Mineral Groups and Their Characteristics

Posted on November 1, 2019

When people think of minerals, they don’t often categorize them. Usually, they ponder about their beauty and how they could make a nice addition to the design of their homes. However, science definitely puts certain minerals into specific groups. The different types of minerals are silicates, oxides, sulfates, sulfides, carbonates, native elements, and halides. In the following paragraphs, these groups will be explored in detail.


This group of minerals has silicon (Si) and oxygen (O). Coincidentally, these two elements are the most prominent in the earth’s crust. Minerals that are silicates are quartz, orthoclase feldspar, olivine, pyroxene, amphibole, muscovite mica, plagioclase feldspar, and biotite mica (“Major Mineral Groups (Part 2”)).


These are compounds that combine metallic elements with hydroxyl (OH), oxygen, or water. With these mixtures, oxides are the most variable of minerals. For instance, some of them can be very soft, and others can be very hard (“Oxides – Minerals.net Glossary of Terms”).


The basic material of sulfates is sulfur and oxygen (SO4), which are combined with various elements. The usual two sulfates are gypsum and barite. Both of these minerals are relatively soft and are white in color (“Major Mineral Groups (Part 2”)).


According to Britannica, there are three types of sulfides: inorganic sulfides, organic sulfides, and phosphine sulfides. Each of these contains sulfur. Inorganic sulfides have the special characteristic of negatively charged sulfide ion. On the other hand, organic sulfides have a sulfur atom that is, “covalently bonded to two organic groups” (Zumdahl, Steven S.). Finally, phosphine sulfides are created from a reaction of “organic phosphines with sulfur, in which the sulfur atom is linked to the phosphorus by a bond that has both covalent and ionic properties” (Zumdahl, Steven S.).


These minerals have carbonate and a mixture of carbon and oxygen (CO3) that is combined with different elements. The most well-known carbonates are calcite and dolomite. This variety of minerals commonly is used as metal ores in the form of iron, zinc, lead, and more (“Major Mineral Groups (Part 2”)).

Native elements

These are naturally occurring minerals that are uncombined. The California Academy of Sciences states, “They are composed of three groups: metals, semimetals, and nonmetals. Notable examples include gold and copper, both of which are metals; semimetals like carbon and sulfur; and, finally, arsenic, a nonmetal. Other examples, like tin, cadmium, and mercury, occur with even greater scarcity” (Leman, Jennifer). There is a vast variety of settings that these minerals can be found. With them appearing in nature on their own, ancient peoples, and modern humans as well, have used them for myriad purposes.


Its foundation is combining metal with either chlorine, bromine, fluorine, iodine, or astatine. Like native elements, they are naturally occurring. Basically, they are salts of halogen acids and comprise halite, sylvite, fluorite, and some rarer compounds (Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia).

As we have seen, minerals are broken down into groups based on their properties. There are seven categories to be aware of: silicates, oxides, sulfates, sulfides, carbonates, native elements, and halides. It is important to understand the uses, elements, and technical aspects of these minerals to comprehend our natural world better.

Works Cited
“Major Mineral Groups (Part 2).” Minerals 1.3, Radford University, www.radford.edu/jtso/GeologyofVirginia/Minerals/GeologyOfVAMinerals1-3a.html.
“Oxides – Minerals.net Glossary of Terms.” Oxides – Minerals.net Glossary of Terms, www.minerals.net/mineral_glossary/oxides.aspx.
Zumdahl, Steven S. “Sulfide.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/science/sulfide-inorganic.
Leman, Jennifer. “Mineral Mondays: Native Elements.” California Academy of Sciences, www.calacademy.org/explore-science/mineral-mondays-native-elements.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Halide Mineral.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Dec. 2014, www.britannica.com/science/halide-mineral.

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