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Minerals and the crystalline state
Minerals and the crystalline state

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3.5 Density

Density is a measure of how heavy an object is for a given volume. You can get a general idea of the relative densities of different minerals just by picking them up: a piece of galena (PbS) feels heavier than a piece of quartz (SiO2) of the same size.

The density of a mineral depends on its chemical composition, the type of bonding and its crystal structure. The standard unit of density is kg m−3. Examples of the relative densities of various minerals compared with water at room temperature (about 1000 kg m−3) are shown in Table 1. The relationship between density and crystal structure is explored further in Section 4.

Table 1 Relative densities of various minerals.
Mineral Symbol/formula 

Relative density at room conditions

(compared with water = 1.0)

Graphite C2.2
  • According to the information provided in the Digital Geology Kit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which of the following minerals has the highest density and which has the lowest density: garnet, gypsum and quartz?

  • Garnet has the highest density (3.6-4.3); gypsum has the lowest density (2.3). Quartz is in between (2.65). (Density values quoted are relative to water.)