Minerals and their characteristics

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Minerals and their characteristics

Minerals are solid substances that are present in nature and can be made up of one or more combined elements (chemical compounds).

Gold, silver and carbon are elements that form minerals on their own. They’re called native elements. In contrast, the Common cooking salt is a chemical compound called rock salt, which is a mineral formed by sodium and chlorine ions.

The atoms, ions and molecules that form a mineral are present in space in an orderly manner and according to well-defined geometric shapes, which are called crystalline networks. The structure of the crystal lattice defines the shape of the crystal as we see it. For example, rock salt or cooking salt is a mineral made up of cubic-shaped crystals. Its crystalline network has the same shape and consists of sodium and chlorine ions that are present in space in alternate order.

The order of the atoms in space and the way they combine with each other determine how a mineral can be rolled or exfoliate. Lamination is the property that some materials have to break according to its geometrical shape. Its chemical composition also determines the color of the glass, such as yellow for topaz, red for the ruby, purple for the amethyst quartz.

Another characteristic of minerals is their hardness, which is their scratch resistance. The hardness is classified by numbers (from 1 to 10), according to the Moh’s scale.

At the top of the scale are very soft minerals that can be scratched with a fingernail, such as talc, chalk and calcite. At the bottom of the scale is the diamond, which is nature’s hardest mineral.

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