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Minerals are defined as naturally occurring, inorganic, solids with a

definite chemical composition and a regular, internal crystalline structure.
The keys to this definition are the chemical composition and the
crystalline structure. Different chemical compositions result in different
minerals. A good example is the mineral plagioclase. Plagioclase is a
member of the feldspar group, but there is more than one type of
plagioclase. Albite and anorthite are two examples. Albite has a chemical
composition of NaAlSi3O8, while anorthite's chemical composition is
CaAl2Si2O8. Very similar, but different - therefore two different minerals.
Different crystalline structures, or how the atoms and molecules are
arranged, result in different minerals. A good example is diamond and
graphite. Both minerals are composed of carbon (C). The same chemical
composition, but two different crystalline structures - therefore, two
different minerals.
Physical Properties
Determination of the actual chemical composition and crystalline structure
of a mineral is difficult without the proper equipment. In an introductory
level lab it is impossible for us to determine these two aspects of a
mineral. Fortunately, these two aspects determine a mineral's physical
properties. How the atoms and molecules are arranged and the strength
of the bonding between the atoms result in different physical properties
for different minerals. While many minerals share common physical
properties, when all of a mineral's physical properties are examined, it
often results in a unique set of physical properties which can be used to
identify the mineral.
Below you will find a chart which defines the physical properties and
provides the means for determining the physical property of a mineral
sample. These definitions and methods are simplified. Consult your lab
manual for detailed discussion.
Mineral Physical Properties Chart

Testing Method

Breakage of a
mineral along
Cleavage planes of weakness
in the crystal

Examine the mineral for areas where the

mineral is broken. Look for areas where the
light reflects from planar surfaces. This can
be easily confused with a crystal face and is
the most difficult properties for students to


Visible light
spectrum radiation
reflected from a


Examine and describe the geometric shape

Geometric shape of of the mineral - cubic, hexagonal, etc. Not
a crystal or mineral. commonly seen in most introductory lab

Look at the sample and determine its color white, black, green, clear, etc.

Breakage of a
mineral, not along
Fracture planes of weakness
in the crystral

Examine the mineral for areas where the

mineral is broken. Describe the breakage as
either irregular or conchoidal (has the
appearance of broken glass)

Resistance to
Hardness scratching or

Use minerals of known hardness from the

Mohs Hardness Kits. Scratch the unknown
mineral with a known hardness to
determine which mineral is harder.
Continue doing this with harder or softer
minerals from the kit until the hardness is

Character of the
light reflected by a

Look at the sample to determine if the

mineral is metallic in appearance (looks like
a chunk of metal) or non-metallic (doesn't
look like a chunk of metal).

Magnetis force generated by
an object or
electrical field.

Use a magnet to determine if the magnet is

attracted to the sample.


Chemical interaction Place one small drop of HCl on a sample a

Reaction of hydrochloric acid watch for a reaction - effervesces (bubbles).
to HCl
and calcium
Click here to see an short animation (351
carbonate (CaCO3). Kb)

Ratio of the mass of Generally not determined in an introductory

a mineral to the
lab. Look this information up in your lab
mass of an equal
manual once the mineral has been
volume of water.


Color of the mineral Grind a small amount of a mineral into a

when it is
powder on a porcelain streak plate and
determine the color of the powder.


Nerve ending
reaction in the

Lick the mineral. (not recommended in an

introductory lab - you don't know who has

tongue to different

handled or licked the sample before you).

Requires special equipment such as a UV
lamp and geiger counter. These are not
commonly tested for in an introductory lab.

* Definitions simplified or modified from Bates, R.L. and J.A. Jackson

(eds.), 1987, Glossary of Geology. American Geological Institute,
Alexandria, VA, 788 p.
Below is a table listing some of the aspects of the common lab minerals.
This table is not a complete listing of all of the physical properties for
each mineral. It is designed to highlight those physical properties that are
unique to that mineral or assist in identification of that mineral. Be aware
that not all mineral samples will necessarily show these physical
properties. For example, all plagioclase has cleavage. The sample you
examine may or may not show that cleavage. All minerals have a crystal
form. However, rarely do introductory mineral samples show a good
crystal form. Some types of minerals rarely show a crystal form and even
museum collections may not contain good examples of a mineral's crystal
Mineral Identification - Diagnostic Physical Properties

Green color, H=5, may show hexagonal crystal form


Dark or dull green color, 2 cleavages at ~90 degrees, similar

properties to Hornblende


Black color, one perfect direction of cleavage resulting in the

mineral pealing into thin, flexible sheets, similar properties to


H=3, reacts with HCl, 3 directions of cleavage (rhombic cleavage)

H=9, often shows hexagonal crystal form
Dolomite Reacts to HCL in its powdered form, similar properties to calcite

H=4, 4 directions of cleavage, often purple in color (can be

white, clear, yellow, green)


Gray, metallic mineral, 3 directions of cleavage (cubic)


Typically reddish brown color, no cleavage, commonly found in

twelve-sided crystals (dodecahedrons)

Graphite "Pencil lead", soft metallic mineral, gray streak

Gypsum H=2, can be scratched with a fingernail


"Salt", H=2.5, cannot be scratched with a fingernail, 3 directions

of cleavage (cubic), salty taste

Reddish brown streak, "rust"
Hornble Black to dk. green color, 2 directions of cleavage at 120 or 60
degrees, similar properties to Augite
Magnetic, metallic mineral
Clear or translucent color, one perfect direction of cleavage
resulting in the mineral pealing into thin, flexible sheets, similar
properties to Biotite

Apple green or yellowish green color, H=7 (often difficult to

determine), conchoidal fracture, no cleavage

H=6, salmon pink color is typical, perthitic intergrowths are

common, 2 directions of cleavage at 90 degrees, similar
properties to plagioclase
H=6, white or gray color, striations may be seen on cleavage
surface, 2 directions of cleavage at 90 degrees, similar
properties to orthoclase

"Fool's Gold", gold metallic color


H=7, conchoidal fracture, no cleavage, color is typically white or

clear but can be pink, red, purple, black


Yellow color, "rotten egg" smell if burned


H=1, very soft, easily scratched by fingernail

On each of the following pages you will find an image of a mineral and a
series of physical properties tests. Identify the physical properties that
are present. Once this is done, identify the mineral. It is recommended
that you use your lab manual during these exercises as detailed
identification information is not given in these web pages. Click each
answer, then check to see if you have correctly identified the mineral
What are minerals?
Minerals are naturally occuring, inorganic, uniform materials that have
definite chemical and physical properties.
Identifying Minerals
Geologist often identify minerals based on their physical and chemical
properties. A description of these properties are listed below. Many of

these properties are controlled by the elements present in the mineral

and their arrangement.
Color- The most easily observed property, but usually the least useful.
A mineral's color can be changed by the impurities that are found in the
Luster- The way light is reflected from a newly exposed surface.
Described as either metallic or nonmetallic. Some examples of minerals
with metallic luster are pyrite, galena and magnetite. Some examples
of minerals with nonmetallic luster are calcite, quartz and feldspar.
Nonmetallic luster can also be described as glassy, pearly, waxy and
earthy (dull).
Streak- The color of the mineral in powder form. This test is done by
rubbing the mineral across a white streak plate. Several minerals have
a streak that is not the same color as the mineral itself. Most metallic
luster minerals have a dark colored streak.
Crystal Structure- Some minerals form crystals, if there is time and
room for the crystals to form. The crystal pattern of a mineral is
controled by the internal arrangement of the atoms that make up the
mineral. Some examples of these crystal structures are quartz which
has a hexagonal (six-sided) crystal and halite which has a cubic crystal.
Hardness- The ability of one mineral to scratch another. The softer
mineral gets scratched. You test a mineral's hardness by scratching the
unknown mineral with an object of known hardness. Moh's Scale of
Hardness is used to rate the hardness of a mineral. The chart below
shows the ten minerals that make up the hardness scale and some
common materials with their hardness to test unknown minerals. One
on the scale is the softest and ten is the hardest.

To find the hardness of a mineral you first have to find out what it can
scratch and what can scratch it. For example, if a mineral can scratch
glass but can't scratch a streak plate, the mineral has a hardness of 6
on the Moh's Hardness Scale.
Use Moh's Hardness Scale to answer the following questions.
1. If your fingernail can easily scratch the mineral, what is the hardness
of this mineral?

2. A student notices that their unknown mineral will scratch a penny

but it will not scratch an iron nail. What mineral might this unknown

3. What if the unknown mineral scratches all the common objects listed
in the chart?

Cleavage or Fracture- If a mineral breaks along flat, smooth surfaces it

shows cleavage. Cleavage can be in one, two or three directions. Some
examples are:

Mica- cleavage in one direction, see the diagram below (upper right),
Feldspar- cleavage in two directions, see the diargam below (lower
Calcite, Galena and Halite- cleavage in three directions, see the
diargam below (lower right).

If a mineral breaks along irregular rough surfaces it shows fracture.

Quartz shows a special type of fracture called concoidal (shell-like)
Acid test- This test is performed by dropping weak hydrochloric acid on
the mineral. If it reacts (fizzes) then the mineral is calcite. This test will
also help to identify the rocks limestone and marble, because calcite is
the principal mineral in both.
Magnet test- If there is a magnetic attraction between your mineral and
a metal object, then the mineral has a high iron content. The mineral
magnetite will attract metal objects.
Remember on the Regent's Exam most of the the information about the
mineral in a question will be given to you or will observed from the
diagrams on the Exam. Use them to your advantage. Make sure you
know the basics about mineral identification and observe carefully.
Copper - A Metal Used Through The Ages

Copper was one of the first metals ever extracted and used by humans,
and it has made vital contributions to sustaining and improving society
since the dawn of civilization. Copper was first used in coins and
ornaments starting about 8000 B.C., and at about 5500 B.C., copper tools
helped civilization emerge from the Stone Age. The discovery that copper
alloyed with tin produces bronze marked the beginning of the Bronze Age
at about 3000 B.C.
Copper is easily stretched, molded, and shaped; is resistant to corrosion;
and conducts heat and electricity efficiently. As a result, copper was
important to early humans and continues to be a material of choice for a

variety of domestic, industrial, and high-technology applications today.

How Do We Use Copper Today?

Presently, copper is used in building construction, power generation and

transmission, electronic product manufacturing, and the production of
industrial machinery and transportation vehicles. Copper wiring and
plumbing are integral to the appliances, heating and cooling systems, and
telecommunications links used every day in homes and businesses. Copper
is an essential component in the motors, wiring, radiators, connectors,
brakes, and bearings used in cars and trucks. The average car contains 1.5
kilometers (0.9 mile) of copper wire, and the total amount of copper
ranges from 20 kilograms (44 pounds) in small cars to 45 kilograms (99
pounds) in luxury and hybrid vehicles.

