Mineral Identification

Mineral identification can be a complex process.

Often not only hand samples are identified, but also thin sections are studied under microscope and chemical analysis may be made in laboratories.

For a home collection though, studying a hand sample is enough.

1. Check crystal habit and grain shape. Does this mineral have a massive habit or does it grow crystals? Can you identify what shape of crystals? Have a close look with a hand lens or a simple microscope.

2. Check the mineral colour, transparency, streak and lustre. If you haven't got a scratch board (streak plate), crush a bit of mineral powder onto a white paper and see what colour it is.

3. Measure specific gravity, which is best done with a Jolly balance or pychnometre, but if you haven't got any of them, and the sample is large enough, with a little bit of experience you can make an estimate of specific gravity by simply hefting the sample in your hands.

4.  Measure the hardness by scratching with a fingernail (H = 2 – 2 ½ ); copper penny (H = 3); knife blade (H = 5); piece of glass (H = 5 ½ ); and/or piece of quartz (H = 7). Even better if you get yourself a proper Mohs hardness kit or Mohs' hardness testing minerals .

5. Break the mineral with a geological hammer or a chisel to determine if it has cleavage and/or fracture, and what kind of cleavage and fracture they are.

6. Check any other properties - does the mineral react to HCl or other acids? Test with a magnet if it is magnetic? Does it show fluorescence?

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