Mineralogy Matters

Mineralogy Matters is a series of articles highlighting where mineralogy (broadly defined) is of fundamental importance to understanding an issue or problem in topic areas ranging from Earth resources to the global environment.

Proposals for future articles are welcome and should be sent to the Elements Executive Editor, or to the Series Editor, David Vaughan, at david.vaughan@manchester.ac.uk.


Cements Around the Ancient World: Holding it Together Since the Dawn of Lime

Bu Isabel F. Barton | October, 2022


How to form blocks into a durable structure was a dilemma that confronted our ancestors almost as soon as they decided to settle in one place. Getting the blocks was laborious but simple; if there were no stones around to quarry and dress, a sun-dried or baked mix of mud and straw could make a decent brick. But putting these blocks together into a wall that could withstand time and the elements? That took one of two things: money, or lime.

From Mexico to Mycenae, the wealthiest could afford to have teams of masons cut and dress stones and fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Not even a knife blade could slide between the cracks of this Cyclopean or megalithic (sometimes called drystone) construction.

Graphite to Graphene: From a Mineral to an Advanced Technological Material

By | June, 2019
Elements June 2019 v15n3 cover

Carbon is one of a small number of elements that occur in the “native” state. The two most dominant naturally occurring forms of carbon are graphite and diamond, and these could hardly be more different in their properties: diamond is the hardest known natural material, whereas graphite is one of the softest (see Hazen et al. 2013 for a review of carbon mineralogy). Maybe for some, “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, but I would argue that “graphite is one of society’s most useful minerals”. The focus of this article is on graphite and, more particularly, on the closely related material graphene. And graphene is important because of its extraordinary properties and potential range of applications.

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Boron — The Crustal Element

By | June, 2015

Boron is a quintessential element of the Earth’s upper continental crust. Processes that created the upper continental crust also enriched it in boron, and, as a result, a great diversity of boron minerals are among the most accessible of useful compounds to humankind, even in antiquity. And humankind is most fortunate that crustal processes have…

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Archived Mineralogy Matters (PDF)


2015 Issues -- Volume 11

June 2015

Edward S. Grew

"Boron -- The Crustal Element"


2014 Issues -- Volume 10

April 2014

J. Donald Rimstidt and David J. Vaughan

"Acid Mine Drainage"

2013 Issues -- Volume 9

August 2013

David J. Vaughan and David A. Polya

"Arsenic -- The Great Poisoner Revisited"

December 2013

Reto Gieré and David J. Vaughan

"Minerals in the Air"