Chemical Properties of Minerals main content.

Chemical Properties of Minerals

Part of Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals.

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Exhibition Text

Audio Transcript
The chemical properties of minerals mainly reflect the chemical properties of the atoms present in each. However, even here these properties depend on the way the atoms are bound in the mineral's crystal structure. Let us examine the property known as solubility — the ability of a mineral to dissolve in a liquid, like salt and water.

Nearly all minerals are soluble in water. But most dissolve to such a limited extent as to go almost unnoticed. A liquid is called a solvent when it's action on a solid substance is to break apart the atoms of the crystal structure, thus dissolving it.

With some minerals, not all the atoms in the crystal structure are taken into solution. The two specimens at the lower left illustrate this phenomenon for the mineral muscovite. Fresh crystals in one specimen contrast with the other, to its right, which look somewhat faded. If the fresh looking sample were subjected to running water, potassium atoms originally present in the layered structure would dissolve, and the muscovite would gradually change from a mica to a clay minerals. Such is the mineral illite, the faded-looking sample.
 
In the series of mineral groups displayed on the right side of this case, different specimens show variations in chemical properties. The top group represents the range of temperatures at which the minerals will melt or change to a liquid. The melting point is also known as the fusing temperature.

Minerals composed of atoms that are not tightly bonded within the cr