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Though perceived as the most normal thing, there are many unbelievable attributes of rocks and minerals which may make you look twice at the next stone you see on the side of the road.
Did you know that quartz is considered the most widely available mineral? Can you imagine that several rocks around the world are so culturally important that they symbolize a whole city, region, or civilization? Can you look around you and name all the things which wouldn’t work without the minerals they contain?
After reading this article, you may look twice at the stones you see around you every day, and you most definitely will think about some everyday appliances differently because of the minerals which make them work.
If you are interested in checking out the most beautiful gemstone to buy you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
1. Minerals and Rocks are Very Different
Minerals are naturally occurring material that has constant properties all the way through. In other words, if you have a mineral, all the different parts of it are the exact same material. Minerals have an internal structure, and there are hundreds of types.
Rocks, on the other hand, have only three types: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic. They are made up of any amount of different mineral types, with no clear or constant structure. Rocks are more common because minerals form in very specific processes that need specific conditions.
2. Rubies and Sapphires are the Same Minerals
This mineral is called corundum. Its main property is its extreme hardness which makes it ideal for gemstones. It can occur in almost any color of the spectrum, but when it is red, it’s called a ruby.
The color in the mineral is actually given by trace amounts of a specific type of metal. The metal involved determines which color it will end up in.
Therefore, when it’s pure and devoid of metal, it’s colorless and called a clear sapphire. When chromium is around during the formation of the corundum, it ends up red and therefore a ruby, and when titanium is around, it ends up blue – the most popular sapphire color.
3. Quartz is Used in all Watches, Radios, and Microprocessors
Due to its characteristic ability to maintain a precise frequency standard, quartz is a standard ingredient in many electrical devices.
This means it is able to smooth out irregularities in electromagnetic waves, making these devices much more exact. Some quartz that is used in these devices is made synthetically because the way it is made determines the frequency which it is able to regulate best.
Quartz also is made up of silicon and oxygen. Silicon is a semiconductor, which means that under certain circumstances, it can conduct electricity just like copper wire.
Quartz specifically can conduct electricity when under pressure, making it useful in certain mechanical devices, mostly used in industrial plants.
4. Alexandrite is Considered one of the Rarest Minerals
Alexandrite is most known for its ability to change color. The specimen which shows this property the most is emerald green in daylight or fluorescent light but then changes to brown/purple in incandescent light or firelight.
It does this because of the strange way it absorbs light. They were first discovered in Russia but now are found in Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia and Africa.
TIP: There are a lot of gems that are far rarer and more expensive than diamonds. Check out the rarest gemstones on Earth in the article below:
13 Rarest Gemstones on Earth: You will be Shocked!
5. The Sandstone in the Southern Alps of New Zealand is the Quickest Eroding Stone Recorded
While erosion rate is hard to measure, geologists have determined a way that involves measuring the amount of sand that results from the erosion in a given year. The sandstone in these mountains is currently eroding into 2.5 mm of sand every year.
Scientists think that erosion is caused because the chemical makeup of the rock is susceptible to breakdown from the sun’s rays.
This particular soil chemically interacts with the environment in a process which actually absorbs carbon dioxide. So, as the mountains go, so goes the greenhouse gas.
6. Jadeite is Currently the Most Expensive Mineral
Jadeite is also known as imperial jade because of its more majestic appearance than typical jade.
China is the biggest market for this mineral because it has high cultural value here, yet the material with the highest quality is found in Myanmar.
It takes on a rich green appearance in a specimen of the highest quality and is made valuable by its rarity, cultural importance, and color.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
7. Metals Are Also Minerals
Because minerals are defined as pure, inorganic substances, metals that fulfill these criteria are also minerals. Next time you see a copper pipe, you may see it a little differently now!
Funny enough, steel never qualifies as a mineral because it is made up of two different minerals, which automatically disqualifies it.
TIP: Have you ever tried finding rocks with a metal detector? Find out everything you need to know about using a metal detector for rockhounding in the article below:
How to Actually Find Gems with a Metal Detector? It’s Easy!
