Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

1.2 Making and Using a Mineral ID Kit

 

1.2: Making and using a mineral ID kit

Following is the Moh‘s scale and examples of some common tools that can be used to help judge the relative hardness of different minerals while creating your own mineral ID kit:

Moh’s Hardness

 

1 Talc  
2 Gypsum Fingernail (2.5)
3 Calcite Penny (3.0 - 3.5)
4 Fluorite  
5 Apatite Knife Blade / Steel Nail (5.0)
6 Feldspar Glass (5.5) Steel File (6.5)
7 Quartz  
8 Topaz  
9 Corundum  
10 Diamond  

 In addition to the tools noted in the above table, a mineral ID kit might include an unglazed tile for checking the streak of a mineral and a small bottle of acetic acid (vinegar) to test whether a mineral contains calcium carbonate.

See the chart accompanying 1.1 for info about various characteristics for a number of common minerals. A similar blank chart is provided for you to copy and give to kids to use to complete a mineral identification exercise, or you can encourage them to create their own chart listing just the characteristics they wish to test.

A good selection of minerals to present to juniors to demonstrate ability to identify minerals might include sulfur, pyrite, fluorite, quartz, hematite, galena, mica, and calcite. There are a number of ways of testing a kid‘s ability to identify minerals. The most basic is to provide kids individually with an assortment of minerals and to ask them to apply various tests. You might also create a bag of sand and gravel. Salt it with some of the minerals noted above and ask kids to screen out various minerals to identify. To make it challenging, include two specimens that look similar (for instance, a clear piece of quartz and a clear piece of topaz).

An even more fun activity is the Mineral Identification Game. At a club meeting, have an assortment of a dozen to two dozen minerals spread out on a table, each with a number. Give kids sheets of papers with numbers down the side and ask them to go around the table identifying and writing down the names of each mineral matched to the appropriate number. Give them perhaps 15 minutes to do this before discussing the answers. This could be done individually, or kids could be divided into teams and this could be made into a contest to see which team gets the most correct answers.

In another version of the Mineral Identification Game, different minerals might be put on a table along with mineral identification books. The first kid to identify a particular specimen, or mystery mineral, correctly gets to keep it. This is a definite motivator!