Photo of amethyst crystals

March Mineral Madness

March 2021

Written by Ashley

What is a mineral? For a substance to be considered a mineral, it must be naturally occurring, inorganic, solid, have a definite chemical composition and an ordered internal structure. Minerals are the building blocks of rocks. Nature cements combinations of minerals together to form rocks.

Mineral Properties

The properties include color, streak, hardness, luster, specific gravity, cleavage, fluorescence, magnetism, solubility, and more. By using the physical properties you can identify various minerals. There are approximately 4000 different minerals, and each of those minerals has a unique set of physical properties.

Very smooth formation of calcite mineral
Frost covered plants in our Winter Wonderland

Mineral Madness Facts

There are eight elements that are very common in the Earth’s crust; oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. Since these eight elements account for 98% of the crusts weight, it makes them key components of many different minerals. Although liquid water is not a mineral, some consider it is a mineral when it freezes. This is because ice is a naturally occurring, inorganic solid with definite chemical composition and an ordered internal structure. So, snowflakes are technically minerals.

Minerals All Around Us

In the United States, about three trillion tons of mineral commodities are consumed each year to support the standard of living of 300 million citizens. That is about ten tons of mineral materials consumed for every person, every year.

Common Minerals We Use Everyday

  • Halite – Table Salt
  • Graphite – Pencils
  • Quartz – Watches, Electronics
  • Talc – Baby powder, Make-Up
  • Gypsum – Chalk
  • Calcite – Antacid Medicine


The two minerals that will be available to collect at stations within Cave of the Mounds will be calcite and quartz.


Calcite is an abundant carbonate mineral composed of calcium, carbon, and oxygen. Calcite is the main mineral of limestone and marble rock and creates cave formations like stalactites and stalagmites. It has many uses including construction, pigment, pharmaceuticals, agriculture soil treatment, and more.


Fun Fact: Calcite has many uses but it is commonly used as an acid neutralizer. Calcite is often mixed with sugar and flavoring to make chewable tablets as antacid medicine for an upset stomach.


Quartz is composed of one part silicon and two parts oxygen (SiO2). It is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth’s surface and different impurities in its chemical composition give it different colors (as in, for example, citrine, amethyst, and rose quartz). Quartz is a very strong mineral due to its crystal structure.

Fun Fact: When electrified, quartz vibrates at a precise frequency which makes it excellent for use in watches, radios, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets, and more.