When we think of minerals, the first thing that comes to mind are the perfect crystals that are on display in museums or in private collections. Transparent gems with beautiful colors, peculiar shapes and properties instill a sense of marvel but they look as nothing more than some extravagant item from some exotic location. This conclusion is wrong: minerals are everywhere around and within us and shape our lives in infinite ways. Our bones and teeth are made of minerals. Our houses, the soil they are built on, the interior of the Earth: all minerals. Even the items around us: the medicines we take, the computer I am using to write, my home appliances, cutlery, ceramics, pencils etc. – they all consist of synthetic minerals, repurposed minerals, or materials extracted from minerals.
Many of us do not even realise how much we depend on minerals as a species. Our ability to extract resources from the Earth shaped our whole history and prehistory, from when we were hunter-gatherers to when we learnt to use minerals to produce more and more advanced items, from flint spearheads, to bronze and iron utensils, to Lithium batteries, computers, and phones containing silicon, metals, and Coltan. Despite our advancements, our whole existence relies on one meter of topsoil with the right mixture of clay minerals and organic matters to sustain crops. We live in a world made of solids, where we use solids to live.
There are currently 5500 natural minerals known to man. Studying mineralogy is not about adding n° 5501 to the list, but it is about learning how our world made of solid substances work. The strength of bridges, buildings, and infrastructure depends on the properties of the crystals in metal alloys such as steel, and mixtures of minerals like concrete. The resources to produce concrete and steel have to be found in nature, where they need to be identified as associations of specific minerals that make up ore deposits. All rocks just consist of several crystals of multiple minerals and we cannot know – say – the potential of a mountain to sustain a road, or deep crustal rocks to release or not a destructive earthquake without knowing the minerals they contain and their properties first.
This section is devoted to minerals from a geologists’ perspective! Here, I will post many images of rock-forming minerals taken on the field, under the petrographic microscope, and at the scanning electron microscope. Write me if you would like me to publish pages about specific minerals. If you like what I am doing, consider following me on my socials or support me at the price of a coffee!