Interesting Rocks and Minerals

by CGM Findings on September 19, 2016

green rockWhat Makes Rocks so Interesting?
Finally, we got to talking about just SOME of the amazing rocks and minerals around the world.
It’s no wonder that people love to collect rocks so much. Nature is amazing and rocks are no exception.
So let’s just scrape a few more amazing rocks up at random. Maybe later we’ll cover rocks by category, like importance, color, etc.
First, let’s cover some amazing color rocks. This green rock below left  is an example of elbaite, a species of tourmaline, with distinctive color banding.
Aquamarine (from Latin: aqua marina, “water of the sea”) is a blue or cyan variety of beryl. It occurs at most localities which yield ordinary beryl. The gem-gravel placer deposits of Sri Lanka contain aquamarine. You can admire one pictured below with the black background. Gemstone rocks are some of the most amazing, colorful and intriguing things on the planet. 
But aside from the glow, glamor and intrigue we already know of in terms of fancy rocks, what else is there? Besides the use of jewelry and gemstones, what about the common ones and what are some of their properties?
Most people don’t know just how much their life is affected by basic rocks. They might look boring and irrelevant but, let’s cover some of the other rocks and their vital uses in everyday life.

TitaniumTitanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density and high strength. It is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine. Titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, and molybdenum, among other elements, to produce strong, lightweight alloys for aerospace (jet engines, missiles, and spacecraft.

Aluminum is the most abundant metal element in Earth’s crust. Used in making cans and other containers, in the manufacture of lightweight parts for automobiles and airplanes, in building construction and in almost every modern appliance found in the home. It is also the active ingredient in many underarm deodorants. The actual rock Bauxite (shown with the blue background,) an aluminum ore, is the world’s main source of aluminum.

feldsparFeldspars (shown in a white vertical crystal form) are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up as much as 60% of the Earth’s crust. Feldspar is a common raw material used in glass making, ceramics, and a filler and extender in paint, plastics, and rubber. In glass making, alumina from feldspar improves product hardness, durability, and resistance to chemical corrosion. In ceramics, the alkalis in feldspar act as a flux  forming a glassy matrix that bonds the other components of the system together. In the US, about 66% of feldspar is consumed in glass making, including glass containers and glass fiber. Ceramics including electrical insulators, sanitary ware, pottery, tableware, and tile.

Gold is used in dentistry and medicine; in jewelry and art; in medallions and coins; and in ingots as a store of value by banks throughout the world. Because of its malleability gold wire can be made that is thinner than a human hair. It is used in intricate circuitry for scientific and electronic instruments such as computers because it is the best conductor of electrical current besides silver. It is also used in the electroplating industry.

Without silver, over the past 100 years or so, you could not take a single picture with a camera. Besides its use in photography, silver is also used in chemistry, jewelry, in electronics because of its very high conductivity and as currency in the form of coins – usually as an alloy. Other uses included the lining of vats and other equipment for use as chemical reaction vessels and in water distillation processes. It is also used as a catalyst in the manufacture of ethylene, in making mirrors, as plating for flatware, dishes and tea sets, and in dental, medical and scientific equipment.

Tungsten is used in steel making and thus in all the items constructed of steel that require the hardness and other characteristics provided by tungsten-steel alloys. It is applied on metalworking, construction and electrical equipment; in transportation equipment, as filaments in light bulbs, and as components of dyes, enamels and paints and for coloring glass.
Limestone is used as dimension stone in buildings and as a component of cement which is used in the construction of everything from homes and sidewalks to bridges and skyscrapers. It is composed primarily of calcium carbonate which is the primary ingredient in such things as anti-acid tablets and liquids we all require from time to time for an upset stomach.

These are just some of uses that come from rocks we haven’t even started really. But if you do think about it, rocks are simply a part of your life. All around you and even used as byproducts as metals, oil, salts, chrome, beauty products, sunblock, treating water, yes, jewelry, clothing, you name it. You may not be a geologist, but it a little general information about rocks never hurt anybody.


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What Makes Rocks so Interesting?

by CGM Findings on September 19, 2016

CinnabarRocks sure are interesting. At least millions of people around the world think so. Also thousands of people who still today attend The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase every year where tons of rocks and minerals get put on display covering an entire city.
Since our known Prehistoric Period before 4 century B.C. people have been fascinated by rocks and minerals using them for tools, hunting, structures, jewelry ornaments, and been intrigued.
gold crystals
During the Neolithic Age, beginning about 10,200 years ago, we have found flint tools and jade tools.
In the early Bronze Age was the smelting of mineral ores to extract metal such as copper, gold and silver.
In the Book of Exodus 28:17-20 it cites decorative stones in the Bible.
The iconic gold burial mask of Tutankhamen, has inlays of turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian and colored glass.

