
crystalline with more or less parallel mineral orientation. Colors are too
variable to be of diagnostic value. Due to physical and chemical similarity
between many gneisses and plutonic igneous rocks some are used as
building stones and other structural purposes.
QUARTZITE: A metamorphic or sedimentary rock with crystalline texture,
consists of rounded quartz grains cemented by crystalline quartz, generally
white, light gray or yellow to brown. Same uses as sandstone.
MARBLE: A metamorphic even-granular grain to medium grained and may be
uneven granular and coarse grained in calc-silicate rock. The normal color is
white but accessory minerals act as coloring agents and may produce a
variety of colors. Depending upon its purity, texture, color and marbled pattern
it is quarried for use as dimension stone for statuary, architectural and
ornamental purposes. Dolomite rich marble may be a source for magnesium
and is used as an ingredient in the manufacture of refracting materials.

History - How we used Rocks & minerals way back when

Stone Age:

Very long ago, our ancestors used rocks for tools. This was known as
the Stone Age.

This period of human development lasted a long time - about 3 1/2

million years.

This is also known as pre-historic times

This era ended about 4,000 to 6, 500 years ago when people learned
how to make metal.

Obsidian and flint were used for knives and spears.

River rocks were used to break other things.

Caves were used as places to live and

rocks and boulders were used to sit on and to build fire pits.

Copper Age:

Depending on what part of the world people lived in, this period was
then followed by the Copper Age when people discovered how to
smelt (melt using high heat) copper ore.

In Britain, it was about 4,500 years ago and lasted for several

This was not a long period because people quickly learned how to
make other metals.

During this time, cities were being built and building stones were being
used a lot.

Bronze Age:

This was then followed by the Bronze Age about 6,000 years ago.

Bronze is an alloy of copper.

During this time, people learned how to mix minerals to produce

metals like copper, bronze, leadand tin by smelting them.

Smelting ore is when you melt crushed rocks with minerals in them
at very high temperatures. By adding other chemicals and minerals,
the metals separate out and the metal can be poured off. Smelting is
like melting with a purpose.

The melted rock that is not metal is called slag.


This period was then followed by the Iron Age which started about
3,000 years ago.

During the Bronze Age they learned how to extract / make metal from
rocks. During the Iron Age they learned how to make tools &
implements (things they used) out of metal.

Iron is very strong and made very good and long lasting tools.

These tools also meant that stone could be shaped more easily and
many empires built buildings, structures and roads that still can be
seen today.

Since that time period, people have built many cities and used
minerals extensively.

Modern Age:

In Modern Times, since about 1700 CE (or 400 years ago) we have
been using rocks and minerals at an ever increasing rate as we build
machines, cities and consume a great number of "things" in a lifetime.

Our uses of rocks and minerals can be divided into 5 categories:

o 1. Building Stones
o 2. Machines & Tools
o 3. Artifacts

o 4. Consumables & Processes

o 5. Decorations
o 6. Jewellery

Rocks and Minerals in

Everyday Life
Can you picture a world without rocks? If there were no rocks there would be no food,
toothpaste, pencils, silverware, plates, makeup, statues and so much more. If there
were no rocks we wouldn't have soil for food. Soil is made mostly of rock pieces and
minerals. There would be no tools, no shelter, no jewelry, no food, no roads, not much
left. Today we have rocks and we can do and make most anything.
Graphite is used to make pencils. Slate is used to make blackboards and
patios. Limestone is used to make chalk. We use graphite and slate to make fireplaces.
Coal is used to heat homes. Cobalt is used for making super alloys for jet engines,
chemicals, and much more. Fluorite is use in your favorite toothpaste as is limestone
and calcium carbonate. Gold is used in dentistry, medicine, jewelry, and art. Gypsum is
used in the manufacture of sheetrock. Halite is used in human and animal diet
food. Pyrite is used in the manufacture of sulfur, sulfuric acid, and sulfur dioxide. Sulfur
is necessary to grow our food. Zinc is used in making nails and roofing. Silica sand,
talc, feldspar and soda ash are used in glass and ceramics. They can also be found in
insulation and paint. We use granite in monuments as well as kitchen countertops and
even tombstones. Polishing materials are made from pumice. Volcanic ash and pumice
make kitty litter. Most electrical components contain quartz. Magnetite is an ore of iron
used in making steel, kitchen appliances, ship building, trains highways even nails!
From carpet to the foundation of your house, rocks and minerals are used in everyday
We use rocks in medicine too. One kind of rock in medicine is Bismuth. Bismuth is used
for an upset stomach. You know the bottle with the famous pink liquid? Sulphur is used
in making drugs. Silver is used in making dental and medical equipment. Magnetite is
used in medicine, too. Another rock used in medicine is Boron. Some people say this
mineral can strengthen bones and make more muscle. We do not know this for sure,
but we do know that vitamins and minerals can be used to make you healthier.
Can you imagine your world without rocks and minerals?


1. Building Stones ~ Uses of Rocks & Minerals

Most of the rock used in construction comes from quarries.

Quarries are places where sand, gravel and stone are excavated for building

Quarries are great places to find fossil & mineral specimens as well since the
blasting of the rock exposes rocks that are beneath the surface.