Ancient Uses of Copper

As in ancient times, copper remains a component of coinage used in many

countries, but many new uses have been identified. One of copper's more
recent applications includes its use in frequently touched surfaces (such
as brass doorknobs), where copper's antimicrobial properties reduce the
transfer of germs and disease. Semiconductor manufacturers have also
begun using copper for circuitry in silicon chips, which enables
microprocessors to operate faster and use less energy. Copper rotors have
also recently been found to increase the efficiency of electric motors,
which are a major consumer of electric power.

What Properties Make Copper Useful?

The excellent alloying properties of copper have made it invaluable when

combined with other metals, such as zinc (to form brass), tin (to form
bronze), or nickel. These alloys have desirable characteristics and,
depending on their composition, are developed for highly specialized
applications. For example, copper-nickel alloy is applied to the hulls of

ships because it does not corrode in seawater and reduces the adhesion of
marine life, such as barnacles, thereby reducing drag and increasing fuel
efficiency. Brass is more malleable and has better acoustic properties than
pure copper or zinc; consequently, it is used in a variety of musical
instruments, including trumpets, trombones, bells, and cymbals.

Types of Copper Deposits

Copper occurs in many forms, but the circumstances that control how,
when, and where it is deposited are highly variable. As a result, copper
occurs in many different minerals. Chalcopyrite is the most abundant and
economically significant of the copper minerals.
Research designed to better understand the geologic processes that
produce mineral deposits, including copper deposits, is an important
component of the USGS Mineral Resources Program. Copper deposits are
broadly classified on the basis of how the deposits formed. Porphyry
copper deposits, which are associated with igneous intrusions, yield about
two-thirds of the world's copper and are therefore the world's most
important type of copper deposit. Large copper deposits of this type are
found in mountainous regions of western North and South America.
Another important type of copper deposit-the type contained
insedimentary rocks-accounts for approximately one-fourth of the world's
identified copper resources. These deposits occur in such areas as the
central African copper belt and the Zechstein basin of Eastern Europe.
Individual copper deposits may contain hundreds of millions of tons of
copper-bearing rock and commonly are developed by using open-pit
mining methods. Mining operations, which usually follow ore discovery by
many years, often last for decades. Although many historic mining
operations were not required to conduct their mining activities in ways
that would reduce their impact on the environment, current Federal and
State regulations do require that mining operations use environmentally
sound practices to minimize the effects of mineral development on human
and ecosystem health.
USGS mineral environmental research helps characterize the natural and
human interactions between copper deposits and the surrounding aquatic
and terrestrial ecosystems. Research helps define the natural baseline
conditions before mining begins and after mine closure. USGS scientists
are investigating climatic, geologic, and hydrologic variables to better

understand the resource-environment interactions.

Copper Supply, Demand and Recycling

The world's production (supply) and consumption (demand) of copper

have increased dramatically in the past 25 years. As large developing
countries have entered the global market, demand for mineral
commodities, including copper, has increased. In the past 20 years, the
Andean region of South America has emerged as the world's most
productive copper region. In 2007, about 45 percent of the world's copper
was produced from the Andes Mountains; the United States produced 8
percent. Virtually all copper produced in the United States comes from, in
decreasing order of production, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, or
The risk of disruption to the global copper supply is considered to be low
because copper production is globally dispersed and is not limited to a
single country or region. Because of its importance in construction and
power transmission, however, the impact of any copper supply disruption
would be high.
Copper is one of the most widely recycled of all metals; approximately
one-third of all copper consumed worldwide is recycled. Recycled copper
and its alloys can be remelted and used directly or further reprocessed to
refined copper without losing any of the metal's chemical or physical

How Do We Ensure Adequate Supplies of Copper for the Future?

To help predict where future copper resources might be located, USGS

scientists study how and where known copper resources are concentrated
in the Earth's crust and use that knowledge to assess the potential for
undiscovered copper resources. Techniques to assess mineral resource
potential have been developed and refined by the USGS to support the
stewardship of Federal lands and to better evaluate mineral resource
availability in a global context.
In the 1990s, the USGS conducted an assessment of U.S. copper resources

and concluded that nearly as much copper remained to be found as had

already been discovered. Specifically, the USGS found that about 350
million tons of copper had been discovered and estimated that about 290
million tons of copper remained undiscovered in the United States.

Global Copper Resource Assessment

The USGS assessed undiscovered copper in two deposit types that account
for about 80 percent of the world's copper supply. Porphyry copper
deposits account for about 60 percent of the world's copper. In porphyry
copper deposits, copper ore minerals are disseminated in igneous
intrusions. Sediment-hosted stratabound copper deposits, in which copper
is concentrated in layers in sedimentary rocks, account for about 20
percent of the world's identified copper resources. Globally, mines in these
two deposit types produce about 12 million tons of copper per year.
This study considered potential for exposed and concealed deposits within
1 kilometer of the surface for porphyry deposits and up to 2.5 kilometers
of the surface for sediment-hosted stratabound deposits. For porphyry
deposits, 175 tracts were delineated; 114 tracts contain 1 or more
identified deposits. Fifty tracts were delineated for sediment-hosted
stratabound copper deposits; 27 contain 1 or more identified deposits.
Results of the assessment are provided by deposit type for 11 regions
(table 1). The mean total undiscovered resource for porphyry deposits is
3,100 million tons, and the mean total undiscovered resource for
sediment-hosted deposits is 400 million tons, for a global total of 3,500
million tons of copper. The ranges of resource estimates (between the
90th and 10th percentiles) reflect the geologic uncertainty in the
assessment process. Approximately 50 percent of the global total occurs
in South America, South Central Asia and Indochina, and North America
South America has the largest identified and undiscovered copper
resources (about 20 percent of the total undiscovered amount). The
world's largest porphyry deposits are mined in this region.
Central America and the Caribbean host two undeveloped giant (>2 million
ton copper) porphyry copper deposits in Panama. Most of the
undiscovered resources are in a belt that extends from Panama to
southwestern Mexico.

North America hosts highly mineralized porphyry copper tracts that

include supergiant (>25 million tons copper) porphyry deposits in
northern Mexico, the western United States, and Alaska, as well as giant
deposits in western Canada. The estimated undiscovered porphyry copper
resources are approximately equal to the identified resources. In the
United States, undiscovered sediment-hosted stratabound copper
deposits in Michigan, Montana, and Texas are estimated to contain about
three times as much copper as has been identified. Two giant deposits are
known, in Michigan and Montana.
Northeast Asia is relatively underexplored, with modest identified
porphyry copper resources and only one identified giant porphyry copper
deposit. However, the mean undiscovered resources are estimated to be
quite large. This region has the largest ratio of undiscovered to identified
resources in the study.
North Central Asia has 35 porphyry copper deposits, including a
supergiant deposit in Mongolia and a giant deposit in Kazakhstan. The
tract area is estimated to contain about three times the amount of
identified porphyry copper resource. This region also hosts three giant
sediment-hosted stratabound copper deposits, in Kazakhstan and Russia.
The USGS estimates that as much sediment-hosted stratabound copper as
has already been discovered may be present.
South Central Asia and Indochina are less thoroughly explored than many
other parts of the world; however, four giant porphyry copper deposits
have been identified to date in the Tibetan Plateau. Undiscovered
porphyry copper deposits may contain eight times the identified amount
of copper.
Southeast Asia Archipelagos host world-class, gold-rich porphyry copper
deposits such as a supergiant in Indonesia and about 16 giant deposits in
Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. Although parts of the
region are well explored, undiscovered porphyry resources are likely to
exceed identified resources.
Eastern Australia has one giant porphyry copper deposit and several small
porphyry deposits. Modest undiscovered resources are expected under
Eastern Europe and Southwestern Asia have been mined for copper since
ancient times, and giant porphyry copper deposits have recently been
identified. Undiscovered copper is predicted to be about twice the
identified resources, both for porphyry deposits along a belt from Romania
through Turkey and Iran and for sediment-hosted stratabound deposits in

Western Europe has the largest sediment-hosted stratabound copper

deposit in the world, in Poland. Undiscovered sediment-hosted
stratabound copper resources in southwestern Poland are estimated to
exceed identified resources by about 30 percent.
Africa and the Middle East have the world's largest accumulation of
sediment-hosted stratabound copper deposits, with 19 giant deposits in
the Central African Copperbelt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and
Zambia. Significant undiscovered copper resources remain to be
Use copper ore in building construction

For everything from decorative architecture to plumbing,

copper ore is important to the construction industry.
When using copper pipes to transport drinking water, it's
important to be aware of the possibility of excess copper
leaching into the water, especially if your water is
particularly acidic.
Copper is used in electric cables and wires, switches, plumbing; heating,
electrical, and roofing materials; electronic components; industrial
machinery and equipment; transportation; consumer and general
products; coins; and jewelry.

Graphite uses

Youve certainly heard of graphite. Its found in pencils used for

writing and drawing. The ones we used to mistakenly call lead
pencils. Where did this come from? When graphite was
discovered in the 16th century, people thought it looked like a
variety of lead. Graphite was called plombago until an
18th century Swedish researcher established it contained no lead.
The German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner invented the
term graphite in 1789, inspired by graphein, the greek word
for writing.
Its colour varies from black, to greyish-black and has a metallic

Graphite is the crystal form of carbon. Graphite is used as a dry
lubricant and steel hardener and for brake linings and the
production of "lead" in pencils. Most graphite production comes
from Korea, India, and Mexico.
Like diamonds, graphite is a mineral. It is used mainly for its
physical and chemical properties. Very heat-resistant, it is also an
excellent thermic and electrical conductor.
Graphite is found in a vast number of products and tools.
It is used in steel manufacturing and to coat the foundry molds of
the metal industry.
It is the alloy component used in the manufacturing of tennis
racket frames.
In the automobile industry, it is used in the manufacturing of
brakes, brake linings, clutch facings, engine parts, friction
components and mechanical seals.
It is used in the manufacturing of anti-corrosive paints.
The high-tech industry has many uses for graphite, most notably
in the lithium-ion batteries of our laptops, small electronic
devices, tools and electrical cars. It is also used in the
manufacturing of the simple alkaline battery.
Industrial lubricants, metal powders, polymer and rubber
components all contain graphite.
Finally, it is used in medicine as an absorbant in cases of oral
poisoning or intoxication.
Graphite has become one of the most important minerals used in
todays high tech industry and represents economic prosperity in
the most advanced countries. What brought this about?


Image by Erlend Davidson (Thomas Young Centre, London) CC BYSA 2.0

The discovery of graphene, the mineral source of graphite, by
professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselof of the
University of Manchester changed everything. This discovery
earned them the Nobel prize for physics in 2010. Graphene is so
revolutionary that it has had an impact on all sectors of the
economy. The agriculture, medical, chemical, military, energy,
industrial, automobile, aeronautic, computer and
telecommunications sectors have not yet exploited it to its full
potential. For the moment, its applications are limited only by the
imagination of the worlds most important researchers.
In genetic engineering, for example, graphene could help fight
the war against cancer. Graphene is 200 times more resistant
than steel, so imagine its potential for the construction of
infrastructures! The potential of graphene is so immense that a
single blog post could not fully explain it.