8. Potash is One of the Most Useful Minerals, and You may have Never Heard of It
Potash is the common name for Potassium Chloride. This is a potassium-rich salt that is mined from areas that used to be oceans but have dried up and are today part of continents. Have you guessed what it’s used for yet?
It’s a main and indispensable ingredient in fertilizer, which is used on farms all around the world. Yes, this means that plants “eat” minerals, and so should we!
The elements which best facilitate the growth of many plants are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is widely available in the air, so potassium and phosphorous much exist in the soil, or else it will need to be supplemented for the plants to grow at optimum levels.
9. Common Sand is the Main Ingredient in your Windows
Most beach sands are mostly made of silicon dioxide (quartz). Most glass is made by heating this up to over 3090F and cooling it in a controlled fashion.
In fact, differences between the glass are characterized are partially characterized by how hot the sand is heated – windshield glass is heated too much higher temperatures than normal window glass.
10. The Crust of Mars is Comprised of Minerals most Common in Igneous Rocks
The minerals of silicon, oxygen, iron, magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and potassium are the most common minerals thought to exist on Mars.
These minerals are typically found together in Igneous rock here on Earth. Even though Mars seems far away, it’s still made of the same things!
This fact and the presence of tridymite (a mineral that requires lots of silica and high temperatures to form) have hinted that volcanic activity on Mars has been very prevalent.
TIP: Mars is the closest planet to Earth. However, the nearest cosmic object is the Moon, and we can admire the rocks from the Moon on Earth as well. Find out more about Moon rocks in the article below:
Moon Rocks: Everything You Need to Know About Them
11. Gypsum is a Mineral That is Used as a Building Material in Most Buildings
You probably know the inside of your walls is made of gypsum or drywall. What you may not know is that gypsum is also used in some concrete mixes to slow down the hardening process, called a “retarder.” It has an extremely low hardness of two, which limits its use, but is still widely used.
So, why is gypsum so useful? It is very fire resistant. Gypsum’s composition includes two water molecules, so when it burns, these molecules first evaporate, leaving a solid behind which just turns into powder.
The time this process takes is extremely valuable when one talks about saving a building’s structure from fire damage.
12. On average Americans use 40,000 pounds of minerals per year
All of these uses for minerals add up. Other uses you may not have heard of are the seasoning in our foods, our vitamins which we take every day, and almost all household appliances we use.
13- Eighty Percent of the World’s Gold has yet to be Discovered
This is of course an estimation, but mining technology is extremely good at locating minerals and finding the size of deposits. It is not being extracted because, in many cases, it is cheaper to buy the gold than it is to mine.
This can happen because of many reasons. The deposit could be too deep to reach or it could be in a terrain that is too far away from a developed area.
TIP: You need to know something about how gold deposits occur to understand which rocks to look for when prospecting. Find out useful tips on finding gold in the article below:
5 Rocks You Need To Look For When Gold Prospecting (+ Why)
14. The Pyramids of Giza are Made Entirely from Limestone
Limestone has interesting properties and is very common, which has made it a popular building material throughout history.
It is a sedimentary rock made from aragonite and calcium and can break down due to acidity, making acid rain a huge threat to limestone structures.
Limestone was the most common material around Egypt at the time, which made it the most attractive building material from them. It is also an easy material to cut, making it easier for the Egyptians to form the exact shapes they needed.
15. The Most Famous Rock is the Rosetta Stone
This stone was found in 1799 by Napoleon’s posse, and later helped finally decipher what had stumped language experts for centuries: the translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
It has become a synonym for translation in modern life. The stone is actually a type of granite, but its importance reaches far beyond that!
The many uses and complicated characteristics of different types of rocks and minerals are a testament to the wonders of the natural world.
Even more so, they are a testament to the ingenuity of the human, using our environment to the absolute fullest by putting all our resources to use.
Try to recognize minerals in your everyday life and when you do, think about the complicated processes which form them.
TIP: Igneous rocks are an integral part of all rocks that make up our planet; that is why there are a lot of interesting facts to be shared. Find out more in the article below:
11 Cool & Interesting Facts About Igneous Rocks (Must Read)