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.

 mineral habit
 Mineral habit. By Cobalt 123 via Flickr.com

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.

 quartz and calcite
 Transparent quartz and transculent pink quartz. By Orbital Joe via Flickr.com

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.

 mineral hardness
 Mohs' hardness scale.

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.

 mineral cleavage
 Mineral cleavage. By play4smee via Flickr.com

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.

 mineral fracture
 Mineral fracture. By Orbital Joe via Flickr.com

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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