To understand the significance of crystals on Earth, it’s important to realize that scientists believe the Earth’s core is made up of 1,500 miles of crystals.1 This illustrates the beauty of crystal and how organic it is as a resource.
However, one of the more intriguing questions a person may have involves the various types of crystal. Remember, crystal as a term is more of an umbrella term given to a long list of crystallized materials. It’s best to understand the nuances between these different types, how they come about, and what makes them unique. Highlighted below is more information on the different types of crystals around the world.
In general, the process of forming crystals revolves around the cooling of liquids and their eventual hardening. This is a simple explanation for a complex molecular process, however, it sheds light on how crystallization works in nature.
Remember: crystallization has to occur in the right conditions with the right elements. When the crystallization process occurs, it requires the gathering of molecules to produce a certain level of stability. It’s this stability that causes the materials to harden and become what is known as a crystal. Each crystal that is formed will have a unique appearance that is going to depend on the element that has changed and how much of it has changed.2 This determines the shape, size, weight, and circumference of the crystal.
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A good example of the crystallization process would be the formation of cooling magma. The slow process can often lead to crystallization. This is when crystals such as emeralds, rubies, and diamonds are formed. Another example would be the evaporation of water, which can lead to what human beings know as salt.
From a visible perspective, crystals can look unique depending on how they are formed with some being triangles, rectangles, or squares. These shapes are dictated by the elements and nothing else, which is important to note. Once the atoms come together, they act as a catalyst for the final hardened state. Some of the shapes a person may notice include hexagons, tetragons, and trigonal shapes.
Types of Crystals
Let’s move to the heart of the topic because it is an important one. In general, there are four types of crystals: molecular, ionic, metallic, and covalent.
These types are split based on how the crystals are formed, how they look, and other physical details such as the number of points. With this in mind, the crystals are split between the groups and find a spot in one of the four categories as determined by experts.
While defining and categorizing these crystals, experts not only look at the size and shape, they also look at the finer details, such as the points in the lattice or bonds that are developed between multiple crystal particles. All of these details are used to come up with a final judgment.
Of course, as mentioned before, crystals are never going to be alike, which means there are many differences between crystals even when they’re in the same category. However, the classification process is more dependent on a set of foundational rules which have been established through decades of research on crystallization processes.
Beginning with ionic crystals, these are built around the premise of a hardened surface and are a combination of two individual atoms. If these crystals were to be melted, (they can withstand tremendous temperatures) then the resulting liquid can be used as a conductor.
This type of crystal is an excellent conductor because it is designed to maintain a balance of positively and negatively charged ions. This means there is a balance between the atoms in the composition, which make it far more likely to work with electricity. However, this also means it is prone to breaking down depending on how it is used or stored. Unless the two particles are able to remain in the same state, they will break down.
With molecular crystals, you are looking at a far softer surface in comparison to ionic crystals. This means they are not meant to handle vigorously high temperatures and can also be molded without a lot of trouble. This has a lot to do with the weaker particles. In this case, the crystals do not require the fusion of two atoms and can be formulated with only one.
With this type of crystal, it is all about the points on the actual surface (i.e. lattice network). This is an important differentiator when being compared to the other types. Along with having more points, covalent crystals are also known for being the largest of the four types. These crystals are used because of their durability in extreme conditions.
With the final type of crystal, it’s important to look at the intricacies of metallic crystals. This is a crystal that is formed with the presence of two metallic bonds. It is these bonds which hold the crystal together and make sure it doesn’t lose its shape. In general, these are often used for industrial purposes because they are great conductors for both electricity and heat.
Along with this distinction, they are also renowned for having a noticeable sheen that is unique to metallic crystals only.
It’s important to note there is ongoing research in this field of work, and a lot of new information continues to pour in. Since the crystallization process is an integral part of how the planet functions, it maintains a spot as a foundational piece in every aspect of life.
Whether it comes in the form of natural salt or a natural conductor, the significance of crystals cannot be stressed enough. These are the four different types of crystals, with each one having a prominent role on the planet.
Photo credits: DiKiYaqua/shutterstock.com, HollyMazour/shutterstock.com, MonikaWisniewska/shutterstock.com, mykeyruna/shutterstock.com