Natural resources are the foundation for our lives and lifestyles.
What would our lives be like without mining? Imagine a world without transportation such as jet planes or railroads, without communications such as cell phones or radar, without decorative items such as art or jewelry, without buildings such as skyscrapers or parking garages, without defense systems items such as missiles or submarines, without medical care items such as X-rays or surgical tools. We wouldn’t have any of these things without mining and minerals.
Description: As a crystal, quartz is used as a semiprecious gem stone. Cryptocrystalline forms may also be gem stones: agate, jasper, onyx, carnelian, chalcedony, etc. Crystalline gem varieties include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smoky quartz, etc. Because of its piezoelectric properties quartz is used for pressure gauges, oscillators, resonators, and wave stabilizers; because of its ability to rotate the plane of polarization of light and its transparency in ultraviolet rays it is used in heat-ray lamps, prism, and spectrographic lenses. Used in the manufacture of glass, paints, abrasives, refractories, and precision instruments.
Sources: Quartz is found in many countries and many geologic environments. Major producers of natural quartz crystals are the United States (particularly Arkansas) and Brazil. Natural quartz is rarely used as found in nature (especially in electrical applications), except as a gemstone. Natural quartz crystals have too many chemical impurities and physical flaws. As a result, a commercial process of manufacturing pure, flawless, electronics-grade quartz was developed.
“Cultured quartz,” that is, quartz crystals grown very carefully in highly controlled laboratory conditions, is the quartz that is used in industry. About 200 metric tons of cultured quartz is produced each year.
In the production of cultured quartz crystals, a “seed crystal” is needed. A seed crystal is a small piece of carefully selected, non-electronics-grade quartz. The manufactured crystal grows on this seed crystal. Seed crystals of quartz are called lascas.
The United States is 100% dependent on imported lascas for manufactured quartz crystals. The major sources for lascas are Canada, Brazil, Germany and Madagascar. China, South Africa and Venezuela are other reported producers of quartz lascas.
Uses: There are two entirely different major uses for quartz crystal. One of these is as a gemstone. The varieties known asrock crystal, amethyst, smoky quartz, rose quartz, and citrine are in demand as low-priced but attractive gemstone or display specimens. For gem applications, the quartz is usually cut and faceted for jewelry, or is carved into various shapes by hand or by laser.
Cultured quartz is used in electronic applications, where its special physical properties are valuable. Quartz is one of several minerals which are piezoelectric, meaning that when pressure is applied to quartz, a positive electrical charge is created at one end of the crystal and a negative electrical charge is created at the other. It is also strongly pyroelectric which means that temperature changes can cause the development of positive and negative charges within the crystal. These properties make quartz valuable in electronics applications. While some other minerals may have these properties, quartz is used because it is transparent, tough, and of unvarying chemical composition.
Electronics-grade manufactured quartz is used in a large number of circuits for consumer electronics products such as computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, and electronic games, to name just a few. It is also used to make frequency control devices and electronic filters that remove defined electromagnetic frequencies. In industry, quartz is also used in a variety of electronic devices.
Substitutes and Alternative Sources: Quartz is very abundant in the Earth’s crust so there is no danger of running short of easily available raw quartz for cultured quartz production. Even impure quartz can be purified and processed to create cultured quartz crystals. There is no adequate substitute for quartz in electronic applications. The only reason for insufficient quartz supplies would be if demand for cultured quartz outpaces industry’s ability to produce lascas and cultured quartz crystals.
Background: Quartz is a very common mineral in the Earth’s crust. Chemically, quartz is silica, or silicon dioxide, SiO2. It is found in most types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.
Quartz is rather hard, 7 on the Moh’s hardness scale, and has a glassy (vitreous) luster. When a crystal is broken, the fracture surface is curved, like a shell. This is referred to as conchoidal fracture; glass fractures in the same way.
When crystallized in an open cavity in rocks, quartz forms easily-identifiable 6-sided (hexagonal) prismatic crystals. When formed without open spaces, deep within the earth, quartz crystallizes in small, roundish masses.
Quartz is physically and chemically resistant to weathering. When quartz-bearing rocks become weathered and eroded, the grains of resistant quartz are concentrated in the soil, in rivers, and on beaches. The white sands typically found in river beds and on beaches are usually composed mainly of quartz, with some white or pink feldspar as well.