Mineral is a naturally occurring chemical compound. Most often, they are crystalline and abiogenic in origin. A mineral is different from a rock, which can be an aggregate of minerals or non-minerals and does not have one specific chemical composition, as a mineral does. The exact definition of a mineral is under debate, especially with respect to the requirement that a valid species are ogenic, and to a lesser extent with regard to it having an ordered atomic structure.
The study of minerals is called mineralogy. There are over 5,300 known mineral species; over 5,070 of these have been approved by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA). The silicate minerals compose over 90% of the Earth's crust. The diversity and abundance of mineral species are controlled by the Earth's chemistry. Silicon and oxygen constitute approximately 75% of the Earth's crust, which translates directly into the predominance of silicate minerals.

Minerals are distinguished by various chemical and physical properties. Differences in chemical composition and crystal structure distinguish the various species, which were determined by the mineral's geological environment when formed. Changes in the temperature, pressure, or bulk composition of a rock mass cause changes in its minerals.

Minerals can be described by their various physical properties, which are related to their chemical structure and composition. Common distinguishing characteristics include crystal structure and habit, hardness, lustre, diaphaneity, colour, streak, tenacity, cleavage, fracture, parting, and specific gravity. More specific tests for describing minerals include magnetism, taste or smell, radioactivity and reaction to acid.

Minerals are classified by key chemical constituents; the two dominant systems are the Dana classification and the Strunz classification. The silicate class of minerals is subdivided into six subclasses by the degree of polymerization in the chemical structure. All silicate minerals have a base unit of a [SiO4]4− silica tetrahedron—that is, a silicon cation coordinated by four oxygen anions, which gives the shape of a tetrahedron. These tetrahedra can be polymerized to give the subclasses: orthosilicates (no polymerization, thus single tetrahedra), disilicates (two tetrahedra bonded together), cyclosilicates (rings of tetrahedra), inosilicates (chains of tetrahedra), phyllosilicates (sheets of tetrahedra), and tectosilicates (three-dimensional network of tetrahedra). Other important mineral groups include the native elements, sulfides, oxides, halides, carbonates, sulfates, and phosphates.


The general definition of a mineral encompasses the following criteria:

  1. Naturally occurring
  2. Stable at room temperature
  3. Represented by a chemical formula
  4. Usually abiogenic (not resulting from the activity of living organisms)
  5. Ordered atomic arrangement

The first three general characteristics are less debated than the last two. The first criterion means that a mineral has to form by a natural process, which excludes anthropogenic compounds. Stability at room temperature, in the simplest sense, is synonymous to the mineral being solid. More specifically, a compound has to be stable or metastable at 25 °C. Classical examples of exceptions to this rule include native mercury, which crystallizes at −39 °C, and water ice, which is solid only below 0 °C; as these two minerals were described prior to 1959, they were grandfathered by the International Mineralogical Association (IMA). Modern advances have included extensive study of liquid crystals, which also extensively involve mineralogy. Minerals are chemical compounds, and as such they can be described by fixed or a variable formula. Many mineral groups and species are composed of a solid solution; pure substances are not usually found because of contamination or chemical substitution. For example, the olivine group is described by the variable formula (Mg, Fe)2SiO4, which is a solid solution of two end-member species, magnesium-rich forsterite and iron-rich fayalite, which are described by a fixed chemical formula. Mineral species themselves could have a variable compositions, such as the sulfide mackinawite, (Fe, Ni)9S8, which is mostly a ferrous sulfide, but has a very significant nickel impurity that is reflected in its formula.

The requirement that a valid mineral species are abiogenic has also been described as similar to being inorganic; however, this criterion is imprecise and organic compounds have been assigned a separate classification branch. Finally, the requirement of an ordered atomic arrangement is usually synonymous with crystallinity; however, crystals are also periodic, so the broader criterion is used instead. An ordered atomic arrangement gives rise to a variety of macroscopic physical properties, such as crystal form, hardness, and cleavage. There have been several recent proposals to amend the definition to consider biogenic or amorphous substances as minerals. The formal definition of a mineral approved by the IMA in 1995:

"A mineral is an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes."

In addition, biogenic substances were explicitly excluded:

"Biogenic substances are chemical compounds produced entirely by biological processes without a geological component (e.g., urinary calculi, oxalate crystals in plant tissues, shells of marine molluscs, etc.) and are not regarded as minerals. However, if geological processes were involved in the genesis of the compound, then the product can be accepted as a mineral."

Fake minerals

The fake minerals are minerals (or gems, that is to say outstanding minerals) not natural, man-made. This can be a natural mineral transformed by man into another, or an entirely artificial mineral. Also referred to as false to the synonyms. In short, counterfeiting may be partial (sample processed) or total (sample created by humans) or cover the name given to the sample. They have always existed, their marketing is growing very rapidly. There are now numerous examples of fakes in mineralogy and gemology. If there are criteria for authentication of minerals, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between fake and genuine ones. Fake samples are sold for real deception, but when the infringement is announced or found, it may have a financial interest, decorative or teaching for the buyer.

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