Quartz

Physical Properties
Chemical formula SiO2
Class Tectosilicate
3D framework of linked tetrahedra
Crystal system Hexagonal (rhombohedral)
Habit Prismatic
Massive
Color Colorless
White (milky quartz)
Purple (amethyst)
Pink (rose quartz))
Yellow (citrine)
Brown or black (smoky quartz)
Hardness 7
Specific gravity 2.65
Cleavage None
Fracture Conchoidal
Luster Vitreous
Transparency Translucent to transparent
Streak White
Optical Properties
PPL Colorless
Low relief
XPL 1st order gray
Undulatory extinction
Will appear black through full
rotation if looking down the C axis
δ 0.009
Twinning None
Extinction Undulatory
after Perkins, 303

Quartz in Hand Sample

Four variations on a theme
Subhedral quartz crystal
Double-terminated quartz crystals
Amethyst
Citrine
Milky quartz
Rose quartz
Smoky quartz
Blue quartz in weathered granitoid
Reddish quartz with whitish, radiating barite and purplish-blackish botryoidal hematite on quartzite
Quartz with gold-colored rutile and silvery-gray ilmenite
Scanning electron micrograph of euhedral quartz
Scanning electron micrograph of anhedral quartz

These two scanning electron micrographs of double-terminated quartz crystals (“Herkimer diamonds“) come courtesy of Nik Deems.

Cryptocrystalline Quartz Minerals

Banded chert from the Fig Tree Formation, South Africa
Fossiliferous chert with sphalerite
Brecciated chert from the Corona Heights Fault, San Francisco
Chalcedony
Beekite, a type of chalcedony which forms when silica replaces carbonate minerals in fossils, present as concentric rings in a Devonian-aged fossiliferous sandstone
Jasper in banded iron formation
Agate (dyed, but you’ll get the idea)
Agate in volcaniclastic breccia from Mount St. Helens

Quartz in Thin Section

Thin Section GigaPans

Looking for ghost boundaries/ghost structures? Head on over to the quartzite page.

Quartz in tuff, plane polars
Quartz in tuff, crossed polars
Quartz in quartzite, plane polars
Quartz in quartzite, crossed polars (with bonus hair in the field of view; oops)
Siliceous oolites, plane polars
Siliceous oolites, crossed polars

Quartz, PPL

Quartz, Plane Polars

Quartz in plane polarized light. Magnification: 40x Rock: Tuff To see this mineral in XPL, click here: https://youtu.be/ppJP74V6Z88 To explore this slide in …

Quartz, XPLhttps://youtu.be/ppJP74V6Z88

Quartz in quartzite, plane polars

Quartz in Quartzite, Plane Polars

Quartz in quartzite, cross polarized light. To view these grains in crossed polars, click here: https://youtu.be/k5roRzZ5Qd8 To explore a gigapan of this sli…

Quartz in quartzite, crossed polars

Quartz in Quartzite, Crossed Polars

Quartz in quartzite, cross polarized light. To view these grains in plane polars, click here: https://youtu.be/Pfm9-GrcxZ8 To explore a gigapan of this slide…

Siliceous oolites, PPL
Siliceous oolites, PPL

Siliceous Oolite, Plane Polars

Siliceous oolite in plane polarized light. Magnification: 40x Click here to watch this rotate in crossed polars: https://youtu.be/XhYz6vFLpgQ Click here to e…

Siliceous oolites, XPL
Siliceous oolites, XPL

Siliceous Oolite, Crossed Polars

Siliceous oolite in cross polarized light. Magnification: 40x Click here to watch this rotate in plane polars: https://youtu.be/E5oJDOCq7YI Click here to exp…

Chalcedony, plane polars

Chalcedony, plane polars

Magnification: 40x Click here for crossed polars: https://youtu.be/ByPpw1lMRr0

Chalcedony, crossed polars

Chalcedony, crossed polars

Magnification: 40x Click here for plane polars: https://youtu.be/keeA95ddSms

Flint, plane polars

Flint, plane polars

Magnification: 40x Click here for crossed polars: https://youtu.be/b3SQQWjJiis

Flint, crossed polars

Flint, crossed polars

Magnification: 40x Click here for plane polars: https://youtu.be/MzmuSuHdSzE

Quartz ghost with biotite scarf
Alot of quartz with air bubble eyes
Quartz chestburster

The Vagaries of Quartz Extinction

All the textbooks say that quartz is characterized by undulatory (or undulose) extinction.

It’s not that simple.

Sometimes it’s nice and smooth. Sometimes it’s genuinely undulatory. Sometimes the grain has been through an orogeny or something and is just a mess.

Quartz Extinction, Crossed Polars

Magnification: 40xRock: GabbroNVCC slide AN 29.

Quartz Oddities

If it’s more than 30µ thick, quartz will display 1st order yellows instead of 1st order grays. This is pretty common; sometimes it’s better to let the quartz be a little thick than to risk grinding too much material off your thin section. Yellowish quartz is an acceptable sacrifice, because you can still infer that it’s quartz by its extinction patterns. The quartz in this biotite gneiss is a great example. Had the person who made the thin section ground the sample down any farther, many of the feldspars would have been lost.

This slide obligingly provided a 30µ-thick quartz grain beside a thicker one, so you can see the comparison.

Quartz and thick quartz

30μ Quartz and Thicker Quartz

One grain of quartz ground to a thickness of 30μ, and one grain left a bit thicker. The 30μ grain shows 1st order greys; the thicker grain shows 1st order ye…

This a quartz sandstone whose clasts have been ground to uneven thicknesses.

Quartz clasts of uneven thickness, crossed polars

This is a quartz sandstone whose clasts have been ground to uneven thicknesses. Some show the 1st-order gray that quartz displays at 30µ; others show the 1st…

Sometimes you’ll be staring at a grain that you just know is quartz, but it’s black, and it stays black through a whole rotation of the stage. It’s okay. It’s quartz. It’s just angled so that you’re looking straight down the C-axis.

Quartz Down the C-axis, Crossed Polars

If a quartz grain is oriented such that you’re looking directly down the C-axis, it will appear, and remain, black as you rotate the stage in crossed polars.

Further Reading

Quartz at webmineral.com
Quartz at mindat.org