What Is The Difference Between A Mineral And A Rock?

When asked to define the difference between a mineral and a rock, there are many things you can say. You can say that one is man-made and the other is natural. Or you could say that one is used in industry, and the other is not complicated enough. Although those are good examples of how a mineral differs from a rock, I feel like they do not convey the crux of what it means for something to be classified as a mineral or not. Hopefully, this simple article can clear up any confusion as to what exactly makes something a mineral, and if it's not, why not?

What Is The Difference Between A Mineral And A Rock?,What is mineral?, what is a rock?, Rocks, Mineral, mpetrogeology
Semi-precious Rocks and Minerals


What is a Mineral?

A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic element or compounds having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. Common minerals include quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, olivine, and calcite. There are also mineral specimens that stand alone as one piece of crystal or gemstone. Some examples of gemstones include quartz, amethyst, and diamonds.

What Is The Difference Between A Mineral And A Rock?,What is mineral?, what is a rock?, Rocks, Mineral, mpetrogeology
Collection of Minerals


What is a Rock?

 A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals or a body of undifferentiated mineral matter. In this sense, rocks are composed of minerals. Rocks can be composed of the same mineral or can be composed of a variety of different minerals. Although the definition sounds simple, it is not easy to determine whether the substance is truly a mineral or not. Scientists have spent much time developing criteria for determining what can be classified as a mineral and what cannot.

What Is The Difference Between A Mineral And A Rock?,What is mineral?, what is a rock?, Rocks, Mineral, mpetrogeology
Basalt Rock Containing Olivine Mineral


The differences in identification and description

Rocks are composed of a couple of minerals or sometimes many thousands of minerals. Rocks have been found on Earth and even on other planets. Rocks can be described based on the size of mineral or grain size. Grain sizes may range from clay-sized to boulder-sized. Minerals have been formed naturally and have distinguishing properties such as color, texture, hardness, and cleavage. The arrangement of grains in a rock is described based on texture. Texture can be fine-grained (meaning that the individual crystals are too small to see), medium-grained (individual crystals are visible to the naked eye but do not stand out from a distance), or coarse-grained (individual crystals can be easily seen from a distance).

What Is The Difference Between A Mineral And A Rock?,What is mineral?, what is a rock?, Rocks, Mineral, mpetrogeology
Coarse-grained mineral crystals(phaneritic texture) in a Granite


Formation of Rocks.

The Earth's crust is made of rock, and so are mountains, canyons, and even your house. Rocks are not alive, but some rocks contain fossils. Rocks are made of two or more different minerals that have been 1) melted together (igneous), 2) cemented together (sedimentary),  squeezed, and deformed together (metamorphic). Here's a good way to remember the difference between a mineral and a rock: If it's not an ore, it's probably not a rock. Most rocks contain several minerals. For example, granite is made up of four minerals: feldspar, quartz, muscovite mica, and biotite mica. Rocks differ from each other in the minerals they contain and also in the size of these mineral grains and the way they are arranged. 

There are over 4,000 known minerals on Earth! Every rock is made up of one or more minerals. These minerals form crystals when they cool down slowly underground in the earth's crust. There are hundreds of types of rocks on Earth!


There are over 4,000 known minerals on Earth! Every rock is made up of one or more minerals. These minerals form crystals when they cool down slowly underground in the earth's crust. There are hundreds of types of rocks on Earth!
Formation of fine and Coarse-grained crystals in Igneous Rocks

How Minerals Relate to Rocks.

A rock is a solid composed of many minerals (or, through processes like weathering and erosion, composed of pieces of once-living organisms). Some rocks contain only one mineral, while others are made up of many different minerals. It's the minerals that give the rock its color, texture, and character. An interesting feature of some minerals is that they can be both rocks and minerals at the same time. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock derived from sandstone through metamorphism. It consists mostly of interlocking grains of quartz, one of the most common minerals in the Earth's continental crust. They have different luster, crystal forms, hardness, specific gravity, color, and streak. In addition, rocks are made of one or more minerals, while minerals are naturally occurring inorganic solids with a definite crystal structure and chemical composition.

An example of a mineral would be quartz.

Quartz is a silicate mineral that relates to the framework silicate group and is the earth's second most prevalent mineral. Based on Bowen's reaction series, this kind of mineral is generated during the final phases of magmatic differentiation. It is made up of the elements silica and oxygen, which are bound together to create a tetrahedral molecule called silicate (SO2).

There are over 4,000 known minerals on Earth! Every rock is made up of one or more minerals. These minerals form crystals when they cool down slowly underground in the earth's crust. There are hundreds of types of rocks on Earth!
Clear Quartz mineral


An example of a rock would be Granite.

For example, granite is an igneous rock that is largely made up of quartz and feldspar but may also include mica, hornblende, and other minerals. Granite has an even texture and looks granular because it contains so many tiny crystals of quartz and feldspar. It can be white or pink, depending on the amount of iron oxide (the same stuff that makes rust) it contains.

There are over 4,000 known minerals on Earth! Every rock is made up of one or more minerals. These minerals form crystals when they cool down slowly underground in the earth's crust. There are hundreds of types of rocks on Earth!
Granite Rock 

Conclusion

In a nutshell, a rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals. A mineral is a naturally occurring, solid, inorganic crystalline phase of matter.

The next time you get a chance to work with a non-geological audience, this article might provide some clarity. Having an understanding of these terms will be useful for those who have to deal with geologists regularly, or anyone who has an interest in the topic! Remember, these are not easy to explain concisely. The easiest way is to lay them all out on paper so people can draw their own conclusions.

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