Tag Archives: mineralogy

Geo-pic of the week: Cleavage

clip_image002Calcite at atomic resolution

The mineral in the above pictures is calcite, a common mineral in earth’s crust that is the main component of the sedimentary rock limestone.  The stack of samples (top) exhibit a physical characteristic known as cleavage.  The cleavage of calcite causes it to break into a rhombus-shape (see picture).

Cleavage is the tendency of a crystalline substance, such as a mineral, to break along parallel planes that reflect the internal arrangement of the atoms in the crystal.  All crystals, by definition, have a uniform atomic arrangement.  To illustrate this property, I’ve included a second picture (bottom), borrowed from Dr. Cathy Sutton, that shows an extremely magnified calcite crystal.  The repeating rhombus-shapes in the picture are individual calcite molecules.  Basically, cleavage is the outward expression of the internal structure of a mineral.

The samples on the left were collected from Midwest Lime Quarry, Batesville, Arkansas.

Geo-pic of the week: Pyrite


(FOV approx. 3 mm, photo by Stephen Stuart)

Pyrite, also known as Iron Pyrite (FeS2), is the most common sulfide mineral. Its most frequent crystal structure is cubic, as seen in the picture above. It also forms octahedral (8 sided) and dodecahedral (12 sided) structures. Its brassy-yellow color and metallic luster can sometimes cause it to be mistaken for gold, hence the nickname “fool’s gold”. While it may look like gold, it is much lighter and harder. Typically pyrite cannot be scratched with a knife.

Pyrite is found in many counties in Arkansas. It is used in the production of sulfuric acid, although its use is declining. The primary value of this mineral currently is as a collectible specimen. Individual crystals are commonly found up to 1 inch in diameter.