Do you know how do you identify minerals? Like an example when you recognize a person, the recognition is based on your knowledge of certain characteristics of that person. Without your being consciously aware of it, your brain is very quickly looking at the person’s height, build, the color of hair, facial characteristics such as the color of eyes, size, and shape of the mouth, and so on.
Similarly, when you wish to identify any mineral, there are a number of properties that you need to look for. Some of these properties can only be examined with the use of a special microscope, and with many minerals, they can only be positively identified in this way.
But there are a lot of minerals that can be identified quite accurately by carefully looking at them with the naked eye or with the aid of a simple magnifying lens (one with a magnification of x 10 is ideal)
When identifying a mineral, you do need to know the features to look for. Each mineral has a different internal make-up which is reflected in its properties. You need to work out the crystal class to which the mineral belongs, its hardness (resistance to scratching), specific gravity, color, luster, a degree of transparency, streak (color of powder when crushed), and sometimes the taste or the smell.
In the case of taste, you should never try to taste the mineral yourself because many are poisonous. You need to be very experienced before using this test.
We have already explained how to establish the crystal form, and this is very important. There is a scale invented by Mohs to test hardness, which indicates by the numbers one to ten the hardness of certain reference minerals.
A mineral of hardness 3 will scratch a mineral of hardness 2 but not one of hardness 4 and so on. The softest mineral is talc and the hardest diamond.
Specific gravity can be estimated if you are experienced, by holding the specimen in your hand and feeling if it is light or heavy for its size. Colour may be affected by impurities and by weathering.
Lustre refers to whether the mineral shines like a metal or looks glassy or early and so on. The transparency refers to how well you can see through the mineral is it completely clear or not? To test the streak, simply scratch the sample on a piece of unglazed porcelain and look at the color of the trace.
Another important feature is the way in which the sample breaks along certain planes or irregularly. These are the properties you look for when you are trying to work out a mineral fingerprint.
You May Like Also:
- When is a Mineral a Gem?
- Which Mineral comes from Animals and Plants?
- What are the Main Mineral Groups?