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Earth Science
Mineral Detectives, Part I



Mineral Detectives, Part I
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.55

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    conchoidal, corundum, earthy, isometric, monoclinic, orthorhombic, splintery, sub-metallic, tetragonal, triclinic, unglazed, well-informed, sapphire, chromium, following, crystalline
     content words:    Mineral Detectives, Part II


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Mineral Detectives, Part I
By Trista L. Pollard
  

1     It takes a well-informed scientist to distinguish between the over 3,000 different types of minerals on Earth. These scientists, mineralogists are responsible for examining, analyzing, and classifying minerals. Think of them as "mineral detectives." They use the physical properties and some special properties of minerals to help identify these substances.
 
2     All minerals have specific properties which are defined by their chemical composition and crystalline structure. Scientists use these properties as clues in their quest to solve the "mineral mystery." They use simple tests to help identify minerals. Scientists look at the following properties: color, streak, luster, cleavage, fracture, hardness, crystal shape, and density.
 
3     The color of a mineral varies in certain conditions. Most minerals have specific or distinct colors. However, weathering and the combination of other elements can affect a mineral's overall color. Quite a few minerals have similar colors, which makes it difficult to distinguish them from other minerals. When small amounts of elements are present in minerals, these elements may change the color of the minerals. This is why the mineral quartz can have pink, purple, milky white, or black appearance. Precious stones like sapphire (blue) and ruby (red) are produced by the mineral corundum. When corundum is combined with chromium (Cr), rubies are produced. When it is combined with cobalt (Co) and titanium (Ti), sapphires are produced. If the mineral has been eroded due to the natural elements, then the color would differ from its original hue. Scientists look at the freshly exposed surfaces of minerals to study their color.

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