What one must understand is that in the future graphene, derived

from graphite, will literally revolutionize our lives.
- See more at:
Obsidian Uses</>
Interior Uses

Decorative Aggregates and Interior Decoration

Exterior Uses

Garden Decoration

Other Architectural Uses

Not Yet Used

Construction Industry

Arrowheads, Cutting Tool, Knives, Scrapers, Spear Points



Common field test


Easily scratched with a fingernail


Scratched by a fingernail (2.5)


Scratched by a penny (3)


Difficult to scratch by a nail (4); scratched easily by a

knife (5)


Difficult to scratch with a knife (>5); barely scratches

glass (5.5)


Scratched by a steel file (6.5); easily scratches glass


Scratches a steel file and glass


Difficult to test in the field


Difficult to test in the field



Difficult to test in the field

Creating a Mineral Hardness Test Kit

A mineral hardness test kit can be easily created from

common household or hardware items (table 6). Parents should help children make
the kit. Wear safety glasses and gloves when cutting class. All pieces in the
hardness test kit should be compared to one another and specific minerals with a
known hardness.

e Hardness


Blackboard Chalk



Copper penny

Common nail


Pocket knife


Window glass (2 inches square; use caution making this scratch

plate. Tape the edges of the glass with duct tape. You may be
able to get this cut at a local hardware store.)


Steel file or tempered steel. Try to find an old, broken or worn

flat file

Luster is how a mineral reflects light. The terms metallic and nonmetallic describe
the basic types of luster. Table 7 lists the most common terms used to describe
luster and an example of a corresponding mineral. Some minerals that don't exhibit
luster are referred to as "earthy," "chalky," or "dull."
One of the most obvious properties of a mineral is color. Color should be considered
when identifying a mineral, but should never be used as the major identifying
Streak is the color of the powdered mineral, which is usually more useful for
identification than the color of the whole mineral sample. Rubbing the mineral on a
streak plate will produce a streak. A streak plate can be made from the unglazed
back side of a white porcelain bathroom or kitchen tile. Some minerals won't streak
because they are harder than the streak plate.
Specific Gravity
Specific gravity is the ratio between the mass (weight) of a mineral and the mass
(weight) of an equal volume of water. A mineral's specific gravity (SG) can be

determined by dividing its weight in air by the weight of an equal volume of water.
For instance, quartz with a density of 2.65 is 2.65 times as heavy as the same
volume of water.
SG = mineral mass/water mass
The way in which a mineral breaks along smooth flat planes is called cleavage.
These breaks occur along planes of weakness in the mineral's structure. However, if
a mineral breaks along an irregular surface, it does not have cleavage.
When a mineral breaks irregularly, the breaks are called fractures. The breaks can
be described as grainy, hackly (jagged), conchoidal (curved), or splintery.
How well a mineral resists breakage is known as tenacity. Tenacity is described
using these terms:

Brittle - Mineral crushes to angular fragments (quartz).

Malleable - Mineral can be modified in shape without breaking and can be

flattened to a thin sheet (copper, gold).

Sectile - Mineral can be cut with a knife into thin shavings (talc).

Flexible - Mineral bends but doesn't regain its shape once released (selenite,

Elastic - Mineral bends and regains its original shape when released
(muscovite and biotite mica).

Other Diagnostic Characteristics

Other characteristics may be useful in identifying some minerals:

Transparency - Objects are visible when viewed through a mineral.

Translucency - Light, but not an image, is transmitted through a mineral.

Opaqueness - No light is transmitted, even on the thinnest edges.

Taste - Taste can be used to help identify some minerals, such as halite (salt).

Acid reaction - Object reacts to hydrochloric acid. The most distinguishing

characteristic of calcite is that it effervesces when hydrochloric acid is
applied. Dolomite shows a reaction on a freshly broken or powdered surface.
Testing for calcite, limestone, or dolomite calls for 10% hydrochloric acid, but
strong white vinegar can be substituted for the acid.

Magnetism - Magnetism is a distinguishing characteristic of magnetite.

Crystal shape - Cubic, rhombohedral (tilted cube), hexagonal (six-sided), etc.

Some crystal shapes are illustrated below.

What is Graphite?
Graphite is a naturally-occurring form of crystalline carbon. It is a native element
mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks. Graphite is a mineral of extremes.
It is extremely soft, cleaves with very light pressure, and has a very low specific
gravity. In contrast, it is extremely resistant to heat and nearly inert in contact with
almost any other material. These extreme properties give it a wide range of uses in
metallurgy and manufacturing.

Flake graphite: Flake graphite produced in Madagascar.

Graphite chunk: Lump graphite from Kropfmuhl, Austria. Specimen is about one
and one half inches (3.8 cm) across.

Graphite with garnet: A specimen of graphite-mica schist with two red almandine
/ pyrope garnets from the Red Embers Mine, Erving, Massachusetts. This specimen
is about two inches (5.08 cm) across.
Geologic Occurrence
Graphite is a mineral that forms when carbon is subjected to heat and pressure in
Earth's crust and in the upper mantle. Pressures in the range of 75,000 pounds per
square inch and temperatures in the range of 750 degrees Celsius are needed to
produce graphite. These correspond to the granulite metamorphic facies.
Graphite From Regional Metamorphism (Flake Graphite)
Most of the graphite seen at Earth's surface today was formed at convergent plate
boundaries where organic-rich shales and limestones were subjected to the heat
and pressure of regional metamorphism. This produces marble, schist, and gneiss
that contain tiny crystals and flakes of graphite.
When graphite is in high enough concentrations, these rocks can be mined, crushed
to a particle size that liberates the graphite flakes, and processed by specific gravity
separation or froth flotation to remove the low-density graphite. The product
produced is known as "flake graphite."
Graphite From Coal Seam Metamorphism ("Amorphous" Graphite)
Some graphite forms from the metamorphism of coal seams. The organic material
in coal is composed mainly of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur. The
heat of metamorphism destroys the organic molecules of coal, volatilizing the
oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur. What remains is a nearly pure carbon
material that crystallizes into mineral graphite.
This graphite occurs in "seams" that correspond to the original layer of coal. When
mined, the material is known as "amorphous graphite." The word "amorphous" is
actually incorrect in this usage, as it does have a crystalline structure. From the

mine, this material has an appearance similar to lumps of coal without the bright
and dull banding.
Graphite from Hydrothermal Metamorphism
A small amount of graphite forms by the reaction of carbon compounds in the rock
during hydrothermal metamorphism. This carbon can be mobilized and deposited in
veins in association with hydrothermal minerals. Because it is precipitated, it has a
high degree of crystallinity, and that makes it a preferred material for many
electrical uses.
Graphite in Igneous Rocks and Meteorites
Small amounts of graphite are known to occur as a primary mineral in igneous
rocks. It is known as tiny particles in basalt flows and syenite. It is also known to
form in pegmatite. Some iron meteorites contain small amounts of graphite. These
forms of graphite are occurrences without economic importance.

The best way to learn about minerals is to study with a collection of small
specimens that you can handle, examine, and observe their properties. Inexpensive
mineral collections are available in the Store.
Physical Properties of Graphite
Native element

Steel gray to black




Metallic, sometimes earthy




Perfect in one direction


1 to 2


2.1 to 2.3


Color, streak, slippery feel, specific gravity





Used to manufacture heat and chemical resistant containers and

other objects. Battery anodes. A dry lubricant. The "lead" in pencils.

Graphite and Diamond

Graphite and diamond are the two mineral forms of carbon. Diamond forms in the
mantle under extreme heat and pressure. Most graphite found near Earth's surface
was formed within the crust at lower temperatures and pressures. Graphite and
diamond share the same composition but have very different structures.
The carbon atoms in graphite are linked in a hexagonal network which forms sheets
that are one atom thick. These sheets are poorly connected and easily cleave or
slide over one another if subjected to a small amount of force. This gives graphite
its very low hardness, its perfect cleavage, and its slippery feel.
In contrast, the carbon atoms in diamond are linked into a frameworks structure.
Every carbon atom is linked into a three-dimensional network with four other carbon
atoms with strong covalent bonds. This arrangement holds the atoms firmly in place
and makes diamond an exceptionally hard material.

Graphite consumption: United States graphite consumption by use during 2012.

Data from the USGS Mineral Commodity Summary.
Synthetic Graphite
"Synthetic graphite" is made by heating high-carbon materials like petroleum coke
and coal-tar pitch to temperatures in the range of 2500 to 3000 degrees Celsius. At
these high temperatures, all volatile materials and many metals in the feedstock
are destroyed or driven off. The graphite that remains links into a sheet-like
crystalline structure. Synthetic graphite can have a purity of over 99% carbon, and
it is used in manufactured products where an extremely pure material is required.

Graphite in schist from Essex County, New York. Specimen is approximately 5

inches (12.7 centimeters) across.

Graphite in schist from Essex County, New York. Specimen is approximately 5

inches (12.7 centimeters) across.
Graphite Information
[1] Graphite: unattributed article on the Asbury Carbons website.
[2] Natural Flake Graphite: unattributed article on the Asbury Carbons website.
[3] Graphite (Natural): Donald W. Olson, Mineral Commodity Summary, United
States Geological Survey, 2014.
[4] Graphite: Donald W. Olson, 2012 Minerals Yearbook. United States Geological
Survey, 2013.

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Benitoite: A 1911
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Graphite is another allotrope of carbon. Like diamond, its properties include:


High melting point

Insoluble in water

However, unlike diamond, graphite is:

Black and opaque (you cannot see through it)


An electrical conductor

Graphite is used inside pencils. It slips easily off the pencil onto the paper and
leaves a black mark. Graphite is also a component of many lubricants, for example
bicycle chain oil, because it is slippery.
Structure and bonding - Higher tier
Like diamond, graphite has a giant molecular structure. As its covalent bonds are
very strong, and there are many of them, a lot of energy would be needed to
separate atoms. This makes graphite's melting point and boiling point very high.
However, each carbon atom is only covalently bonded to three other carbon atoms,
rather than to four as in diamond. Graphite contains layers of carbon atoms. The
layers slide over each other easily because there are only weak forces between
them, making graphite slippery.
Graphite contains delocalised electrons (free electrons). These electrons can
move through the graphite, carrying charge from place to place and allowing
graphite to conduct electricity.