Although wood, straw and mud is used for houses in some parts of the word,
most cities today are built of stones and metal (minerals).

Many rock & minerals are used to make buildings. Concrete, steel, glass and
wallboard are all common in modern buildings.

Granite is used to decorate the outsides of buildings as well as tiles for floors
and counters. It is a hard stone that resists wear and weathering.

Marble is used for interior walls and floors where there is less traffic (such as
bathrooms) because it is soft.

Many buildings built out of stone over 2000 years ago can still be seen in
places where ancient civilizations existed like Rome, Greece, Peru and Central

Roads & Bridges

A lot of crushed stone and concrete

is used in the building of roads,
highways, tunnels, bridges, airports
and parking lots.


Aggregate is what pieces of rocks that have

been blasted is called.

The gravel you see in driveways & at

the side of the road are aggregate.

Sometimes you won't see aggregate

because it has been mixed with
cement to make concrete - the grey
"stuff" that sidewalks, buildings and
curbs are made of.

Aggregate can also be mixed with tar

and other ingredients to make
asphalt - the black surface the school yard is paved in.

The average school requires 13,000 tonnes of aggregate (almost 650


An average brick home uses 440 tonnes of aggregate (22 truckloads)

One kilometer of a six-lane road uses 51,800 tonnes of aggregate

(2,590 truckloads)

o A typical large office building uses 16,000 tonnes of aggregate (800


Building Bricks and


5. Decorations

People have been compelled to create decorations

from items found in nature since time began.

The term lapidary refers to the cutting, grinding &

polishing of rocks & minerals into a pleasing shape.

decorations can include: eggs, spheres, plates,

statues of people & animals, models assembled
from rocks, rock painting, ming trees, agate art,
wind chimes, sun catchers .. to name just a few

Many sculptures are made of stone such as

marble, soapstone and jade.

Many rocks and minerals are beautiful and

therefore decorative items are made from them.

People have been making arts & crafts using rocks

& minerals for as long as people have been using

Some rock & mineral collectors display their

specimens like others display fine art.

Many rocks and minerals are suitable for use as

decorations. For some background

Rocks can look like abstract paintings or be

featured in landscapes. Take a look at the art of Ed
Bartram to see fine examples of this.

Models made of rocks

Stones of Time is a family business. These artist

create Great Lakes People from fossils & flint found
on the shores of Lake

Inukshuks were originally human shaped figures

piled as signposts by the Inuit. Now they can be
seen all along top of road cuts along the highways
of Ontario & elsewhere in North America.

Ming Trees

Citrine Ming Tree

Base: Galena & Quartz
from Sweetwater Mine,
Missouri USA

Agate Art

Turquoise Ming
Base: Botryoidal
Drusy Quartz
from Missouri USA

Mineral & Stone Eggs

Some lapidary enthusiasts, make their own

eggs by hand - grinding & shaping them on
diamond wheels. These eggs fromPendragon
Eggs were hand made from self collected

Porphyry Egg
Ontario CANADA

Quartz Hematite Egg


Carnellian Egg,


Amethyst Sphere

Animals carved from rocks & minerals

Lamp Shades

Dishes & Plates

Metamorphic Rocks: examples and uses


Before its metamorphosis under the surface of Earth, slate used to be shale. It varies in
colour but is generally grey. It is impervious to water and splits along long flat planes.

Slate is valued as a roofing material, decorative gardening stone, a base for snooker tables
and was used as a writing board (or writing slate) in the Victorian classroom.

Marble is metamorphasised limestone. A hard crystalline rock that has many uses.

Approximately 22,000 tonnes of marble were used to build the Parthenon and its statues in
ancient Greece, and it is still used as a building and sculpture material today. Marble can
even be ground down and used in soaps and cleaning products.

Schist is formed from shale or mud but at a much higher temperature than slate. Schist is
not a very strong rock so is not often used as a building material but is used for garden
decoration, paving and sometimes sculpture.

Sedimentary Rocks: examples and uses

Stone made of sand, literally.
Due to its easily worked nature, sandstone has had a huge impact as a building material
around the globe. In areas where it is the native rock, e.g. Bradford, West Yorkshire, almost
every building is built from it. Cliffe Castle Museum is constructed from sandstone.


Limestone is made primarily from the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate). It is formed from
the remains of billions of tiny sea creatures that have been compacted and cemented below
the ocean floor.

It is used as a building stone, in the production of lime (an important soil improver for
farming), glass making, industrial carbon dioxide and cement. Chalk is a form of limestone.

Shale (mudstone)
Mud, silt and clay are the ingredients of shale, compacted to form a soft, easily broken,
usually dark coloured rock.

Shale can be used as a filler in the production of paint, used in brick making and is
sometimes used as a road aggregate.

Uses of rocks
Because slate is a hard, impermeable rock, which splits easily into thin sheets, it is ideal
for making roofing tiles.

Marble has an attractive texture and colour and can be cut and polished. Because of
this, it is used to make floor tiles and wall tiles. Some statues are made from marble

Chalk is a rock that is formed from the skeletons of tiny sea animals. It wears away
very easily which is why it ideal for making sticks of chalk to write on blackboards.

Granite is a coarse-grained rock that is hard and impermeable. It is often used to make
steps and roads as it is a rock that doesn't wear away easily.