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Definition of a Mineral

OK, now that you know what the word "mineral" means to you, Let's see what it means to a geologist.

OK, so a mineral has a very specific definition. It must be:

  1. Naturally occurring
    Minerals cannot be man-made. Even if a substance is chemically the same as a mineral, if it is man-made, it is not a mineral.
    Learn more about what "naturally occurring" means.
  2. Inorganic
    In geology, inorganic means "not part of a living thing." Bones, teeth, pearls, seashells, and amber were all produced by living things, so they are not minerals.
    Learn more about what "inorganic" means.
  3. Solid
    Here we are talking about states of matter. Minerals cannot be liquids, gases, plasmas, etc. They must be solids.
    Learn more about what "solid" means.
  4. Have a definite chemical formula
    Each mineral has its own chemical formula that does not change from one specimen to another.
    Learn more about what "chemical formula" means.
  5. Have an internal crystalline structure.
    Many minerals form crystals you can see, but all of them have molecules that are arranged in a crystalline structure.
    Learn more about what "internal crystalline structure" means.

After taking the definition one piece at a time, it should be easy to decide if something is a mineral or not, right? Ready to give it a try? Try putting it all together.