When artificial graphite is heated in oxygen it begins to form carbon dioxide at 570 C., and the r
of formation increases up to 690 C., when inflammation occurs. With natural graphite the
temperatures at which these changes take place are variable, but they are considerably below th
corresponding temperatures for diamond (q.v.); and this difference constitutes one of the
distinguishing tests between the two forms of carbon.
Action of Oxidising Agents

Graphite differs much from diamond in its reactivity towards liquid oxidising agents. Cold,
concentrated nitric acid has no action on graphite; but some specimens, when strongly heated af
being moistened with the acid, intumesce, i.e. swell up, because of the generation of gas within
them. The gas consists of carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, and is probably produced by the
action of the acid on particles of amorphous carbon contained within the graphite. Luzi distinguis
between different kinds of graphite by this reaction of intumescence. Specimens that intumesce
known as "graphite," those which do not as "graphitite." The variety from Ceylon is "graphite," th

from Borrowdale "graphitite." The artificial product is generally "graphitite." When molten cast-iro
containing carbon is cooled by water the external layers contain graphitite, the interior graphite;
intumescent graphite is, moreover, produced by dissolving carbon in molten platinum, and rema
when the platinum is removed by aqua regia.

Graphite is slowly oxidised when heated with a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids, or potassium
chlorate with sulphuric or nitric acid. These reactions, which were discovered by Brodie, may be
used for the purification of graphite or its conversion into "graphitic acid." If graphite is heated w
a mixture of 1 part of nitric acid and 4 parts of sulphuric acid, or 14 parts of graphite are heated
with 1 part of potassium chlorate and 28 parts of sulphuric acid, the graphite is partially oxidised
and turns violet, but regains its black colour when washed with water. When strongly heated the
mass swells up, loses gases, and yields a residue of pure graphite of density 2.25.
Mixtures of concentrated sulphuric acid and potassium permanganate or chromic acid may be
substituted for Brodie's mixture.
By more prolonged treatment with similar reagents graphite is converted into graphitic acid.

For this purpose one part of graphite and 3 parts of potassium chlorate are mixed with nitric acid
and heated for several days at 60 C., and after washing the process is repeated four or five time
Or the powdered graphite may be mixed with sulphuric and nitric acids at the ordinary temperatu
and a large excess of potassium chlorate be added. A green product results, which is changed int
graphitic acid by treatment with potassium permanganate and sulphuric acid.

Graphitic acid is yellow, and appears to be crystalline because it preserves the form of the origin
graphite crystals. Its composition corresponds to the formula C11H405 or C11H406, but it is reall
an amorphous mixture of several compounds of high molecular weight.3 When the acid is heated
decomposes explosively, evolving carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water, and leaves a bla
charcoal-like residue called pyrographitic acid, which is converted by potassium chlorate and nitr
acid into mellitic acid, C6(COOH)6.

Graphitic acid is reduced by stannous chloride to a black "pseudomorph" which resembles graph
in appearance, and may be oxidised again to graphitic acid.

The behaviour of graphite towards oxidising agents, by which graphitic acid is produced,
distinguishes this substance from diamond and from amorphous carbon; for diamond is not acted
upon by these reagents, and amorphous carbon is dissolved by them with the formation of humic
and finally mellitic acid. According to Charpy, however, some forms of carbon hitherto regarded a
amorphous, such as carbon from steel and the product obtained by heating graphitic acid, yield
graphitic acid on oxidation. It therefore appears unsatisfactory to define graphite with reference t
the action of oxidising agents.


Garnet-Mica Schist


Foliated; Fine- to medium-grained


Muscovite, Biotite, Garnet, Quartz, Feldspar

Index Minerals



Shiny, medium gray


Small-sized dark red-brown garnets on foliation


Metamorphic Type


Metamorphic Grade

Middle Grade (Middle P - Middle T)

Parent Rock

Shale, Mudstone, or Felsic Igneous rocks


Middle grade regional metamorphism along a

convergent plate boundary

Mica-schist is a rock composed essentially of quartz and mica, usually eithermuscovite or biotite
prominent mineral, occurring in irregular leaves and in foliated masses. The mica plates all lie with
planes parallel to each other and give to the rock a striking laminated or "schistose" structure. Nex
the mica-schists are the most common metamorphic rocks. Mica-schist is a rock which is closely re
hand to gneiss, and on the other to quartzite. It is not only a very common companion of gneiss
metamorphic rocks, but in many places gneiss grades into mica-schist, so that no definite line can
them. It has also many other analogies with gneiss, some of which will be presently mentioned. Of
rocks known as schists, it is, excluding gneiss, if the latter be reckoned among them, the most wid

Composition Minerals and Texture: The essential minerals of mica-schist are quartz and mica,
the latter which gives the rock its particular character. Different varieties of mica occur; the most c
white muscovite; biotite of a dark color is common, while the soda-bearing mica paragonite is rare
biotite occur alone, and also in combination, as in gneiss. The micas are in irregular leaves or table
boundaries, or in leafy or foliated aggregates; biotite and muscovite are found intergrown, and oft
a common cleavage. The micas lie with their cleavage planes in the direction of schistosity, and it
produces the extraordinary fissile character of the rock. They are also very often curved, bent, or t
easily seen by the reflections from their cleavage surface. The cleavage of the mica is so marked t
chief fracture, or the schistose plane of the rock, appears completely coated by it, and it may prod
that it is the only mineral present; to see the quartz, the other essential component, the cross frac
examined with the lens. The quartz forms irregular grains, or aggregates of grains, and these are s
in small lenses, and sometimes in thin layers, concordant with the layers of mica.

Mica-schists, while they are very often composed of these two minerals alone, also very commonly
large size, of other minerals. The most common of these is a dark red garnet, sometimes sparsely
sprinkled through the rock, and varying in size from that of coarse shot to that of a plum. These ga
of simple, rounded nodules, but in most cases they show more or less distinct crystal form, and so
beautifully crystallized in the shapes mentioned in the description of this mineral. This garnetifero
very common metamorphic rock; in New England it is widely distributed among the boulders of th
minerals which occur in mica-schist, in a manner similar to garnet, are staurolite, often with garne
andalusite, and hornblende. These sometimes are in large and well-formed crystals, which, especi
and kyanite, are not infrequently colored dark, by included carbonaceous matter. Graphite occurs
quantity sufficient to produce a distinct variety. Graphite is such a strong coloring matter, that a re
cause the rock to appear as if almost entirely composed of it; in consequence unsuccessful attemp
places to exploit such schists for graphite.

Hornblende, when it occurs, is in dark-colored prisms; by its increase in amount transitions into am
schist are formed. Kyanite, andalusite, and staurolite occur in prismatic crystals, which may attain
Their formation is contemporaneous with the metamorphism of the rock, and they produce a pseu
Another variety of mica-schist is one which contains more or less calcite mingled with the quartz;
effervescence with acids. This variety is especially apt to contain accessory garnet, epidote, hornb
texture of the rock is its especial feature, and its ready fissility is produced by the mica. If the com
layers, the surface of rock cleavage is smooth and flat; if the lenticular arrangement of the quartz
uneven or lumpy. Frequently the surfaces of schistosity are bent, folded and crumpled, showing pr
secondary to its production.

Chemical Composition: As in the gneisses, the chemical composition of these rocks is too variab
specific value. This comes from the natural variability in the composition of the sediments from wh
addition, not many of these rocks have been chemically investigated, and some of the older analy
executed. It is clear, however, that they must contain silica, alumina, and potash, to form the quar
magnesia and iron, if biotite is present. The excess of magnesia over lime, taken with the high silic
igneous rocks, and is clearly indicative of sedimentary origin. They are probably formed mostly by
feldspathic sandstones.

The color of these rocks varies from light gray through yellow and brown tones to very dark, depen
dark mica present. Carbonaceous is also present in some types. Some pure mica schist are silvery
and firmness of the rock depend on the proportion of mica; the more this is present, the softer and
For this reason they are of little or no value for practical purposes. Inclusions of various kinds occu
gneiss, thus veins and lenticular masses of quartz, deposited from solution in cracks and cavities o
foldings of the rocks, are common. They also contain in places lenticular masses of other schists, w
small to huge dimensions. And sometimes they are penetrated by seams and patches of granite,
the result of granitic injections. With respect to the alteration of mica-schist, the varieties compose
mechanically disintegrated by the action of weathering without much chemical change. The musc
energetically, and the gravelly or sandy soils formed, are in consequence filled with its sparkling fl
present it alters easily; the rocks turn yellow or brown, lose their luster, and eventually much limo

Varieties and Occurrence: The varieties composed chiefly of muscovite, or with associated garn
kinds, and are found all over the world as common rocks in metamorphic regions, and are general
They cover large areas in New England and extend southward to Georgia. Biotitic varieties are also

them. Staurolitic mica-schist occurs in many places in New England, and in Maryland, and elsewhe
plateau; it is found in Scotland and various localities in Europe, in Brazil and elsewhere. Kyanite-m
places in New England; a variety in which the mica is paragonite comes from the St. Gothard regio
mineral collections on account of the beautiful crystals of kyanite it contains; the common kind wit
many places. Hornblendic mica-schists occur as included lenticular masses, often of large dimensi
the ordinary mica-schists. Graphitic mica-schist is found in Connecticut and other places in New En
Germany, Norway, etc. Andalusite-mica schist occurs in the White Mountains in New England, in S
etc. An interesting variety is the conglomerate-mica-schist, in which the rock contains pebbles of q
rocks which are very apt to be flattened, lenticular, or drawn out by pressure and shearing. It is clo
conglomerate-gneiss previously described and has had a similar origin. Such rocks occur in Massa
Scotland, Sweden, etc.

Transitions and Relation to other Rocks: The gneisses formed from sediments and the mica-s
from similar rocks; from feldspathic sandstones, shales and conglomerates. In the mica-schists the
converted into mica; in the gneisses it has mostly persisted or been recrystallized. It is not intende
affirm that this is the only origin for mica-schists, only the most usual one; they may have been fo
quartzose-feldspathic igneous rocks, though positive evidence on this point is wanting. In this conn
elsewhere of phyllites should be consulted. On the whole it would seem most probable that the gn
most often from the conglomerates and coarser-grained sandstones, the mica-schists from the fin
the shales, though many exceptions must occur. It is therefore easy to understand that many mica
less of feldspar grains among those of quartz, which are difficult to detect without the aid of micro
may increase in amount until the rock passes over into a gneiss, and no hard and fast line can be
previously stated.

The decision as to whether a given rock should be classed as a gneiss or mica-schist is often a ver
make on purely megascopic grounds; in general if the amount of mica is large, and little or no feld
with the lens, it is best to classify it as a mica-schist; if the amount of mica is small and feldspar c
it as a gneiss. On the other hand, in proportion as the original sandstones were more and more pu
quartz grains there would be less and less of mica made, and in this way formal transitions into qu
quartzite are produced in their metamorphic representatives. We thus see that gneiss, mica-schist
a graded series whose divisional lines must be purely arbitrary. Again, as the rocks become finer a
in texture, the mica-schists pass into micaceous slates and so on into slates, and this becomes mo
amount of carbonaceous matter increases, as it tends to mask the mica. The divisional line thus b
one in this case also.

