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How Are Minerals Named?

So far in this blog series we have talked about the different types of metals and minerals that are commonly used in jewelry. Everything from Tungsten to Rose Gold. Everything from Fool’s Gold to diamonds. These materials all serve their own purpose and are selected based on a number of factors, including how durable they are, how they look, and in many cases, how affordable they are.


So how are these minerals named? And how many minerals have been named to date?


According to minsocam.org, as of 2018, the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) says that there are 5,400 minerals that have been discovered and formally named to date. The same organization says that approximately 30 to 50 minerals are discovered each day. Additionally, there are also 1 to 2 minerals a year that are also discredited, which is why the number of total official minerals hovers below 6,000.


So, how is a new mineral determined?


According to the IMA the process of formally declaring a mineral has several steps. The first of which is identifying the chemical composition, crystallography, and physical properties of it. The chemical composition is what the mineral consists of. The crystallography is the structure and properties of the crystal formations of the mineral. And lastly, the physical properties of the mineral are the hardness, color, luster, etc. of the rock.


Geology.com writes that there are five requirements that must be met before a mineral can be considered a mineral.


  1. It must be naturally occurring. Meaning that it can’t be human made.

  2. It must be inorganic. Meaning that it can’t be made by an organism.

  3. It must be solid. Meaning that it can’t be a liquid or a gas.

  4. It must have a definite chemical composition. Meaning that all occurrences of that mineral have a chemical composition.

  5. It must have an ordered internal structure. Meaning that the atoms are patterned.


Each time a new discovery is considered for induction into the mineral database, the information has to be peer-reviewed and it can take up to two years for approval. It’s also possible that after approval, a mineral can be removed from the minerals list.


Which brings us to how these minerals are named.


According to Forbes.com, there are a few ways that experts determine a mineral’s name. And in the 1960s, in order to help clarify some of the confusion around naming minerals. The IMA created the Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names. This was meant to help consolidate all the information that was being sent in by geologists around the world. Once the data are submitted, the commission uses the chemical composition of the mineral, as well as the location from which it was found in order to determine the name.


For example, the mineral andesine is named after the Andes Mountains where it was found. It’s also not uncommon for the commission to name a mineral after the person who discovered it or in remembrance of a person who has passed. Ultimately, mineral names are an amalgamation of the mineral’s different characteristics and geographical location.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief explanation of how minerals are named.


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