Toothpaste to Toasters, Matches to Make-up (part 2)

mineral detail

Quartz


Quartz is the most widely distributed and commonly occurring minerals on Earth. Its physical and chemical properties make it incredibly useful to us. It is a hard mineral and is very durable, making it an excellent abrasive. The range of colours it occurs in and the reflective surfaces of its crystals make quartz a popular decorative gemstone. It has been used throughout history to make jewellery and to decorate objects - the eyes of the Roos Carr figures are made from quartz.

Because quartz is hard and transparent, it is used to make glass. Your windows, bulbs, mirrors, glasses and even the computer screen you are looking at now have all been made using silica sand from quartz. In fact the silica in quartz is used to make the silicon chips inside your computer, which allow it to run properly. Quartz has electrical properties and heat resistance which make it of great importance in electronics, and is used in many of the electronic products you may have at home, such as televisions, video games, phones and radios, as well as in industrial electronics.

Quartz even keeps the time for you! When a crystal of quartz is put under pressure it vibrates 32,768 times in a second, which is a very useful property for time-keeping. You can find a tiny crystal of quartz in devices such as watches, where components in the watch count the crystal vibrations. Once the vibration count reaches 32,768 the watch ticks along another second. Our daily contact with quartz and silica is immeasurable - from ceramics to paper, clocks to paint and cement to powdered milk, it is used to make all sorts of things we rely on every single day.

Calcite

Calcite with fluoriteCalcite is extremely common on our planet, and because of its physical properties it is very useful to us. It is soft and lightweight, making it useful as a mild abrasive in the cleaning agents you scrub your home with, and in the toothpaste you scrub your teeth with! It is used in the manufacture of metals, glass and rubber. In fact calcite can be found in all sorts of products we use. Next time you have stomach ache you may use calcite to make it better as it is found in antacid tablets, as well as in many other medications.

Calcite also has a unique optical property: when you look through a transparent crystal of it you can see a double image of whatever lies behind. This makes it useful in optical instruments such as microscopes. However, the main use of calcite is in the construction industry. Marble and limestone are rocks formed almost entirely from calcite, and they have been used throughout history as building stones, and are used to make cement and concrete for our roads, buildings and pavements today.

Gold

Gold has one very well known use - jewellery, but it is useful for other things too. Gold is dense, soft and flexible, and it conducts electricity very well. This makes it incredibly useful in electronics where intricate circuits are needed. It can be found in a wide range of electronic products and equipment, including computers, mobile phones and some appliances you may use at home. It is used in dentistry and medicine, and is made into bullion to be stored in banks as precious metal reserves.

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