Elements Help

— McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 1, 2011


The elements include more than 100 known minerals. Many of the minerals in this class are made up of only a single element. Geologists sometimes subdivide this group into metal and nonmetal categories. Of all of the elements, 80% are metals. Gold, silver, and copper are examples of metals. Carbon produces the minerals diamond and graphite , which are nonmetals. Elements like phosphorus and selenium are also nonmetals.

For a complete listing of the known chemical elements, scientists use the Periodic Table of Elements . This is a chart that lists all the elements known today, along with a lot of other useful information. Besides the computer, the Periodic Table is probably the most important tool that scientists use.

Geologists use the Periodic Table to figure out the chemical composition of new minerals and to learn possible ways that different elements might bond.

The Periodic Table of Elements lists an element’s symbol (shorthand name, like C for carbon, Al for aluminum), atomic number (equal to the number of protons), atomic weight, and sometimes the atomic energy levels of the element. When a certain element is described, it is written with the atomic number in superscript and the atomic weight in subscript. On a Periodic Table, magnesium , with atomic number 12 and an atomic weight 24.31, is written as:

Minerals and Gems Elements

While the simplest of Periodic Tables show just an element’s atomic number and weight, complete charts give a broader amount of information. To give you an idea of the usefulness of the Periodic Table, the information listed for titanium in most Periodic Tables is shown below.

Minerals and Gems Elements

Knowing specifics about elements, like their electron arrangement, allows chemists and other scientists to figure out the bonding possibilities and types of compounds that can be formed with other elements. From this information, the mineral content of new and unknown samples is worked out. This information is also helpful when creating new compounds in the laboratory.


The halides are a group of nonmetals whose main chemical components include chlorine, fluorine, bromine, and iodine. Most halides are very soluble in water. They also form highly ordered molecular structures with a high degree of symmetry. Halite is the most common mineral of this group. It is known to most people as rock salt . Other halites include the minerals, cryolite , atacamite , fluorite , and diabolite .


A group of minerals, made up of one or more metals combined with oxygen, water, or hydroxyl (OH), is known as the oxides (and hydroxides ) group. The minerals in this group show a great variety of physical characteristics compared to other more nonchanging groups. Some oxides are hard and others soft. Some have a metallic luster, while some are clear and transparent. Some of the oxide minerals include anatase , corundum , chromite , and magnetite , while hydroxides include manganite , goethite , tungstite , and diaspore .


The s ilicates encompass the largest mineral group. As the name implies, these minerals have varying amounts of silicon and oxygen. Silicates are often opaque and light weight. Silicate minerals are different from other groups in that they are all formed as tetrahedrons . However, it can be tough to identify individual minerals within the silicates group. A tetrahedron is a chemical structure where a silicon atom is bonded to four oxygen atoms (SiO 4 ). Some representative silicates include albite , andesine , hornblende , microcline , labradorite , sodalite , leucite , and quartz .

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