Various Schists. There are various other kinds of schistose rocks, which are chiefly derived by th
the ferromagnesian igneous rocks. The most important types are talc-schist, chlorite schist, amp
hornblende-schist. They each are characterized, as their names indicate, by the preponderance of
ferromagnesian mineral.

The amphibolites are a large group of metamorphic rocks whose distinguishing characters are, tha
or largely of hornblende, and that they possess a more or less pronounced schistose structure. The
varieties in the group, depending on the kind of hornblende present, and on the minerals associat
is difficult to give a general description which will cover all cases. It is best therefore to describe th
kind first, and then give a brief mention of some of the less common varieties. Common hornblend

amphibolites are rocks which vary in color from green to black; the green is of varying tones, clear
green, yellowish green to dark green, greenish black to black; the darker colors are more common
by the hornblende, though in a considerable degree, in some cases, it is influenced by admixed ch
the rocks varies from coarse to fine, the latter being more common. When coarse, the hornblende
always present in slender prisms or blades and rarely in grains, is easily recognized by the eye fro
bright, good cleavage.

Talc-schist is a rock of pronounced schistose cleavage and character, in which talc is the predomin
is present in fine scales to coarse foliated aggregates. Other minerals also occur in different variet

What is Biotite?
Biotite is a name used for a large group of black mica minerals that are commonly
found in igneous andmetamorphic rocks. These include annite, phlogopite,
siderophyllite, fluorophlogopite, fluorannite, eastonite, and many others. These
micas vary in chemical composition but are all sheet silicate minerals with very
similar physical properties.
A generalized chemical composition for the biotite group is:
The name "biotite" is used in the field and in entry-level geology courses because
these minerals generally cannot be distinguished without optical, chemical, or xray analysis.
Biotite is a primary mineral found in a wide range of crystalline igneous rocks such
as granite, diorite, gabbro,peridotite, and pegmatite. It also forms under
metamorphic conditions when argillaceous rocks are exposed to heat and pressure
to form schist and gneiss. Although biotite is not very resistant to weathering and
transforms into clay minerals, it is sometimes found in sediments and sandstones.

The best way to learn about minerals is to study with a collection of small
specimens that you can handle, examine, and observe their properties. Inexpensive
mineral collections are available in the Store.

Physical Properties of Biotite


Dark mica


Black, dark green, dark brown


White to gray, flakes often produced




Thin sheets are transparent to translucent, books are



Basal, perfect

Mohs Hardness

2.5 to 3

Specific Gravity

2.7 to 3.4


Dark color, perfect cleavage



Crystal System



Very little industrial use

Properties of Biotite

Biotite is very easy to identify, and with a little experience a person will be able to
recognize it on sight. It is a black mica with perfect cleavage and a vitreous luster
on the cleavage faces. When biotite is separated into thin sheets, the sheets are
flexible but will break upon severe bending. When held up to the light, the sheets
are transparent to translucent with a brown, gray, or greenish color. Experienced
observers can sometimes recognize phlogopite by its brown color.

Biotite angled view: Biotite from Bancroft, Ontario, Canada. Specimen is

approximately 4 inches (10 centimeters) across.
Biotite Minerals
As noted above, biotite is a name used for a number of black mica minerals that
have different chemical compositions but very similar physical properties. These
minerals generally cannot be distinguished from one another without laboratory
analysis. A small list of the biotite minerals is given below with their chemical

Chemical Composition












Biotite side view: An edge view of the biotite specimen from the photo above.
Specimen is approximately 3/8 inch (.95 centimeter) thick.
Uses of Biotite
Biotite has a small number of commercial uses. Ground mica is used as a filler and
extender in paints, as an additive to drilling muds, as an inert filler and mold-release
agent in rubber products, and as a non-stick surface coating on asphalt shingles and
rolled roofing. It is also used in the potassium-argon and argon-argon methods of
dating igneous rocks.

Biotite in sandstone: Core samples of biotitic sandstone from the Apple Creek
Formation, Copper Queen Mine, near Salmon, Idaho. USGS image.
The Other "Fool's Gold"
Biotite has been known to cause excitement in inexperienced gold panners. A few
tiny flakes of biotite swishing in a gold pan can produce bright bronze-colored
reflections in the pan when struck by sunlight. These reflections can fool the
inexperienced panner into thinking that he has found gold. If the panner regains his
composure, removes one of these flakes from the pan and pokes it with a pin, it will
break. First-time panners quickly learn to do some testing before shouting "gold" -

which probably isn't a good idea even when gold is found because it can attract
unwanted visitors to your panning spot.
Small flakes of biotite have also been known to cause excitement when they are
observed in rocks. Their bronze-colored reflections can fool the inexperienced
observer into thinking that tiny flakes of gold are present. Again, the pin test or
a hand lens will usually yield a quick answer.
Contributor: Hobart King
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Chemical Properties

Chemical Formaula

: K(Mg3,Fe)3(AlSi3O10)(OH,F)2


: Molecular Weight = 433.53 gm


Eleme Symb Compou Compou

nt % ol
nd %



Magnesiu 14.02

10.86 % K2O


23.24 % Mg2O

Aluminiu 06.22


11.76 % Al2O3




8.29 %




41.58 % SiO2



03.64 % H2O




1.10 % F

1.10 %

-0.46 %



Empirical Formaula

: KMg2.5Fe+20.5AlSi3O10(OH)1.75F0.25


Granitic rocks. Forms a series with phlogopite.

Has several polytypes (1M, 3T, 2M1). Biotite
is now a group name for phlogopite,
siderophyllite and eastonite.

IMA Status

Not Approved IMA 1998 - Bitote is now the

group name

Physical Properties


: {001} Perfect



: 2.8 - 3.4, Average = 3.09

Dark brown, Greenish brown, Blackish brown,

Yellow, White.


: Transparent to translucent to opaque



: 2.5-3 - Finger Nail-Calcite


: Non-fluorescent


: Vitreous - Pearly


: Gray

Electron Density

Bulk Density (Electron Density)=3.07

: gm/cc
note: Specific Gravity of Biotite =3.10 gm/cc.


Uneven - Flat surfaces (not cleavage)

fractured in an uneven pattern.

PEBiotite = 4.04 barns/electron

U=PEBiotite x relectron= 12.42 barns/cc

Biotite is a very common form of mica. It is named in honor Jean Baptiste Biot
(1774 - 1862), a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who
researched the mica minerals for their optical properties. Because of Biotite's
abundance, its presence is usually lacking in collections except for it being
an accessory mineral to other minerals. Biotite can come in enormous crystal
sheets that can weigh several hundred pounds. Thin sheets can be peeled off as
layers, and the thinner a layer is peeled the greater its transparency becomes.
In 1998, the IMA removed the status of Biotite as an individual mineral species,
and instead declared it as a group name for the following individual
members: Phlogopite, Annite, Siderophyllite, and Eastonite. However, mineral
collectors still refer to Biotite by its traditional name and rarely make a distinction
among its members except for Phlogopite.
Biotite is very hard to clean because if washed it will absorb water internally and
start to break apart. The best way to wash Biotite and other Micas is with a dry
electric toothbrush.

The classic formula for Biotite is:

The group formula including all member minerals:
Individual members are:
Phlogopite: KMg3AlSi3O10)(F,OH)2
Siderophyllite: KFe2+2Al(AlSi2O10)(OH)2

Eastonite: KMg2Al(AlSi2O10)(OH)2
Annite: KFe2+3AlSi3O10(OH)2
Fluorannite: KFe2+3AlSi3O10)F2
Tetraferriannite: K(Fe2+3Mg)(Fe3+,Al)Si3O10)(OH)2

Basic fluoro potassium, magnesium, iron aluminum silicate


Black, dark brown, dark green, reddish black. Individual group

member minerals such as Phlogopiteand Eastonite can be in
lighter colors.




2.5 - 3

Crystal System


3D Crystal Atlas
(Click for
animated model)
Crystal Forms
Crystals are in thick flakes, micaceous masses and groupings,
and Aggregates and in tabular, foliated, flaky, and scalyforms. Crystals may also
be elongated with one dimension flat, or stubby triangular or
hexagonally shaped crystals. Also forms in prismatic barrelshaped or tapered pyramid-shaped crystals composed of dense
parallel plates, and as rounded nodules of dense crystals.

Translucent to opaque. Thin flakes will always be translucent if

held up to the light.

Specific Gravity 2.8 - 3.4








Sectile, elastic

Other ID Marks

Tendency for small pieces or flakes or peel off.

In Group

Silicates; Phyllosilicates; Mica Group


Flaky habit, crystals, sectility, and mode of occurence.


Biotite is a common rock-forming mineral, and is especially

noted in metamorphic rocks such as schistand gneiss. It is also
found in igneous rock such as granites and rhyolites. Biotite is
also the primary mica in rare earth pegmatites.

Rock Type

Igneous, Metamorphic

Popularity (1-4) 2
Prevalence (13)

Demand (1-3)

Slates are dense and fine grained rock. The colour of slates are generally gray, red,
brown and green ranging from dark to light. It is produced by the compression of
clays, shale, and various other rocks developing a characteristic cleavage consisting
sericite and quartz with biotite, chlorite, and hematite as principal accessories.
In other words slates are generally formed by low-grade regional metamorphism of
pelithic sediments or fine-grained tuffs. It can be associated with other
metamorphic sedimentary or volcanic rocks.
Slates are or argillaceous origin of metamorphic rocks and can also be defined as a
layered stone. Fossils may be sometimes preserved in slate but are invariably
distorted. Folds are often apparent in the field. Too fine-grained are tough to
distinguished with the naked eye.

Physical Properties of Slate

Physically these are Metamorphic-Argillaceous rocks, which has developed a wellmarked splittable cleavages with or without developed recrystallization &
spots/knots of minerals like garnet, pyrite, andulasite, etc. They are normally fine to
medium grained, moderately hard & compact, less homogeneous with varying
textures & shades. It has an ability to split into thin layers along the plane of
cleavages due to flattened & elongated minerals along the plane of cleavage.

3.0 to 4.0 on Moh's



2.6 to 2.8 Kg/cm3

Modulus of

22 to 34 N/mm2


24 to 36 N/mm2

Specific Gravity

2.65 to 2.80


Low to very low

Water Absorption

1.5 to 2%

Weather Impact



0.4 to 0.7%

Chemical Properties of Slate

Chemically they are Multi-Mineral, metamorphic argilaceous rocks made of an
aggregate of minerals and colloidal substances. Essentially mineral composition
includes quartz, mica, chlorite, sericite & oxides of iron with occasional spots/knots
of minerals like garnet, pyrite, andulasite, etc.


