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Learn Mineralogy

by Rick Moore last modified Jan 04, 2016 10:18 PM
Reference materials that will make learning mineralogy and identifying minerals easier.

Note that these introductory text books are older and usually only available from online used book stores. IMHO, the presentation of material in most modern Mineralogy texts is much less friendly to the amateur mineralogist or casual mineral collector.

Frye, Keith (1974) Modern Mineralogy. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
Frye, Keith (1993) Mineral Science, An Introductory Survey. Macmillan, New York

Clear, concise books for learning basic mineralogy. First few chapters are all you need. The 1974 book has an appendix with 22 pages of mineral property data.

Pohopien, K.M., An introduction to the megascopic study and determination of minerals and rocks (1966). Wm. C Brown, Dubuque, Iowa.

This one is really more of a nicely bound pamphlet than a book. It is split into 2 parts:

  • Part I: How to Study Minerals : Nice, short treatise about identifying minerals via their physical propperties. The first 20 pages cover the basics of mineral properties including simple, clear illustrations of the crystal systems and types of cleavage. The introduction is followed by 75 pages of mineral data tables with properties in common elimination order (hardness, streak, color, luster/diaphaneity, etc.) followed by mineral name in the last column. In case you have an idea what your specimen might be, there is an index at the end of the tables that links a mineral name with the page containing its properties.
  • Part II: Introduction to Rocks : This is a very cursory (9 pages) description of the major rock types and their subtypes. Keep in mind, it is only useful as a reminder of distinctions between the various subtypes of Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary rocks. You will NOT learn everything you need to know about differentianting rock types from this part of the pamphlet.

Newer editions of the pamphlet were published in 1969 & 1972.

Berry,L.G. & B. Mason (1959). Mineralogy.
Mason, B. & L.G. Berry (1968). Elements of Mineralogy.
Berry,L.G., B. Mason & R.V. Dietrich (1983). Mineralogy, 2ndEd.

all published by W. H. Freeman & Co., San Francisco

At 600+ pages each, they are among the most widely referenced books on mineralogy (over 10,000 documented references in other publications). About 1/2 of each book is dedicated to mineral chemistry, physics, crystallography & genesis. The rest of the book contains detailed, well-illustrated descriptions of hundreds of mineral species.

Brian Mason was Curator of Mineralogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Curator of Meteorites at the National Museum of Natural History (the Smithsonian). Two minerals were named after him : Brianite (a phosphate mineral) and Stenhuggarite (from the Swedish ‘stenhuggar’ meaning ‘stone mason’). He was one of the pioneers in the study of meteorites and lunar rocks and his research was key in understanding the nature of the solar system. He even has his own main-belt asteroid between Mars and Jupiter (12926 Brianmason).

Washington University in St. Louis, Dept. of Earth & Planetary Sciences

You can find an excellent list of mineralogy reference books (with commentary) on the Mineral Science course page.