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Posted by J Goodman  
J Goodman June 21, 2012 06:19PM
So many university geology courses now fail to teach minerology. Is it possible for mindat to provide a crash course for its uses ?
Don Saathoff June 21, 2012 09:32PM
Hello J. Goodman,

Spelling errors aside (there are thousands on this database), a "crash course" in mineralogy is not possible....anywhere, anytime. It is a far to complex field of study. Understanding environmental conditions conducive to petrogenesis, understanding the chemistry involved in petrogenenis in those environments, understanding field techniques for the identification of various petrogenic environments etc, etc might be covered in a years worth of "Geology 101"

Then we'd have to move on to "Mineralogy 101" to understand crystallography, crystal chemistry, mineral identification techniques and MASTERING those techniques, understanding the whys and wherefors of physical characteristcs of the various mineral phases, etc, etc.

Then we'd have Petrology, Geochemistry, Sedimentology, Volcanology, Structural Geology, Paleontology etc, etc.

ALL of this goes into a basic understanding of Mineralogy - further understanding requires a life time of personal research in a field of Mineralogy which has grabbed you. I have hunted, collected and studied minerals for 60 years but I cannot and will not consider myself a Mineralogist - I'm just a somewhat knowledgeable rockhound and that after 60 years on the outcrop and 4 years in the University. And the old adage is absolutely true: "The more I learn, the more find I don't know!!!"

Don S.
Rick Dalrymple June 21, 2012 10:25PM

Don is absolutely right. You don't learn "rock hound" mineralogy in an academic class anyway. Even when you take all the classes Don suggests, you aren't really capable of walking into the desert and looking at every rock and understanding what you are seeing. Visual identification is an art that takes decades to become proficient at. And even then it is subjective and is only good to a point.

People are always asking me for a book that will help them identify all the rocks and minerals they find in the desert. They want one with pictures of all the different types of agates, petrified wood, and all the minerals around mines in one easy-to-glance-through book. And they are always unhappy when I tell them that such a book doesn't exist.

End result is you have to do a lot of research on your own.

I know I am in my own little world, but everyone knows me here.
gary moldovany June 22, 2012 12:29AM
I can't even fathom the amount of mineralogical knowledge that I have gained here by being a member of Mindat. You will probably learn more useful information here than from dozens of textbooks. Read the articles, check out the photos, keep up with the message board and after a couple of years you will have gained immensely. Gary
Bart Cannon June 22, 2012 03:12AM
As per usual, comments fromt the old man.

I took my mineralogy classes in 1969 and 1970. My fellow geologists hated the mineral identification part of the coursework.

They were never able to identify more than 15 of the 50 minerals in the tests.

Then when they became geologists it got worse.

Mineral identification is more than a skill. Classification is a distinct brain behavior (or disorder) associated with an obssession for looking very carefully and remembering characteristics and names. It takes a lifetime, as others have pointed out.

It's the only thing I'm good at, but these days with the new nomenclature there is no way to classify a mineral other than quartz or galena with the eyeball.

Rocks are even harder to identify.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/22/2012 10:16AM by Bart Cannon.
Rock Currier June 22, 2012 07:40AM
I wonder if there are some basic mineralogy (rockhound mineralogy) courses already on line. I always recommend the mineralogy written by John Sinkankas that he originally called Mineralogy for Amateurs and later was just called Mineralogy I think to appeal to the dumbed down mineralogy taught in some schools. I wonder if Marjorie Sinkankas would give us permission to scan John's book and put it on line here? We could jazz it up with lots of nice colored pictures of minerals.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Danny Jones June 22, 2012 10:37AM
Rock that is an excellent idea!!!

Danny Jones
Bart Cannon June 22, 2012 10:39AM

"Mineralogy for Amateurs" is still bringing in money, but I agree that it is the best book on the subject. And has been for at least 45 years.

Maybe Marjorie might not need the money, and maybe Mindat wouldn't hurt the sales of such a well distributed hardcopy publication.

Have you talked to her lately ?

My first mineral book was the "Golden Book", but my love and fascination with minerals expanded with Fred Poughs' field guide. I looked at it every day and the color photos still represent my notion of the ideal example of each species even though some of them are actually terrible examples.

A true mineral person does not have a nomral mind Every one of them I know is an eccentric, but by the same token a very interesting person.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/22/2012 11:09AM by Bart Cannon.
David Von Bargen June 22, 2012 12:07PM
Actually the book is out of print. I had heard that there was going to be a new edition printed, but that was some time ago.
Johan Kjellman June 22, 2012 12:57PM
I have a 13 year old letter from John saying Joel Bartsch was revising the book for a new edition. Hasn't happened yet, evidently!

