Common Minerals and Their Uses in Everyday Life


Julie Talkington

Table of Contents

Introduction      Contents      Conclusions      References      Links


The World is covered in natural resources and some of these resources are finite. We use these resources in many ways in our everyday lives. Minerals make up a large percentage of these necessary resources. Minerals have numerous functions, including: building materials that go into almost every part of construction, appliances, toothpaste, jewelry, lubricants, paint, fertilizer, photography, drawing materials, cooking ingredients, utensils, coatings, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical materials. Most of us have never taken the time to make the connection between minerals and their purposes, and to realize their great importance to society. This webpage is designed to provide information that will show you the ways mineral resources enhance our lives.

I am not a professional but rather a student at Emporia State University. This page was put together to fulfill the requirements for a mineralogy class and I do hope that you find my webpage interesting and informative.

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Main Contents

Minerals from A to Z

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Asbestos- This mineral can be strung into thin, strong fibers that are flexible, heat resistant, and chemically inert, thus making asbestos minerals suitable for use in fireproof fabrics, yarn, cloth, paper, paint filler, gaskets, roofing composition, reinforcing agent in rubber and plastics, brake linings, tiles, electrical and heat insulation, cement, and chemical filters.

Image taken from
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Featured Web Sites,
Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management.

Shown here are asbestos fibers. Note the US coin (23 mm or 7/8 inch in diameter) for size.

Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally in the environment and can be found throughout the world. Its fibrous habit is different from other minerals. The crystal structure and chemical composition of this mineral make its fibers very strong and resistant to heat and chemicals. Thus, asbestos is an excellent source for building materials, including ceiling and floor tiles, insulation for walls and pipes, decorative coatings, and roofing materials.
On March 31, 1971, under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) established the National Emission standards for Hazardous Air Polllutants (NESHAPs) to protect the public and identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant. Need an alternative to asbestos? While experimenting to come up with a substance to make sculptures unbreakable, Patricia Billings of Kansas City, Missouri created an indestructable plaster called Geobond® and the commercially available product, CraftCote™. It took her eight years to develop the additive to gypsum and concrete that resulted in an indestructible plaster. The creation has incredible strength and durability, but also a resistance to heat and nontoxic. This heat resistance makes Geobond® "the world's first workable replacement for asbestos" (MIT-The Invention Dimension).

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Beryl- Used in the nuclear power, fluorescent lamps, x-ray tubes and strong alloys are used in aircrafts. Beryl is also a gemstone with many varieties such as emerald and aquamarine.

Calcite- A mineral, consisting largely of calcium carbonate, is the second most abundant mineral on Earth. Calcite uses include animal feed, antacids, chemical industry, dough strengthener, decorative stone in buildings, building construction, filter in baking powder, glass industry, manufacture of paper, optical purposes, photography, statues and waste treatment.

Copper- This native element is used in electric cables and wires, switches, plumbing, heating, roofing and building construction, chemical and pharmaceutical machinery, alloys (brass, bronze), electroplated protective coatings and cooking utensils.

This image of dendritic copper was taken from Mineralogy Database.
Copper is so valuable we use it every day of our lives. If you turn the light on you use copper.

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Diamond- Used in cutting tools; blades, saws and also beautiful gemstones in jewelry.

Fluorite- Used in production of hydrofluoric acid and is used in pottery, ceramics, optics, electroplating, and plastics. Fluorite is also used for emery wheels, electric arc welders, toothpaste, and paint pigment.

Gold- Used in dentistry and medicine, jewelry and arts and in medallions and coins for scientific and electronic instruments.

Graphite- Used in pencils and as lubricants for machinery.

Gypsum- Used as prefabricated wallboard, Plaster of Paris, cement manufacture and agricultural purposes as fertilizer and soil conditioner.

Image taken from Mineralogy Database.
This image of gypsum displays a bladed habit.

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Halite- This mineral is used for food seasoning and food preservation and making acids, chlorine, ceramic glazes, metallurgy, curing of hides, mineral waters, soap manufacture, home water softener, highway deicing, photography, herbicides, fire extinguishing, nuclear reactors, mouthwash, medicinal purposes, in scientific equipment for optical parts.

Iron Ore, primarily Hematite and Magnetite- Used in the manufacture of steels of various types. Powdered iron: used in metallurgy, magnets, auto parts, medicinal purposes, paints, printing inks, plastics, makeup, fertilizer ingredient; enamel finishes for autos and appliances.

Mica- Muscovite (white) mica is used in electronic insulators, ground up in paint, as joint cement, as a dusting agent, in well-drilling muds and in plastics, roofing, rubber, and welding rods.

Pyrite- This mineral is used in the manufacture of sulfur, sulfuric acid, and sulfur dioxide, also used to make costume jewelry.

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Quartz- As crystals, quartz is used as gems, with numerous varieties. It is also used to make sandpaper and other abrasives, soap, and ceramics, pressure gauges, oscillators, heat-ray lamps, prisms, and spectrographic lenses, glass, paints, and it is also used in high-tech items such as radios, TVs, Clocks, watches and computers.

Image taken from Mineralogy Database.
This image is of large quartz crystals.

Quartz is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust and one of its most useful. In modern times, it has moved from the ground right into your house. Along with its list of uses for everyday items it was the first crystal used in radio wave transceivers. Because of its unique properties it serves as many useful purposes in everyday life.

Silver- Uses include photography, chemistry, jewelry, electronics, as currency, alloys, chemical reaction vessels, water distillation, a catalyst in manufacture of ethylene, mirrors, electric conductors, batteries, plating, table cutlery, dental, medical, and scientific equipment, electrical contacts, bearing metal, magnet windings and solder.

Sulfur- Used for fungicides, sulfuric acid, explosives, kills bacteria, vulcanizes rubber, used in coal and fuels and fertilizers.

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Talc- Uses include baby powder, soapstone, and in gymnastics to grip the bars.

Vanadanite- Source of vanadium, used to harden steel.

Wavellite- Found in sedimentary deposits, used for fertilizer and jewelry.

Image taken from Jim Coleman Crystal Mines Inc.
This wavellite displays three different habits that include drusy, botryoidal (grape-like) and stellated.
This specimen also happens to be my favorite mineral.

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This webpage did not include a complete and exhaustive list of all minerals, but was representative of common minerals and their uses. This information should have given the reader an appreciation for the variety of mineral purposes and how minerals affect human life.
Most minerals are not found in only one particular area, but rather they are located all over the world. Synthetic materials are being developed and can take the place of some minerals, especially for industrial purposes, but natural minerals are important too. Thus, if we keep good relations with other countries, develop synthetics when needed, take care of the environment, and use minerals wisely, these valuable resources should be available for generations to come.


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Alternative Medicine

The Uses of Rocks and Minerals

Mineral Information Institute

Some Environmental Uses of Minerals

Mineral Education

Color Chart for HTML

Questions or comments on this web page email
This page was created on 13 November, 2001 and last updated, 3 December, 2001. Return to the mineralogy webpages.