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Geology glossary

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quartz

Minerals
Quartz from Milos island (Greece)
Quartz from Milos island (Greece)
Quartz (crystalline SIO2) is the most abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust.
Quartz is made up of a lattice of silica (SiO2) tetrahedra. Quartz has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale and a density of 2.65 g/cm³.



Pure quartz is colorless or white, colored varieties include rose quartz, amethyst, smoky quartz, milky quartz, and others. Quartz goes by an array of different names. The most important distinction between types of quartz is that of macrocrystalline (individual crystals visible to the unaided eye) and the microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline varieties (aggregates of crystals visible only under high magnification). Chalcedony is a generic term for cryptocrystalline quartz. The cryptocrystalline varieties are either translucent or mostly opaque, while the transparent varieties tend to be macrocrystalline.



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.



Quartz occurs in hydrothermal veins and pegmatites. Well-formed crystals may reach several meters in length and weigh hundreds of kilograms. These veins may bear precious metals such as gold or silver, and form the quartz ores sought in mining. Erosion of pegmatites may reveal expansive pockets of crystals, known as "cathedrals."



Quartz is a common constituent of granite, sandstone, limestone, and many other igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.



Related silica minerals

Tridymite and cristobalite are high-temperature polymorphs of SiO2 that occur in high-silica volcanic rocks. Coesite is a denser polymorph of quartz found in some meteorite impact sites (and nuclear test sites) and in metamorphic rocks formed at pressures greater than those typical of the Earth's crust. Stishovite is a yet denser and higher-pressure polymorph of quartz found in some meteorite impace sites. Lechatelierite is an amorphous silica glass SiO2 which is formed by lightning strikes in quartz sand.





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