Jolyon & Katya Ralph June 22, 2012 01:09PM
I think a lot could be done by persuading copyright owners of mineralogy-related books to either donate the copyrights to mindat (immediately, or maybe as part of their will), or release them to the public domain.

Alex Homenuke June 22, 2012 02:28PM
There is no substitute for gathering together a 'type collection" of a hundred plus most common minerals. Then you can feel them, scratch them, streak test them, study the cleavage, luster, crystal form, etc. Learn the chemical make-up - elements, sulphides, oxides, silicates, etc.
A good old textbook like Sinkankas, Dana's Textbook or Manual, plus an encyclopedia type mineral book with lots of color photos will be helpful, but Mindat and other internet sites are really all one needs.
Hans2 June 22, 2012 06:16PM
Hi all,

Bart, you brought back some memories when you mentioned the "Golden Book". My parents must have bought this for me when I was about 8 or 10, around 1962. I pored over that little book, hoping I could someday acquire minerals like the illustrations. The Pough book I acquired a few years later - it's still on my bookshelf, a bit tattered, but a dear possession. And, I must have checked out the local library's copy of Dana every few months - light reading for a pre-teen...

My biggest thrill was when my Dad took a couple of to Beryl Mountain, in South Acworth, NH, probably in 1963 or so. At the time, you could still see beryl crystals over 6" in diameter embedded in the pegmatite exposures. They looked like green telephone poles!

College brought me Sinkankas' "Mineralogy for Amateurs" - I went to college a bit later than most.

I don't think there is such a thing as a crash course in mineralogy. You read books; look at minerals whenever/wherever possible; you buy them or collect them (and try to identify); you destroy unimportant pieces of mineral to test for hardness, solubility in acid, fusibility; you look at them under a microscope. And you start memorizing classification schemas, learn some crystallography, some mineral chemistry, maybe study ore deposits or metamorphic rocks to see how different minerals occur in different environments...

Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? But over time, your ability to "see" minerals becomes more acute - you see shape, color, luster, associations, etc, that somehow the brain translates into "Ah, that's quartz", or "That looks like it could be a sulfosalt". And, locality knowledge - just knowing where the mineral is from - comes into play as well.

Others on this thread are correct - this takes years. It's worth it, though!


Bart Cannon June 22, 2012 10:06PM

Rudy Tschenich somehow uploaded his entire zeolite bible to Mindat.

How on earth was that done ? Was the whole thing a Word file ?

560 pages with images. How do you have the storage space ?


Your point about the locality info for mineral ID is right on. That's where I start.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph June 22, 2012 10:25PM
We have plenty of space here!
Lou Rector June 22, 2012 11:03PM
On a related subject MIT has posted the lecture notes and/or readings for a number of their geology courses at:


John Lichtenberger June 22, 2012 11:04PM
Ah yes...Pough's Field guide... got mine when I was 8 years old... hmmn that'd be over 5 decades or so ago...

tattered but still intact... life was simpler then...

note the naive check marks next to index entries... as if I was going to collect one of each entry... (right)

John L.
David Garske June 23, 2012 03:58AM
I totally agree with Bart, very few people have the knack to visually identify minerals. I took my beginning mineralogy course at Michigan Tech about 1956 under K. Spiroff who was extraordinarily good. We were expected to visually identify almost any known mineral of the 1700 known at that time, remember having a good specimen of gratonite as an unknown. I taught mineralogy for 11 years, and a very few students would retain mineral knowledge even to the next semester. I showed a Mt. St. Hilaire specimen to the rest of the faculty, had 16 minerals in it. None of them properly identified any of them.
It still "scares" me when I can instantly identify a minute crystal or cleavage, still trying to figure how I can do it. I go along with the rest of the writers, handling minerals, looking at photos, knowing chemistry, localities, etc. is essential.
At the rate that the IMA is changing nomenclature, we may have to date labels to prove that the name we use was valid at that time.
Norman King June 23, 2012 09:34PM
I took college mineralogy from a sadistic professor at University of Colorado, who later became best known for co-authoring a book about tunneling in rock. I have characterized him thus ever since the day he brought in a hand-specimen identification pop quiz, asking us to visually identify the mineral in maybe 6-8 unknowns (I don’t remember the number exactly–that was a long time ago but I remember the occasion due to the post-traumatic stress syndrome I experienced), each about 2-4 cm in all dimensions, consisting of black minerals (or nearly so) having good cleavage and vitreous luster in crystals maxing at about 2 mm. That was it. No hand lense or other tools allowed. Nothing. Years later I decided they were probably all the same thing. (Although there had to be more than one mineral in at least some of them!) He never reported on the results or returned our papers, and no one (certainly not me) ever asked about them. Odd.
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