Quartz is one of the most common minerals in the Earth's continental crust. It has a hexagonal crystal structure
made of trigonal crystallized silica (silicon dioxide
), with a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. Density
is 2.65 g/cm³. The typical shape is a six-sided prism that ends in six-sided pyramids, although these are often twinned, distorted, or so massive that only part of the shape is apparent from a mined specimen. Additionally a bed is a common form, particularly for varieties such as amethyst, where the crystals grow up from a matrix and thus only one termination pyramid is present. A quartz geode consists of a hollow rock (usually with an approximately spherical shape) with a core lined with a bed of crystals.
Quartz is one of the world's most common crustal minerals and goes by a bewildering 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 colour of the mineral, current scientific naming schemes refer primarily to the microstructure of the mineral. Colour is a secondary identifier for the cryptocrystalline minerals, although it is a primary identifier for the macrocrystalline varieties. This does not always hold true.
Not all varieties of quartz are naturally occurring. Prasiolite, an olive coloured material, is produced by heat treatment; natural prasiolite has also been obeserved in Lower Silesia in Poland. Although citrine occurs naturally, the majority is the result of heat-treated amethyst. Carnelian is widely heat-treated to deepen its colour.
Because natural quartz is so often twinned, much quartz used in industry is synthesized. Large, flawless and untwinned crystals are produced in an autoclave via the hydrothermal process: emeralds are also synthesized in this fashion.
Quartz occurs in hydrothermal veins and pegmatites. Well-formed crystals may reach several metres 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
, and many other igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
Tridymite and cristobalite are high temperature polymorphs of SiO2
which occur in high silica volcanic rocks. Lechatelierite is an amorphous silica glass SiO2
which is formed by lightning strikes in quartz sand.
The name "quartz" comes from the German "Quarz", which is of Slavic origin (Czech miners called it křem). Other sources insist the name is from the Saxon word "Querkluftertz", meaning cross-vein ore.
Quartz is the most common material identified as the mystical substance maban in Australian Aboriginal mythology.
Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder believed quartz to be permanently frozen ice. He supported this idea by saying that quartz is found near glaciers in the Alps and that large quartz crystals were fashioned into spheres to cool the hands. He also knew of the ability of quartz to split light into a spectrum.
Nicolas Steno's study of quartz paved the way for modern crystallography. He discovered that no matter how distorted a quartz crystal
, the long prism faces always made a perfect 60 degree angle.
Charles Sawyer invented the commercial quartz crystal
manufacturing process in Cleveland, OH. This initiated the transition from mined and cut quartz for electrical appliances to manufactured quartz.
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