Iron (Fe2O3)


Alumina (Al2O3)

15 to 20%

Soda (Na2O) & Potash (K2O)


Lime (CaO)


Magnesia (MgO)




Loss On Ignition (LOI)


It is fairly resistant to acids and staining.

Uses of Slate


Stepping stone in garden

Combined with other materials gives quality and attractiveness

Square blocks for a break band in section of granite paving

Decorative clocks and thermameters

Picture frame, mirrors, coasters, trivets, switch plates, candle holders.

Engraved and painted in jewellery like earrings and pins.

Ocurrances of Slate

Corris, Gwynedd
Llangollen, Clwyd
Neath, Mid Glamorgan
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd
Clynderfen, Dyfed


Khanyara slate quarries are

situated 11 to 15 Km. North East
of Dharamshala, Distt. Kangra
(Himachal Pradesh)
Chamba district Himachal Pradesh

What is Slate?
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated metamorphic rock that is created by the alteration
of shale or mudstone by low-grade regional metamorphism. It is popular for a wide
variety of uses such as roofing, flooring, and flagging because of its durability and
attractive appearance.
Composition of Slate
Slate is composed mainly of clay minerals or micas, depending upon the degree of
metamorphism to which it has been subjected. The original clay minerals in shale
alter to micas with increasing levels of heat and pressure. Slate can also contain
abundant quartz and small amounts of feldspar, calcite, pyrite, hematite, and
other minerals.

Slate roof: Most of the slate mined throughout the world is used to produce roofing
slates. Slate performs well in this application because it can be cut into thin sheets,
absorbs minimal moisture, and stands up well in contact with freezing water. A
disadvantage is the cost of the slate and its installation in comparison with other
roofing materials. As a result, in new construction slate is mainly confined to highend projects and prestige architecture. Image iStockphoto / Iain Sarjeant.
Color of Slate
Most slates are gray in color and range in a continuum of shades from light to dark
gray. Slate also occurs in shades of green, red, black, purple, and brown. The color
of slate is often determined by the amount and type of iron and organic material
that are present in the rock.

Rock & Mineral Kits: Get a rock, mineral, or fossil kit to learn more about Earth
How Does Slate Form?

The tectonic environment for producing slate is usually a former sedimentary basin
that becomes involved in a convergent plate boundary. Shales and mudstones in
that basin are compressed by horizontal forces with minor heating. These forces and
heat modify the clay minerals in the shale and mudstone. Foliation develops at right
angles to the compressive forces of the convergent plate boundary to yield a
vertical foliation that usually crosses the bedding planes that existed in the shale.

School slate: School slate used for writing practice and arithmetic. Students wrote
on the slate with a "pencil" made from slate, soapstone, or clay. These slates were
widely used until the late 1800s, when wood-case pencils were easily produced and
the price of paper became affordable. Image iStockphoto / Bruce Lonngren.
Uses of the Word "Slate"
The word "slate" has not been used consistently over time and in some industries.
Today most geologists are careful not to use the word "slate" when talking about
"shale." However, in the past the word slate was often used freely in reference for
This confusion of terms partially arises from the fact that shale is progressively
converted into slate. Imagine driving your car eastwards in Pennsylvania through
areas of increasing metamorphism, starting where the rock is definitely "shale" and
stopping to examine rock at each outcrop. You will have a difficult time deciding
where on that route "shale" has been converted into "slate." It can be difficult to
pick up a rock and apply the proper name where the rocks have been lightly
In the coal mining industry of the Appalachian Basin, the word "slate" is still used
by many miners in reference to the shale that forms the roof and floor of a mine,
and for fragments of shale that are separated from the coal in preparation plants.
Experienced miners train newer miners, and archaic language is passed along.
In the 1800s, elementary school students used a small piece of slate mounted in a
wooden frame for writing practice and arithmetic problems. Writing was done with a

small pencil made of slate, soapstone, or clay. The slate could be wiped clean with a
soft cloth. Small slates were also used in schools and businesses to list daily events,
schedules, menus, prices, and other notices. Today, over 150 years after writing
slates started to disappear from schools, the word "slate" is still used in phrases
such as "clean slate," "wipe the slate clean," "slated for today," "put it on the slate"
and more.

Slate siding: Slate is sometimes used as facing stone on building exteriors. Image
iStockphoto / John Bloor.
Slaty Cleavage
Foliation in slate is caused by the parallel orientation of platy minerals in the rock,
such as microscopic grains of clay minerals and mica. These parallel mineral grain
alignments give the rock an ability to break smoothly along planes of foliation.
People exploit this property of slate to produce thin sheets of slate that are used in
construction projects and manufacturing.

Slate tile flooring: Slate is a durable rock that is suitable for use as flooring, stair
treads, sidewalk slabs, and patio stone. It is also produced in a variety of colors that

allow it to be incorporated into a variety of design projects. Shown above are multicolor flooring tiles. Image iStockphoto / Chad Truemper.
Uses of Slate
Most of the slate mined throughout the world is used to produce roofing slates.
Slate performs well in this application because it can be cut into thin sheets,
absorbs minimal moisture, and stands up well in contact with freezing water. A
disadvantage is the cost of the slate and its installation in comparison with other
roofing materials. As a result, in new construction slate is mainly confined to highend projects and prestige architecture.
Slate is also used for interior flooring, exterior paving, dimension stone, and
decorative aggregate. Small pieces of slate are also used to make turkey calls. The
photos on this page document several uses of slate. Historically slate has been used
for chalkboards, student writing slates, billiard tables, cemetery markers,
whetstones, and table tops. Because it is a good electrical insulator, it was also
used for early electric panels and switch boxes

What is Obsidian?
Obsidian is an igneous rock that forms when molten rock material cools so rapidly
that atoms are unable to arrange themselves into a crystalline structure. It is an
amorphous material known as a "mineraloid." The result is a volcanic glass with a
smooth uniform texture that breaks with a conchoidal fracture (see photo).

Where Does Obsidian Form?

Obsidian is usually an extrusive rock - one that solidifies above Earth's surface.
However, it can form in a variety of cooling environments:

along the edges of a lava flow (extrusive)

along the edges of a volcanic dome (extrusive)

around the edges of a sill or a dike (intrusive)

where lava contacts water (extrusive)

where lava cools while airborne (extrusive)

Types of Obsidian: The specimens shown above are from Glass Butte
rockhounding site in central Oregon. It shows the diversity of obsidian types that
can be found in a small geographic area. Clockwise from upper left are: double flow
obsidian, rainbow obsidian, black obsidian, pumpkin obsidian, mahogany obsidian,
gold sheen obsidian, and the piece in the center is gold sheen. The nice photo
above is from the Glass Butte Rockhounding Site page on the Deschutes National
Forest website.

Mahogany obsidian: A tumble-polished specimen of "mahogany obsidian." Image

iStockphoto / Arpad Benedek.

What Color is Obsidian?

Obsidian: A baroque
cabochon of
iridescent "rainbow
Black is the most common color of obsidian. However, it can also be brown, tan, or
green. Rarely, obsidian can be blue, red, orange, or yellow. The colors are thought to
be caused mainly by trace elements or inclusions.
Occasionally two colors of obsidian will be swirled together in a single specimen.
The most common color combination is black and brown obsidian swirled together that's called "mahogany obsidian" (see photo).
As a "glass," obsidian is chemically unstable. With the passage of time, some
obsidian begins to crystallize. This process does not happen at a uniform rate
throughout the rock. Instead it begins at various locations within the rock. At these
locations, the crystallization process forms radial clusters of white or gray
cristobalite crystals within the obsidian. When cut and polished, these specimens
are referred to as "snowflake obsidian" (see photos).
Rarely, obsidian has an iridescent or metallic "sheen" caused by light reflecting from
minute inclusions of mineral crystals, rock debris, or gas. These colored specimens
are known as "rainbow obsidian," "golden obsidian," or "silver obsidian," depending
upon the color of the sheen or iridescence. These specimens are very desirable for
the manufacture of jewelry.

Snowflake obsidian: A tumble-polished specimen of "snowflake obsidian." Image

iStockphoto / Martin Novak.
What is the Composition of Obsidian?
Most obsidians have a composition similar to rhyolite andgranite. Granites and
rhyolites can form from the same magma as obsidian and are often geographically
associated with the obsidian.
Rarely, volcanic glasses are found with a composition similar to basalt and gabbro.
These glassy rocks are named "tachylyte."
Are There Other Glassy Igneous Rocks?
Pumice, scoria, and tachylyte are other volcanic glasses formed by rapid cooling.
Pumice and scoria differ from obsidian by having abundant vesicles - cavities in the
rock produced when gas bubbles were trapped in a solidifying melt. Tachylyte differs
in composition - it has a composition similar to basalt and gabbro.

Obsidian outcrop: Obsidian along the edge of a lava flow in central Oregon. Image
iStockphoto / Phil Augustavo.

Obsidian knife blade: A knife blade manufactured from mahogany obsidian. The
craftsman who made this blade had a very high skill level and was able to produce a
serrated edge. Image iStockphoto / Al Braunworth.
Occurrence of Obsidian
Obsidian is found in many locations worldwide. It is confined to areas of geologically
recent volcanic activity. Obsidian older than a few million years is rare because the
glassy rock is rapidly destroyed or altered by weathering, heat, or other processes.
Significant deposits of obsidian are found in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Ecuador,
Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New
Zealand, Peru, Russia, United States, and many other locations.
In the United States it is not found east of the Mississippi River, as there is no
geologically recent volcanic activity there. In the western US it is found at many
locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington,
and Wyoming. Most obsidian used in the jewelry trade is produced in the United

Obsidian spear point: A spear point fashioned from opaque black obsidian. Image
iStockphoto / Charles Butzin.

Rock & Mineral Kits: Get a rock, mineral, or fossil kit to learn more about Earth
Uses of Obsidian as a Cutting Tool
The conchoidal fracture of obsidian causes it to break into pieces with curved
surfaces. This type of fracturing can produce rock fragments with very sharp edges.
These sharp fragments may have prompted the first use of obsidian by people.
The first use of obsidian by people probably occurred when a sharp piece of
obsidian was used as a cutting tool. People then discovered how to skillfully break
the obsidian to produce cutting tools in a variety of shapes. Obsidian was used to
make knives, arrowheads, spear points, scrapers, and many other weapons and
Once these discoveries were made, obsidian quickly became the raw material of
preference for producing almost any sharp object. The easy-to-recognize rock
became one of the first targets of organized "mining." It is probably a safe bet that
all natural obsidian outcrops that are known today were discovered and utilized by
ancient people.

