These three crystals of the mineral quartz show how the same type of mineral can have different colors!
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe
Whatís That Mineral?
Spotting minerals is fun! There are many different types of minerals. Each has a different name and special traits. You can learn more about minerals by looking closely at them to understand their special traits. Pick up a mineral and look for the things listed below!
What shape is your mineral?
Minerals have special crystal shapes. Sometimes the crystals are too small to see or have broken apart so that the mineral does not look like a crystal shape.
What does the surface look like?
Look at what happens when light hits your mineral. The shiny surface of metals is called metallic. Other minerals have a glassy, pearly, or dull surface.
What color is your mineral?
Minerals are all different colors! Sometimes the same mineral can have many colors like quartz in the picture above.
Can you draw with your mineral?
Use your mineral like a crayon on a small white streak plate. If the mineral is soft enough, it will draw on the streak plate. Look at what color your mineral draws. Is it the same color as the mineral in your hand?
How hard is your mineral?
Some minerals are harder than others. Hard minerals are difficult to scratch. Mohs hardness scale is used to describe the hardness of minerals.
How does your mineral break?
Minerals that have cleavage will break with neat flat surfaces in places where the atoms in the mineral are only loosely connected. If your mineral does not have cleavage, it will fracture if you drop it or hit it with a hammer, making a wavy break in the crystal.
Last modified December 18, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.
You might also be interested in:
Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. There are many different types of minerals. All of them are solid and all are made of atoms of elements. Minerals can grow even though they are not alive. Most...more
This is gypsum! It often forms as a layer of the bottom of a salty sea. Sometimes it forms in sandy areas like deserts and little sand grains are trapped between the gypsum crystals. This makes the crystals...more
This is calcite, the same mineral that makes the clam shells that you find on the beach! Perfect crystals of calcite allow you to do a special magic trick!...more
Whatís that on your chips? Itís a mineral called halite! Halite is salt. Take a close look at grains of salt. Donít they look like mineral crystals? The sure way to tell of a mineral is halite is to taste...more
This mineral is called hematite. It is like a red crayon! Draw with it on a white streak plate and it will make a red line. Hematite is used to give red paint its color. ...more
This mineral is called quartz! Sometimes it looks white like milk but usually it looks clear like glass, sometimes with a little pink or gray tinge of color. You can find crystals of quartz in many different...more
Mica minerals make some rocks sparkle! Look for them in your igneous and metamorphic rocks. Do they make your rocks sparkle? They break into flat plates because they have cleavage. ...more