Mineral collecting is the hobby or activity of collecting, identifying and displaying mineral specimens. Gem collecting is also included here.
Mineral collecting is a very broad activity: some hobbyists will collect minerals from unique places or foreign countries as souvenir; other will collect rare or beautiful types or minerals, even expensive minerals. The latter category is more common.
Minerals are usually displayed on a simple shelf, but cubit or grid shelves are more aesthetically pleasing. For small samples, a grid storage box with a transparent glass or acrylic lid is also a good choice. The minerals are generally identified with a proper label. Air-sensitive, light-sensitive or toxic minerals are generally kept inside glass or plastic boxes or containers, although many skilled hobbyists may ampoule them or even encase them in acrylic blocks, which are more resistant and much easier to handle. Just like in the case of compound collecting, the minerals can be displayed based on any category (element, color, etc.).
There are thousands upon thousands of mineral species, however most collectors tend to revolve around several categories:
- Common rocks: feldspar, granite, marble, mica, quartz, etc.
- Colored minerals: azurite, cinnabar, fluorite, galena, malachite, pyrite, etc.
- Ores: bauxite, cassiterite, galena, native elements (gold, silver), pyrolusite, sphalerite, etc.
- Gemstones: amethyst, aquamarine, diamond, emerald, onyx, opal, peridot, ruby, sapphire, topaz, etc.
- Volcanic minerals: basalt, pumice, obsidian, Pele’s tears, etc.
- Fibrous minerals: asbestos, Pele’s hair, etc.
- Rare minerals: cryolite, hoelite, moissanite, musgravite, painite, sperrylite, etc.
- Biologically derived: amber, coral, diatomite, natural coal (anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite, natural graphite), petrified wood, pitch, etc.
- Other minerals: impactite, meteorites, native sulfur, natural glass (desert glass, fulgurite, moldavite), shocked quartz, tektite, etc.
Minerals can be purchased from various shops, fairs or online.
Uses in chemistry
Many minerals are a source of elements in chemistry, such as antimony (stibnite), beryllium (beryl), fluorine (fluorite, cryolite), lead (galena), mercury (cinnabar), potassium (sylvite), silicon (quartz), etc.
They can also be used as a source of various compounds, either salts, oxides or chalcogenides.
Some minerals, such as quartz and pumice can be used as boiling chips.
Galena can be used to make crystal radios.
While most minerals are non-toxic, heavy metal containing minerals may pose hazard, mostly in their powdered form. All forms asbestos are known to be toxic.
In most countries, obtaining minerals from protected or special status areas is frowned upon.
In some countries, heavy metal minerals, such as realgar and cinnabar, may require a hazardous substance license.