The key difference between minerals and crystals is that minerals are naturally occurring substances whereas crystals can be natural or synthetic.
Mineralogy is the study of minerals. We have discovered more than 4000 minerals, and they have a crystalline structure. Inside the earth, due to heat and various other reactions, minerals and rocks melt together. When they become cooled slowly, crystals form. When this cooling happens over thousands of years, larger crystals may form. Through mining, people dig these deposits and use them for various purposes. Other than underground crystals, there are some on the earth’s surface. These crystals form when the melted rocks and minerals came up from underground and cooled in the surface. Other than their economic values, minerals are important for plant and animal life too. Minerals and naturally occurring crystals are non-renewable resources, and it is our responsibility to use them sustainably.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are present in the natural environment. Hence, we can find them on earth’s surface and underground. They are homogenous solids, and they have regular structures. Likewise, minerals occur in rocks, ores and natural mineral deposits. For instance, hematite and magnetite exist in iron ores. Minerals like gems and diamonds are rare. There are a large number of these substances, and we can identify them by studying their shape, colour, structure and properties.
Some minerals are shiny (e.g., gold, silver) and some are not. Cleavage is the way minerals split apart naturally. Some minerals split into cubes, and some are split into irregular shapes. To measure the hardness of a mineral, we can use the Mohs scale. It is a 1-10 scale, and it rates diamond as 10 in that scale which is very harder than talc, which is rated as 1.
What are Crystals?
Crystals are solids, which have ordered structures and symmetry. The atoms, molecules or ions in crystals are arranged in a particular manner; thus, having a long-range order. Crystals naturally occur on earth as large crystalline rocks, such as quartz, granite. Some living organisms also form crystals. For instance, calcite is a product of molluscs.
There are water-based crystals in the form of snow, ice or glaciers. We can categorize these substances according to their physical and chemical properties. They are covalent crystals (e.g.: diamond), metallic crystals (e.g.: pyrite), ionic crystals (e.g.: sodium chloride) and molecular crystals (e.g.: sugar). Moreover, crystals can have different shapes and colours. Hence, crystals have an aesthetic value. Therefore, people use crystals like quartz to make glass, clocks and some computer parts.
What is the Difference Between Minerals and Crystals?
Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic elements or compounds having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties while a crystal is a solid material in which the constituents are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in all directions. More importantly, the key difference between minerals and crystals is that minerals are naturally occurring substances whereas crystals can be natural or synthetic.
As another important difference between minerals and crystals is that all the minerals are inorganic while crystals can be organic or inorganic. For example, minerals include hematite, magnetite, quartz, etc. while examples for crystals include minerals and man-made crystals such as man-made glass.
Summary – Minerals vs Crystals
By definition, a crystal is “a homogenous chemical compound with a regular and periodic arrangement of atoms”. Examples are halite, salt (NaCl), and quartz (SiO2). But, crystals are not restricted to minerals; they comprise most solid matter such as sugar, cellulose, metals, bones and even DNA. Hence, the key difference between minerals and crystals is that minerals are naturally occurring substances whereas crystals can be natural or synthetic.