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Quartz PDF Print E-mail

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2.

There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Especially in Europe and the Middle East, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewellery and hardstone carvings.

The word "quartz" is derived from the German word "quarz", which was imported from Middle High German, "twarc", which originated in Slavic, Polish twardy ("hard"), Russian твёрдый ("hard")), from Old Church Slavonic тврьдъ ("firm"), from Proto-Slavic *tvьrdъ.

Quartz belongs to the trigonal crystal system. The ideal crystal shape is a six-sided prism terminating with six-sided pyramids at each end. In nature quartz crystals are often twinned, distorted, or so intergrown with adjacent crystals of quartz or other minerals as to only show part of this shape, or to lack obvious crystal faces altogether and appear massive. Well-formed crystals typically form in a 'bed' that has unconstrained growth into a void, but because the crystals must be attached at the other end to a matrix, only one termination pyramid is present. A quartz geode is such a situation where the void is approximately spherical in shape, lined with a bed of crystals pointing inward.

At surface temperatures and pressures, quartz is the most stable form of silicon dioxide. Quartz will remain stable up to 573 °C at 1 kilobar of pressure. As the pressure increases the temperature at which quartz will lose stability also increases.

Above 1300 °C and at a pressure of approximately 35 kilobars, only β-quartz is stable. The latter is not the same as normal quartz (or α-quartz), low quartz or just quartz. β-quartz has higher symmetry, is less dense and has a slightly lower specific gravity. The conversion, from one solid substance to another solid substance, of quartz to β-quartz is quick, reversible and accompanied with a slight energy absorption. The conversion is so easily accomplished that when a crystal of quartz is heated to β-quartz, cooled back down, heated again to β-quartz, etc., the quartz will be the same as when it started.

The reason that the conversion is so easily accomplished is that the difference between quartz and β-quartz is relatively slight. The bonds between the oxygen and silicon atoms are "kinked" or bent in quartz and are not so "kinked" in β-quartz. At the higher temperatures the atoms move away from each other just enough to allow the bonds to unkink or straighten and produce the higher symmetry. As the temperature is lowered, the atoms close in on each other and the bonds must kink in order to be stable and this lowers the symmetry back down again.

Although all quartz at temperatures lower than 573 °C is low quartz, there are a few examples of crystals that obviously started out as β-quartz. Sometimes these are labeled as β-quartz but are actually examples of pseudomorphic or "falsely shaped" crystals more correctly labeled 'quartz after β-quartz'. These crystals are of higher symmetry than low quartz although low quartz can form similar crystals to them. They are composed of hexagonal dipyramids which are a pair of opposing six sided pyramids and the crystals lack prism faces. Quartz's typical termination is composed of two sets of three rhombic faces that can look like a six sided pyramid.

Major varieties of quartz according to their microstructure

Although many of the varietal names historically arose from the color of the mineral, current scientific naming schemes refer primarily to the microstructure of the mineral. Color is a secondary identifier for the cryptocrystalline minerals, although it is a primary identifier for the macrocrystalline varieties. This does not always hold true.


 

Chalcedony Cryptocrystalline quartz and moganite mixture. The term is generally only used for white or lightly colored material. Otherwise more specific names are used.
Agate Multi-colored, banded chalcedony, semi-translucent to translucent
Onyx Agate where the bands are straight, parallel and consistent in size.
Jasper Opaque cryptocrystalline quartz, typically red to brown
Aventurine Translucent chalcedony with small inclusions (usually mica) that shimmer.
Tiger's Eye Fibrous gold to red-brown colored quartz, exhibiting chatoyancy.
Rock crystal Clear, colorless
Amethyst Purple, transparent
Citrine Yellow to reddish orange to brown, greenish yellow
Prasiolite Mint green, transparent
Rose quartz Pink, translucent, may display diasterism
Rutilated quartz Contains acicular (needles) inclusions of rutile
Milk quartz White, translucent to opaque, may display diasterism
Smoky quartz Brown to gray, opaque
Carnelian Reddish orange chalcedony, translucent
Dumortierite quartz Contains large amounts of dumortierite crystals

 
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