So what are these Rocks?
Rocks are geologically classified according to characteristics such as mineral and chemical composition, permeability, the texture of the constituent particles, and particle size. These physical properties, or elements, are the end result of the processes that formed the rocks.

At the base of all minerals and rocks are the earth’s elements. Elements are fundamental forms of matter which cannot be broken down into simpler substances by ordinary chemical processes. That’s why elements are considered the building blocks of our earth.

At a granular level, rocks are composed of grains of minerals, which, in turn, are homogeneous solids formed from a chemical compound that is arranged in an orderly manner. The aggregate minerals forming the rock are held together by chemical bonds. The types and abundance of minerals in a rock are determined by the manner in which the rock was formed. Many rocks contain silica (SiO2); a compound of silicon and oxygen that forms 74.3% of the Earth’s crust. This material forms crystals with other compounds in the rock. The proportion of silica in rocks and minerals is a major factor in determining their name and properties.
Only about ten elements are very abundant and these combine to form about 99 percent of the solid matter of the Earth.  The most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust, in order of weight percent are oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, hydrogen, titanium, and all other elements.

In early days, the chemical elements were discovered in identified minerals and with the help of the identified elements the mineral crystal structure could be described. Nowadays, non-destructive electron microprobe analysis is used to get the empirical formula of a mineral. There are only a few thousand mineral species and 83 geochemically[1] stable chemical elements combine to form them.
The overview of the organic bonds by Kekulé was necessary to understand the silicates, first refinements described by Bragg and Machatschki; and it was only possibly to understand a crystal structure with Dalton’s atomic theory and Goldschmidt’s explanations.

So what’s the simple explanation?
Elements are atoms, the smallest piece that we can split matter into (except for subatomic particles and other things that we’ll leave to the physicists). These are the core natural elements we find on Earth. Different elements have different properties. So Elements are the molecular breakdown of the Earths atoms and molecules. What makes up the Earth on a molecular level.
rock mineral illustration
So if the Earth’s Elements are a molecular breakdown of the Earth. Elements often are stacked together with other elements to form minerals. Minerals are simply a collection of one or more elements that are stacked neatly together in a form called a crystal structure. 

Rocks are a composed of one or more minerals. A rock can be made up of only one mineral or a rock can be made up of a number of different minerals.

So, minerals are composed of one or more of the Earth’s elements and rocks can be composed of one or more minerals.

So what are some Fascinating Facts about Rocks?
Why would anyone be fascinated about Rocks? Well, people have good reason to. Rocks are the core of everything. Created from the Universe. They build up the Planet, the Earth’s crust, and have some of the same basic breakdowns we ourselves are built upon – like iron we have in our blood that builds up our body.
Not only that. Let’s cover some of the little know elements that exist to give you just a hint.
Cinnabar, which is composed of Mercury, (pictured above right), is a red quartz-like mineral that has a higher light refraction than a diamond but yet is so toxic it causes shaking, loss of sense, and death.
Pyrite from SpainPyrite, as shown to the right, enjoyed brief popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries as a source of ignition in early firearms, most notably the wheel lock, where the cock held a lump of pyrite against a circular file to strike the sparks needed to fire the gun. It’s crystallographic structure is cubic.

Minerals with phosphorescence can glow for a brief time after the light source is turned off. Minerals that are sometimes phosphorescent include: calcite, celestite, colemanite, fluorite, sphalerite, and willemite. Thermoluminescence is the ability of a mineral to emit a small amount of light upon being heated.
Below is a picture of Fluorescence and birefringence of 445 nm laser in calcite crystal.
Calcite fluoresces blue under short wave. Calcite fluoresces pink under long wave.
That’s right, glowing rocks.
calcite blue light
Are you starting to get just a small idea of why minerals and rocks are so interesting to people?
Convinced just how amazing geology is?
Well, the next time your looking for interesting reading material, maybe the answers have been sitting in front of you for over the 4.54 billion years.
Earth formed around 4.54 billion years ago by accretion from the solar nebula. Volcanic outgassing probably created the primordial atmosphere and then the ocean; but the atmosphere contained almost no oxygen and so would have been toxic to most modern life including humans. Much of the Earth was molten because of frequent collisions with other bodies which led to extreme volcanism. A “giant impact” collision with a planet-sized body is thought to have been responsible for forming the Moon. Over time, the Earth cooled, causing the formation of a solid crust, and allowing liquid water to exist on the surface.
Starting to get the picture?
Earth timeline

1. ge·o·chem·is·try  (jē′ō-kĕm′ĭ-strē)
The chemistry of the composition and alterations of the solid matter of the earth or a celestial body.

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