Common Mineral Questions

Photos by Lauren Duguid/ANS

Treasures From the Mineral Vault opens this Saturday, November 5! This intimate exhibit features nearly 50 minerals from the Academy’s famous collection. Straight from a real vault, the specimens glitter with other-worldly colors, varied shapes and forms, and the ability to convey the awesome force and output of our planet.

View minerals of vivid yellow, forest green, deep red, and radiant purple, and discover how they were formed millions of years ago deep within the earth. Find out why some minerals sparkle and others are shaped like cubes and prisms. Learn the difference between a rock and a mineral. From varieties of quartz to calcite, fluorite, and feldspar, the Academy’s minerals take the stage—some for the first time in decades.Orange, green, and variegated minerals on a black background

Here’s a sneak peak at some common questions about these rare treasures:

What are minerals? How are they different from rocks?

Minerals are specific chemical compounds found in nature, often formed deep within the earth. Rocks are aggregates of one or more minerals that are tightly compacted together.

petrified wood on a black background as part of the mineral collection at the Academy of Natural SciencesWhy do different minerals have different shapes?

It all comes down to atoms. Each mineral’s atomic structure is arranged in predictable, three-dimensional geometric patterns. When repeated, crystals grow larger following the same geometric pattern, forming the distinctive shapes for each mineral.

Why do minerals have different shapes? Orange sparkling mineral on black background from the mineral vault at the Academy of Natural SciencesWhy do some minerals sparkle?

Light interacts with the surfaces of minerals in different ways. Sparkling minerals are often vitreous (glassy) or adamantine (diamond-like) with hard, reflective surfaces. They are usually clear or translucent, allowing light to bounce off the surface as well as through the crystals. The greater the number of surfaces (natural or man-made), the greater the sparkling effect.

Why do minerals sparkle? A green sparkling mineral from the vault at the Academy of Natural Sciences.How can the same mineral be so many colors?

When light strikes an object, it reflects certain wavelengths of light back to our eyes, which is how we see its color. If an object appears green, it is reflecting green light and absorbing all the other wavelengths.

A mineral’s structure and chemical composition give it a characteristic color (or sometimes no color at all). Some color shifts are due to trace elements like copper. Other color variations come from structural aberrations in the crystals.How can a mineral be so many different colors? Purple and white mineral on black background from mineral collection at Academy of Natural Sciences.

Treasures From the Mineral Vault  is free with general admission. Check it out today to see these and other beautiful minerals rarely on display to the general public.

buy tickets to the Academy of Natural Sciences


  1. i am sara, i am from grade 4 and i hate myself i even have to go to court because of my dad. but i am in grade 4! only 10 darn years old. i go to a school called woodland and my b-day is jan 26! i use yrdsb so my user id is 349345686 and my password is *5*35**8. sorry i only told you the numbers.

    1. Honey, its gonna be all fine it least your not a teenager like me uggggggggg (i am 13) trust me everyone have there own problems soo just take a deep breath and let that fire all out and maybe you should delete that message cuz its not that safe to put your number online okay honey and if you wanna talk to me my Instagram is @5.ury4
      you can talk to me if you want to and there’s this quote is always use when I am super pissed out you can maybe use this when your pissed ” put a smile on your face and make the world a better place” this kinda changed my life cuz I am a person who gets angry like in a sec and god knows wut the hell will I do and I have been bullied soo much cuz you see I am not pretty so I have also been bullied soo many times and this quote make me go thought life with a smile on my face and hope I really helped you and if ma insta didn’t work my email is

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *