quartz, widely distributed mineral of many varieties that consists primarily of silica, or silicon dioxide (SiO2). Minor impurities such as lithium, sodium, potassium, and titanium may be present. Quartz has attracted attention from the earliest times; water-clear crystals were known to the ancient Greeks as krystallos—hence the name crystal, or more commonly rock crystal, applied to this variety. The name quartz is an old German word of uncertain origin first used by Georgius Agricola in 1530.
Quartz has great economic importance. Many varieties are gemstones, including amethyst, citrine, smoky quartz, and rose quartz. Sandstone, composed mainly of quartz, is an important building stone. Large amounts of quartz sand (also known as silica sand) are used in the manufacture of glass and ceramics and for foundry molds in metal casting. Crushed quartz is used as an abrasive in sandpaper, silica sand is employed in sandblasting, and sandstone is still used whole to make whetstones, millstones, and grindstones. Silica glass (also called fused quartz) is used in optics to transmit ultraviolet light. Tubing and various vessels of fused quartz have important laboratory applications, and quartz fibres are employed in extremely sensitive weighing devices.
Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in Earth’s crust after feldspar. It occurs in nearly all acid igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. It is an essential mineral in such silica-rich felsic rocks as granites, granodiorites, and rhyolites. It is highly resistant to weathering and tends to concentrate in sandstones and other detrital rocks. Secondary quartz serves as a cement in sedimentary rocks of this kind, forming overgrowths on detrital grains. Microcrystalline varieties of silica known as chert, flint, agate, and jasper consist of a fine network of quartz. Metamorphism of quartz-bearing igneous and sedimentary rocks typically increases the amount of quartz and its grain size.
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