Apache tears: "Apache Tears" is a name used for small obsidian nodules of about
one inch or less that can be found in volcanic areas of the southwestern United
States. Their name comes from a Native American legend. During a battle between
Apaches and the U.S. Cavalry in 1870, the outnumbered Apaches, facing defeat,
rode their horses over a cliff rather than allow themselves to be killed by their
enemy. Upon hearing the story of the battle, the tears of their family members
turned to stone when they hit the ground. Those stones are now found as the black
obsidian nodules. People who do rock tumbling often polish Apache Tears. They are
difficult to polish because the obsidian chips and bruises easily. Success occurs
when they are cushioned during the tumbling with smaller pieces of rough or small
ceramic media.
Stone Age Manufacturing and Trade
The manufacture of obsidian tools by humans dates back to the Stone Age. At some
locations, tons of obsidian flakes reveal the presence of ancient "factories." Some of
these sites have enough waste debris to suggest that many people labored there for
decades producing a variety of obsidian objects. Making arrowheads, spear points,
knife blades, and scrapers from obsidian, chert, or flint might have been the
world's first "manufacturing industry."
Obsidian was so valued for these uses that ancient people mined, transported, and
traded obsidian and obsidian objects over distances of up to a thousand miles.
Archaeologists have been able to document the geography of this trade by
matching the characteristics of obsidian in outcrops with the characteristics of
obsidian in cutting tools. A study done by the Idaho National Laboratory used
composition studies by X-ray fluorescence to identify the source outcrops of
obsidian artifacts and map their use across the western United States.
Obsidian in Modern Surgery
Although using a rock as a cutting tool might sound like "stone age equipment,"
obsidian continues to play an important role in modern surgery. Obsidian can be

used to produce a cutting edge that is thinner and sharper than the best surgical
steel. Today, thin blades of obsidian are placed in surgical scalpels used for some of
the most precise surgery. In controlled studies, the performance of obsidian blades
was equal to or superior to the performance of surgical steel.

Obsidian jewelry: Mahogany obsidian and snowflake obsidian cabochons set in

sterling silver pendants.

Obsidian for opal triplets: A thin piece of obsidian is often used as a "backing"
material for opal doublets and triplets. The black obsidian adds stability to the opal
and provides a dark background color that contrasts with the opal's fire.
Uses of Obsidian in Jewelry
Obsidian is a popular gemstone. It is often cut into beads and cabochons or used
to manufacture tumbled stones. Obsidian is sometimes faceted and polished into
highly reflective beads. Some transparent specimens are faceted to produce
interesting gems.
The use of obsidian in jewelry can be limited by its durability. It has a hardness of
about 5.5 which makes it easy to scratch. It also lacks toughness and is easily
broken or chipped upon impact. These durability concerns make obsidian an
inappropriate stone for rings and bracelets. It is best suited for use in low-impact
pieces such as earrings, brooches, and pendants.
Obsidian is also used in making opal doublets and opal triplets. Thin slices or
chips of opal are glued to a thin slice of obsidian to make a composite stone. The
black obsidian provides an inexpensive and color-contrasting background that
makes opal's colorful fire much more obvious. It also adds mass and stability to the
opal that facilitates cutting it into a gem.

Other Uses of Obsidian

Freshly broken pieces of obsidian have a very high luster. Ancient people noticed
that they could see a reflection in obsidian and used it as a mirror. Later, pieces of
obsidian were ground flat and highly polished to improve their reflective abilities.
Obsidian's hardness of 5.5 makes it relatively easy to carve. Artists have used
obsidian to make masks, small sculptures, and figurines for thousands of years.


Chemistry: SiO2; Mostly silicon dioxide with large amounts of


Class: Mineraloids

Uses: As a semiprecious stone and ornamental stone for carvings.

Physical Properties of Obsidian


Obsidian is the result of volcanic lava coming in contact with water. Often the lava
pours into a lake or ocean and is cooled quickly. This process produces a glassy
texture in the resulting rock. Iron and magnesium give the obsidian a dark green to
black color. Obsidian has been used by ancient people as a cutting tool, for
weapons, and for ceremonial purposes and is sometimes found by archaeologists in
Obsidian has several varieties. Obsidian can contain small bubbles of air that are
aligned along layers created as the molten rock was flowing just before being
cooled. These bubbles can produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen,
known as Sheen Obsidian or a rainbow sheen called Rainbow Obsidian. Inclusions of
small, white, radially clustered crystals of cristobalite in the black glass produce a
blotchy or snowflake pattern producing Snowflake Obsidian. Small nuggets of

obsidian that have been naturally rounded and smoothed by wind and water are
called Apache Tears.
Often confused with smoky quartz, obsidian has similar properties
to quartz because of a similar chemistry. However, many properties dependant on
a crystal structure are altered or absent in obsidian because it lacks any crystal
structure of its own. The piezoelectric and optical properties in quartz are thus
absent in obsidian. Smoky quartz usually has a splotchy or zoned distribution to its
color while Obsidian's color is more uniformly distributed.

Color is dark green to dark brown and black, also can show sheens of gold or
green, yellow, blue and/or purple coloration. Sometimes with white inclusions
(Snowflake Obsidian).

Luster is vitreous.

Transparency: Obsidian is translucent in any stone of appreciable size.

Crystal System does not apply because obsidian is amorphous.

Habits include compact nodules or as massive layers between other volcanic


Fracture is conchoidal.

Hardness is 5 - 5.5 (much softer than quartz).

Specific Gravity is approximately 2.6 (average)

Streak is white.

Other Characteristics: Generally lacks open voids or large bubbles like

other volcanic rocks.

Notable Occurrences include Italy; Mexico; Scotland; Arizona, Colorado,

Texas, Utah and Idaho, USA, as well as the Cascade Volcanic Mountain range
and its associated lava beds, which stretches from Northern California into
Washington state.

Best Field Indicators are color, fracture, flow bubbles, softness, association
with other volcanic rocks and lack of crystal faces.

Sedimentary rocks can be categorized into three groups based on sediment type.
Most sedimentary rocks are formed by the lithification ofweathered rock debris
that has been physically transported and deposited. During the transport process,
the particles that make up these rocks often become rounded due to abrasion or
can become highly sorted. Examples of this type of sedimentary rock
include conglomerate andsandstone. Scientists sometimes call this general
group of sedimentary rocks clastic. The remaining types of sedimentary rocks are

created either from chemical precipitation and crystallization, or by the lithification

of once living organic matter. We identify these sedimentary rocks as being nonclastic.

Figure 10f-1: Conglomerate.

Figure 10f-2: Sandstone.

All sedimentary rocks are lithified into some collective mass. Lithification is any
process that turns raw rock sediment into consolidated sedimentary rock. The

process of lithification usually produces identifiable layering in these type of rocks

(Figure 10f-3). Lithification can occur by way of:

Drying and compaction.

Oxidation of iron and aluminum.

Precipitation of calcium and silica.

Figure 10f-3: Dipping sedimentary layers of rock, Rocky Mountains, Canada.

The classification of clastic sedimentary rocks is based on the particle types found
in the rock. Some types of clastic sedimentary rocks are composed of weathered
rock material like gravel, sand, silt, and clay. Others can be constructed from the
break up and deposition of shells, coral and other marine organisms by wave-action
and ocean currents. Table 10f-1 describes some of the main types of clastic
sedimentary rocks.
Table 10f-1: Clastic sedimentary rocks.
Name of Rock

Fragment Type

Breccia (Image Lin Coarse Fragments of

Angular Gravel and Rocks

Coarse Fragments of

Rounded Gravel and Rocks


Sand Sized Particles that are

90% Quartz


Sandstone composed of
25% Feldspar Grains


Clay Particles


Silt Particles


Mixture of Clay and Silt


Figure 10f-4: Arkose.

Mixture of Shells, Coral, and Other

Marine Skeletons

Figure 10f-5: Shale.

Figure 10f-6: Siltstone.

Figure 10f-7: Limestone.

Earlier it was suggested that there were two types of non-clastic sedimentary rocks.
One group forms through the chemical precipitation and crystallization of elements
and compounds from solution. Elements such as calcium, sodium, potassium, and
magnesium are commonly released into the environment through a variety
of chemical weathering processes. These elements can then become dissolved
into aqueous solutions that are often transported via runoff, stream flow,
or groundwater flow. If this solution enters a basin environment
where evaporation exceedsprecipitation and in-flow,
sedimentary evaporites can form because of the loss of water from the solution.
The oceans are almost saturated with dissolved calcium carbonate. This
compound originates from the shells of a variety of marine organisms that use it for
the construction of shells and other hard body parts. Because these organisms are
surrounded in a solution, some of the calcium carbonate dissolves into the ocean
waters. Under the right circumstances the dissolved calcium carbonate can
precipitate out forming chemically created limestone deposits. The formation
of dolomite involves the chemical modification of limestone deposits by a
magnesium rich solution.

Figure 10f-8: Dolomite.

The following table describes some of the common forms of chemical precipitated
sedimentary rocks.
Table 10f-2: Sedimentary rocks formed as chemical precipitates.
Name of Rock

Precipitate Type


Sodium and Chlorine


Calcium, Sulfur, and Oxygen






Calcium Carbonate


Calcium Magnesium Carbonate

Figure 10f-9: Halite.

Figure 10f-10: Gypsum.

Several types of sedimentary rocks are formed from the lithification of once living
organisms. Limestone deposits can be formed by the direct lithification of coral
reefs, marine organism shells, or marine organism skeletons. Chalk is a particular
variety of limestone that is composed of the skeletons of marine microorganisms
like forminifera. Coal and lignite are the lithified remains of plants.

Figure 10f-11: Chalk.

Figure 10f-12: Coal.

Sedimentary rocks may be formed through a process called lithification, which is the
accumulation and compaction of sedimentary materials into solid rocks.
Transportation through water systems such as rivers and oceans may cause clay,
silt and other sedimentary materials to accumulate and form into rocks such as
sandstone and shale. These rocks typically have smooth and rounded edges due to
erosion from constant underwater motion.

