Silicon Dioxide, SiO2
Crystal System: Hexagonal
Quartz is by far the most abundant of the polymorphic forms of silica and the most widespread and abundant mineral, making up 12% of the earth's crust by volume. It occurs in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks as well as hydrothermal veins, metasomatic and hot spring deposits. Quartz crystals are found as a common gangue material in veins of many minerals and in cavities in granite porphyries and pegmatites.
The specimen shown above is about 12 inches high and I consider it to be one of the finer specimens in my own collection. It was acquired in trade from the Crystal Heaven mine in Mt. Ida, Arkansas in return for Jumbo Jack II, a 24 mm gemstone which I designed and faceted for the owners of Crystal Heaven. The gemstone was cut from a flawless piece of water-clear quartz rough from their mine.
Quartz is transparent and colorless when pure, and such clear material is known as rock
crystal. When impurities are present in the crystals, a very wide range of colors is
exhibited by quartz, which include purple (amethyst), white (milk quartz), pink (rose
quartz), yellow (citrine), and brown to black (smoky quartz). Included materials such
as hedenbergite, rutile, tourmaline, or zoizite can cause quartz to appear green, blue,
red or yellow. Impurities and inclusions cause quartz crystals to vary from transparent
Quartz is also extremely variable in form, and may occur as well formed, elongated, hexagonal, prismatic, and sometimes enormous crystals; in compact and concretionary masses; and in microcrystalline and cryptocrystalline forms.
The faces of prismatic crystals may exhibit horizontal striations with randomly corroded edges. Prismatic crystals are often terminated by two rhombohedra of opposite polarity. Quartz crystals are often twinned, with dauphine twins being the most common twinned form, followed by Brazil and Japan Law twins in occurrence. Scepter crystals, where a new quartz crystal forms over and caps a previously formed prismatic crystal, are rarer. Quartz crystals are rotary polar and occur as left or right handed crystals, as determined by the spiral structure of linked silicon-oxygen tetrahedra in the crystal. Bubbles of gas or liquid are often present and evident at the microscopic and macroscopic levels in quartz crystals.
Chalcedony is a microcrystalline variety of quartz that is of interest to many rockhounds who do lapidary work. Most chalcedony occurs as precipitates of silica bearing solutions and forms in cavity linings, veins and precipitated masses in a variety of rocks. Chalcedony also occurs as a dehydration product of opal. Types of chalcedony include banded agate, moss agate, jasper, onyx, carnelian, chrysoprase, chert, flint, heliotrope (blood stone), plasma and sard.
Quartz is a very important industrial material and many useful applications exist for it. It's piezoelectric properties are widely used in electronics as pressure sensors and oscillators. Quartz is the raw material used in the manufacture of silicon carbide, a widely used industrial abrasive. Quartz also finds many applications in optics. Quartz crystals have the ability to rotate the plane of polarization of light and it's transparency finds applications in heat lamps, prisms, lenses and optical windows and flats.
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