The UnderGround Treasures – Minerals

Image Credit: Flickr User Lee J Haywood,via CC

Treasures are not only found in safes and caves. They are embedded in the Earth’s crust and are everywhere. Hmm.. What treasures can these be? Minerals are the natural treasures from which the Earth’s crust is made. How are they formed? Do they grow on trees? They are not like plants. They do not grow every spring from seeds that are planted. It takes millions of years to form.

Minerals usually occur as a mass of tiny crystals or grains. Many a times they are also found in powder forms. Minerals are rarely found in their purest forms. They are often mixed with other minerals in the rocks. A few examples are yellow Flourite, Uraninite, Chalcopyrite, Sulphur, Silver, Gold. Out of around 4000 of known minerals, only a few of them are found in pure forms for e.g. silver and gold. The thing about gold is that is always glitters. Even in a thousand years it will not change. It does not rust like iron. Or turn green like copper. It stays the same.

Natural Ruby Crystals
Image Credit: Flickr User Cliff, via CC

Some minerals are also found in a crystal form – Crystals are glassy looking brittle solids that form in regular shapes, sharp edges and flat sides. The rare and beautiful crystals have a special name i.e. Gems. Gems are very rare because they only form under very special conditions usually deep within volcanic rocks. Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds are considered to be very precious gems.

Mica - A silicate crystal
Image Credit: Flickr User Mauro Cateb,via CC

The most common minerals that are found on Earth are Silicates –  minerals that form when the chemical elements silicon and oxygen  combine with a metal. Quartz, olivine and pyroxene are a few examples. The other kinds of minerals are native elements. Native elements are minerals that occur naturally as pure chemical elements. Bismuth, copper, Silver, Gold are amongst native elements.

How do scientists figure out what the mineral is? By testing their physical properties. Each mineral or a gem has unique physical properties including color, luster, hardness, density, and magnetism.

Will we ever run out of these natural resources? May be. May be not. But just to be safe scientists are working to make things that will take place of these minerals.

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