What is a mineral?


Staff member
Jun 3, 2020
A mineral or mineral species is a naturally occurring solid chemical compound. The following properties are required for a material to qualify as a mineral:
  1. Naturally occurring
  2. Inorganic
  3. Solids
  4. Definite chemical composition
  5. Orderly internal structure
The study of minerals is called Mineralogy, and is a branch of Geology. The minerals are distinct from rocks as the later are generally not homogeneous. The rocks are usually composed of several minerals. It could be difficult for beginners to differentiate minerals from monomineralic rocks as both appear homogeneous. However, monomineralic rocks are still an aggregate of same kind of minerals. It can be understood from careful examination of the rocks.

Some materials may not qualify as minerals if they do not meet one or more of the requirements. Some minerals are biogenic (like calcite) or organic compounds (like mellite). They qualify as minerals as they do not occur only in living organisms. The biominerals are a topic of contention among Geologists. If the materials do not have orderly internal structure but possess all other properties, they are called as mineraloids. Opal and Obsidian are mineraloids. If the same chemical compound exhibits multiple crystal structures, then each of them is considered to be an individual mineral. For example, Quartz and Stishovite consist of same compound, silicon dioxide, but varying structures.

Gems are minerals with ornamental value due to their beauty, durability and rarity. The study of gems is called Gemology. Ores are minerals with a high concentration of a certain element, typically a metal. They are of great significance in Economic Geology.

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