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But then, I get the impression there are a few minerals that even Mineralogists have a hard time understanding how they occur naturally in the earth. Many individuals enjoy rocks and minerals for their form and color without having an in-depth knowledge of their formation.

It takes no chemistry to apply standard test to identify many minerals.

What is a mineral? - Minerals are, naturally occurring, pure, chemical compounds or elements. Example -  Table Salt.  Table salt is a chemical compound, composed of  Sodium and Chloride (NaCl). When found as a sedimentary deposit, salt is a mineral that goes by the name of Halite.

Here is a more acurrate definition of a Mineral.

A mineral is a naturally occurring, pure, solid, chemical compound or element with atoms arranged in an ordered geometric pattern.

Naturally Occurring - not made by humans.

Pure - same chemical throughout, can not be separated into more than one chemical compound.

Solid - Is not a gas, liquid or plasma.

Chemical Compound - The mineral can be expressed as a chemical formula. Example: Quartz contains one Silicon and two Oxygen atoms, SiO2.

Atoms arranged in an ordered geometric pattern - exhibits a definite crystal structure at the molecular level, i.e. cubic, tetrahedron,etc.

A rock is a naturally occurring compacted mass of mineral fragments or particles.

You can enjoy minerals with out knowing chemistry but to understand how minerals form you will need to know a little chemistry.  I had one year of high school Chemistry; there is a lot I do not understand. 

updated 2018

Mineral Articles


Mineral Collecting Basics - What is a Mineral?

What is a mineral Crystal?

What is a crystal?

The crystal form occurs when the individual atoms or molecules of the mineral arranged themselves in a regular pattern. The outward form of a single crystal is essentially a representation of the internal arrangement of the mineral at the atomic level. Crystal forms are influenced by the environments in which they are created. As atoms arrange themselves, layer on layer, the chemical conditions, temperature, pressure and the available space can all effect the final shape of the crystal.

The definition of mineral crystal structure is that, in the solid state, the atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern through the material.

Most of us likely think of a crystal having a geometric form i.e. cubic, hexagonal, etc.  It is rare for crystals to show a nice geometric shape. In nature, most crystals form in mass; with no space for growth, individual crystals may stay very small and intertwine in to a compact structure; as individual crystal faces are not readily viewable, these massive crystalline forms, may not be easily recognized as crystalized.

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green beryle also known as Emerald

The hexagonal geometric shape of this green beryl s a good example of what most people thinrk of as a mineral crystal. Usually, when individuals speak of a “crystal” they are referring to a mineral showing a ‘viewable’ geometric form.