Mineral definition

There are many mineral definitions in various fields of science, engineering and chemistry. The mineral definition also changes in time. Various group of minerals exist depending on her classification and use. Minerals should not be confused with rocks.

Scientific mineral definition

From scientific point of view minerals must meet certain criteria. Mineral must have specific chemical composition (single chemical formula), must have ordered atomic structure and shoul’d be solid and stable at room temperature. Minerals must be of abiotic origin – so it shoul’d be formed by geological processes. Even minerals formed on man-made dumps or in the mines are considered valid minerals. Synthetic minerals and minerals produced by animals (shells, teeth, bones etc.) are not considered valid minerals.

Feldspar crsytals from Austria

Cluster of feldspar crsytals from Zillertall in Austria

Who approves minerals?

The International Mineralogical Association (known as IMA) is responsible for validation of new mineral species and keeps up-to-date list of minerals. IMA can also revalidate previously approved minerals and certain minerals are added and discarded as the mineralogical system evolves. Each mineral group has it’s own scientific board responsible to take care of it. The mineral definition also evolves in time. IMA mineral definition is not the only one and many technical and scientific branches use their own definitions of what is a mineral.

Calcite crystal fromStramberk, Czech republic

Nice calcite crystal sitting on matrix from Stramberk, Czech republic

Organic minerals

Some systems include also organic minerals which usually contain compounds known as salts of organic acids and some polymer corbohydrates. These minerals are usually formed by geological processes but they are of organic (biotic) origin.

Technical minerals

Many material science engineers and physicists refer to some compounds as minerals even if they are man-made. Mineralogical terms are often used in material science, synthetic gems production, concrete production, metallurgy and many other areas. Most of these minerals are not considered true minerals despite many of them have their natural equivalent. However the methods to study them are exactly the same.

Cluster of galena crystals from Viburnum, USA

Cluster of galena crystals from Viburnum in Missouri, USA

Minerals in water or drugs

Many producers of drugs, vitamines or mineral waters declare mineral content and composition on their products. These “minerals” are usually inorganic chemical compouns and could be of both natural and synthetic origin. Some of them are “true” minerals but most are not.