Mineralogists study minerals, which are any naturally occurring solid substances, in terms of their form, crystalline structure, physical and chemical properties.
Mineralogists gather, catalogue and perform scientific tests on minerals found in all parts of the world, documenting their findings in written reports and presenting infromation to their peers and other interested parties. Collecting the samples sometimes requires extensive field work, requiring mineralogists to travel far from home to collect minerals from other parts of the world. They also make maps and charts to document where specific minerals are found.
In more detail, they examine, analyse and classify minerals, gems and precious stones, and isolate specimens from ore, rocks or matrices. They make microscopic examinations to determine the shape, surface markings and other physical characteristics, and perform physical and chemical tests to determine the composition of the specimen and the type of crystalline structure. Perographic microscopes are used in the research for and analysis of minerals or finely ground mineral powders. If microscopic analysis does not give exhaustive results, X-ray apparatus and electron micro-analysis are used. They identify and classify the samples, and develop data and theories on the mode of origin, occurrence and possible uses of the minerals
Because the definition of a mineral is so broad, mineralogists work in a large field and have a wide range of sub-specialities and fields to choose from::
Examples of important discoveries - mineralogists have taught us the melting point of copper, the strength of diamonds and the properties of coal. This information is used to make jewellery, strike gold or help mining companies target potentially mineral-rich areas to mine. They usually work for universities and museums, but some work for government geological organisations and in national laboratories. Because they are members of the scientific community, mineralogists must have a thorough understanding of their field.
Schooling School Subjects
Degree: BSc with Chemistry and Geology as major subjects
Post-graduate training: for researchers, at least an honours degree in Geology (with specialisation in Mineralogy) is required. Only a few universities offer Mineralogy as a subject, e.g. US, RU. A masters degree in Mineralogy is recommended.
Registration with the South African Council for Natural Scientists (SACNAS) is required.
Contact the above-mentioned employers and tertiary institutions for more information.