Quartz is an abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Throughout the world, varieties of quartz have been, since antiquity, the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewelry and hardstone carvings.
Crystal habit and structure
Quartz belongs to the trigonal crystal system. The ideal crystal shape is a six-sided prism terminating with six-sided pyramids at each end. In nature quartz crystals are often twinned, distorted, or so intergrown with adjacent crystals of quartz or other minerals as to only show part of this shape, or to lack obvious crystal faces altogether and appear massive. Well-formed crystals typically form in a 'bed' that has unconstrained growth into a void, but because the crystals must be attached at the other end to a matrix, only one termination pyramid is present. There are exceptions as doubly terminated crystals do occur. An occurrence in Herkimer County, New York is noted for these Herkimer diamonds with terminations at both ends. A quartz geode is such a situation where the void is approximately spherical in shape, lined with a bed of crystals pointing inward.
Quartz is an essential constituent of granite and other felsic igneous rocks. It is very common in sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and shale and is also present in variable amounts as an accessory mineral in most carbonate rocks. It is also a common constituent of schist, gneiss, quartzite and other metamorphic rocks. Because of its resistance to erosion it is very common in stream sediments and in residual soils. Quartz, therefore, occupies the lowest potential to weather in the Goldich dissolution series.
Quartz occurs in hydrothermal veins as gangue along with ore minerals. Large crystals of quartz are found in pegmatites. Well-formed crystals may reach several meters in length and weigh as much as 1,400 pounds (640 kg).
Naturally occurring quartz crystals of extremely high purity, necessary for the crucibles and other equipment used for growing silicon wafers in the semiconductor industry, are expensive and rare. A major mining location for high-purity quartz is the Spruce Pine Mining District in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, United States.
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