Sedimentary rocks may be formed through the chemical dissolving and reforming of
materials in rocks. Water sources that have a higher rate of evaporation than
precipitation may facilitate the accumulation of sedimentary material, creating an
environment in which the formation of new rocks becomes possible. Chemical
weathering may cause materials such as calcium carbonate to accumulate and form
new rocks such as limestone. Calcium carbonate is comprised of organic material,
such as shells and coral, that have been broken down and dispersed in water
sources and allowed to settle. The chemical properties of these rocks may be
altered to form new rocks, such as dolomite, which is the result of limestone
exposed to water containing magnesium.
Sedimentary rocks are classified by their genesis: how they formed. All
sedimentary rocks are made from the components of other, pre-existing rocks, that
have been broken down, transported, and reassembled into new rocks. The
classification of the rock gives information about this history, telling others about its
characteristics by its very name.
Rocks can be disintegrated into their chemical components, dissolved by runoff
water, and eventually deposited into a still water body. If the chemicals are
precipitated by biological means (either directly by the organism, or indirectly by
the organism modifying the environment), the resulting crystalline materials
are biogenic sedimentary rocks. If the chemicals are precipitated by
physicochemical processes (not biologically driven processes), the resulting
crystalline materials are chemical sedimentary rocks.
Alternately, rocks can be broken down into fragments (clasts), then transported as
individual pieces by wind, water, ice, or gravity-driven processes (landslides!) until
eventual deposition. Some combination of burial, compaction, cementation, or
crystallization lithifies these fragments into new sedimentary rocks. If the source
rock is decomposed into clasts by weathering, the result is a siliciclastic rock. If
the source rock is disintegrated into clasts by other processes, the resulting rock is
classified by the process of clast production. For example, fragments produced by
explosive igneous activity result in pyroclastic rocks, while those created by
collapse or tectonism (cavern collapse!) arecataclastic rocks.
Each of these classifications is then subdivided into more categories related to the
source material, transportation history, and composition.
Biogenic Rocks
Biogenic rocks are subdivided by the primary chemical components dissolved and
precipitated. The primary type are chert (a silicate rock), phosphate rocks,
andcarbonates (formed from calcium carbonate). Carbonates are usually
classified by either the Folk or Dunham classification schemes based on allochem
and orthochem composition and texture. Allochem are pre-existing components of
any origin that are held together by the orthochem cement (sparite) or crystallized
matrix (micrite).
Chemical Rocks
Chemical rocks are subdivided by the means of precipitation.

Layered evaporites are minerals precipitated from solution during evaporation,

forming a distinct mineralogical sequence dependent on the precipitation order.
Classification is imperfect. For example, banded iron formations are distinctly
layered rocks formed when iron was precipitating out of the oceans. This
precipitation was triggered by changes in ocean oxidation, as oxygen was a waste
product of stromatolites. In this sequence of events, is a banded iron formation a
biogenic rock (as iron was precipitated due to environmental changes caused by a
living organism), or is the causation so indirectly tied to biological processes that
the final precipitate is better classified as a chemical rock?
Siliciclastic Rocks
Siliciclastic rocks are initially subdivided by clast size. As larger fragments require
more energy to transport than smaller fragments, this instantaneously gives
information about rocks that were deposited in high or low energy environments, or
were transported short or long distances from the source material. Subdivisions
within these classifications often touch on the composition of the rocks, giving hints
to the source material and depositional environments that modified the original
Rocks dominated by dominated by fragments greater than 2 millimeters (>2mm)
are immediately subdivided by clast geometry. If the fragments are primarily
angular, it is abreccia. If the fragments are any other geometry (subangular,
subrounded, or rounded), it is a conglomerate. Within each of these categories,
rocks are then classified by composition, transportation distance, and inferred
origin. Looking at the clasts that compose the rocks, oligomictic rocks are
composed of fragments from only a few varieties of rocks while polymictic rocks
are composed of fragments from a great variety of rocks. If a rock is composed of
clasts mostly from outside the depositional basin, it isextraformational, while if
the clasts originate from inside the depositional basin, it isintraformational.
Finally, context and textures within the rock may give clues as to the potential origin
of the rock. If so, it can be classified as a tillite, the produce of melting glaciers, as
a flow deposit, where fragments were transported by landslide, or any of a variety
of other special names.
Rocks composed of sand-sized grains, less than 2 millimeters but greater than
1/16th of a millimeter (1/16-2mm), are unsurprisingly sandstones. These are
subdivided by the percentage of the rock that is fine-grained matrix versus largergrained framework, and by the mineral composition of the larger grains. If the
matrix is less than or equal to 15% of the total rock (15%), it is an arenite. If the
matrix is greater than 15% (>15%), it is awacke.1 The mineral composition is
broken down by percentage of quartz, feldspar, or lithic (intact rock fragment)
materials, where the boundaries between rock names varies dependent on if it is an
arenite or a wacke.
In the realm of very tiny grains, less than 1/16th of a millimeter (<1/16mm),
aremudrocks. The percentage of clay-sized components determine the base name.
On this scale, its more practically feasible to categorize by effective texture: if the
rock feels gritty (up to a third clay, <33%), it is siltstone; if it feels loamy (one to

two-thirds clay, 33-66%), it is mudstone; and if it feels slick or slimy (more than
two-thirds clay, >66%), it isclaystone. These classifications are enhanced by
naming true colour (not surface staining), which can be indicative of both mineral
composition and formation environment. Additional name classifications require
laboratory analysis, adding on chemical composition, detrital mineralogy, or
lithology of associated sedimentary rocks.
Different types of coal have different uses.

Steam coal - also known as thermal coal - is mainly used in power generation.

Coking coal - also known as metallurgical coal - is mainly used in steel


Other important users of coal include alumina refineries, paper manufacturers, and
the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Several chemical products can be
produced from the by-products of coal. Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture
of chemicals, such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene. Ammonia gas
recovered from coke ovens is used to manufacture ammonia salts, nitric acid and
agricultural fertilisers. Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products
as components: soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, such as rayon and
Coal is also an essential ingredient in the production of specialist products:

Activated carbon - used in filters for water and air purification and in kidney
dialysis machines.

Carbon fibre - an extremely strong but light weight reinforcement material

used in construction, mountain bikes and tennis rackets.

Silicon metal - used to produce silicones and silanes, which are in turn used
to make lubricants, water repellents, resins, cosmetics, hair shampoos and


Coal is used as fuel for power plants generating electricity, when heating structures and
in the steel manufacturing process. Many important substances are also made from the
by-products of burning coal, including those used in the chemical, paper, construction
and pharmaceutical industries.


What are the uses of coal?

Why is wind power good?

Why is coal necessary to generate electricity?


Coal is primarily used in modern times to boil water and produce steam, which is in turn
used to spin generator turbines for electricity generation. Nearly two-thirds of the coal
recovered is now used in coal-fired power plants around the world. Coal is also used in
the steel manufacturing process, which utilizes coke, a by-product of burning coal.
Some structures and industrial installations still use coal for heating the actual structure,
though these are becoming quite rare. Most modern industrial uses for coal, outside of
electricity production, involve large coal-fired furnaces.
Coal has been used throughout history for heating and cooking with evidence of such
use dating back to Native American times and the Roman Empire. Coal is an abundant
and widespread fossil fuel that is easier to recover and transport than volatile
substances such as natural gas or petroleum products. These characteristics, and the
ease with which deposits were located, helped coal fuel the industrial revolution. The
future of coal is uncertain at the present time because coal is a nonrenewable resource
and concerns surrounding emissions continue to grow.

Characteristics of Sandstone:

A sedimentary rock consisting of sheets of sand, mineral particles, and

binding matrix deposited one atop in water environments and desert

Very porous and water will penetrate it easily.

Brown, red, purple, and pink sandstones are commonly called brownstone.

Available in a variety of surface textures and earth-toned colors.

Weathers best when its end-grain faces the weather (naturally bedded).(Facebedded) stone is subject to greater deterioration.Water damages a facebedded stone by spalling or flaking off entire sheets of sandstone.Also,
freeze/thaw cycles allow water to get into the stone and then freeze and
expand causing some of the top layer to split off.

NOTE: In many 19th century applications, the grain was placed parallel to the
weather side (face-bedded) for aesthetic reasons.This was especially common
around doorways.
Typical Uses
Typical historical uses for sandstone included:

Urban row houses, commercial buildings and churches built from the 1840s
through the early 20th century (this was usually brownstone); often fournd in
Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic areas of the US.

Lighter-colored sandstones were used more frequently by the end of the 19th

Typical current uses for sandstone include:

New sandstone is typically most often used for high quality custom-designed
buildings. Such stone represents 13% of the dimension stone market (Mineral
Information Institute).Also, new sandstone is used for restoration projects if

Problems and Deterioration

Problems may be classified into two broad categories:

Natural or inherent problems based on the characteristics of the material and

the conditions of the exposure, and

Vandalism and human- induced problems.

Although there is some overlap between the two categories, the inherent material
deterioration problems generally occur gradually over long periods of time, at
predictable rates and require appropriate routine or preventive maintenance to
control. Conversely, many human induced problems, (especially vandalism), are
random in occurrence; can produce catastrophic results; are difficult to prevent, and
require emergency action to mitigate. Some human induced problems, however,
such as improper stone use, installations and details can bemitigated with
corrective treatments developed.
Natural and Inherent Problems

Moisture-related problems:May be evident in sandstone as spalling,

erosion, cracking, flaking and deteriorated mortar joints

Weathering:Disintegration of the stone's surface usually caused by erosion,

chemical action, and moisture freezing in the stone.

Exfoliation:Separation and loss of large areas of stone along the bedding

planes usually caused by the stone having been face-bedded

Blind Exfoliation:Separation of stone along bedding planes, but where

layers are still loosely attached behind the surface.It is often caused by
having laid the stone with the bedding planes running parallel with surface of
the wall (face-bedding). Blind exfoliated stone will sound hollow when lightly
tapped with a rubber mallet.

Blistering: Swelling and rupturing of a thin uniform skin caused by air-borne

chemicals reacting with the stone's surface, forming a hard, brittle skin.The
blisters will often pop when touched.

Cracking:Narrow fractures in the stone from 1/16 to 1/2 inch wide.

Detachment:A clean break in the stone often resulting from a sharp impact,
or from stresses concentrated in a small area of stone due to structural

Human-Induced Problems:

Stone laid with its layers parallel to the wall plane (face-bedded) rather than
perpendicular to the wall plane (naturally-bedded):Face-bedded stone is more
prone to deterioration by weathering as entire sheets of stone tend to flake

Painting over a deteriorated stone surface may leadto more serious moisturerelated problems when necessary treatment is deferred.

Applying a hard cement patch over deteriorated surface areas:If an

inappropriate patching mix is used, it may be necessary to paint the entire
stone surface to lessen the visual disparity between the two materials, or
remove the patch.

Some types of schist are used as roofing, in ceramic glazes, in insecticides, as

dimension stones and in potting soil mixes. Schists are metamorphic rocks that are
characterized by thin sheets of minerals.

What are the uses of slate?

What are some of the uses of gypsum?

What are some uses of perlite?

Schists do not have a specific mineral makeup. They are a type of metamorphic
rock based on the structure of the mineral grains. In schists, the minerals form
large, flat grains that are visible to the eye and will peel away in sheets.
They are named for either the main mineral or an unusual mineral in the rock. Some
examples of schists are:

Mica schist

Graphite schist

Talc schist

Chlorite schist

Garnet schist

Tourmaline schist

The mineral content of schist determines its uses. For example:

Talc schist is used in ceramic glazes.

Mica schist can be used to make vermiculite, a common component of

potting soil.

Greenish schist slabs perhaps chlorite schist were found by

archeologists to have been used for roofing in the Bronze Age.