Aside from the beautiful weather and landscape, California has a reputation for producing notorious geological formations as well as some popular minerals. California rocks and minerals may appear to be the same thing, when in fact they are different entities all together. Rocks are made up of several minerals as well as sediment and earth that have been compacted over a long period of time. Minerals are defined by a single chemical composition and shape. Minerals are often mined from rocks.
Sandstone in Southern California is created by years of sand and mud being deposited by fast running water. The pressure from the water creates a rock, or sandstone. A famous sandstone formation in Southern California is the Torrey Sandstone. This formation is known for its large caves. The caves are believed to be carved from weather patterns, particularly the wind.
Carbonatite is a rare rock found in the Mountain Pass Mine in Southern California. The carbonatite rock is considered rare because of its chemical composition. It is primarily made up of carbonate with smaller amounts of sulphate and quartz. This specific composition has created some rare elements within the rock. The carbonatite is being mined for the rare elements which are used for coloring glass and in the glass that is used in microwaves.
Aquamarine is a blue-green-colored mineral or gem in the beryl family. It is a close cousin to the beryl mineral of emerald. Southern California has become a producer of aquamarine from its many mineral mines. Gem mining became popular in Southern California in the late 19th century. Since then, the mining district has grown, although it still doesn’t compete economically with the larger gem mines in other countries. The gem mines in Southern California have given scientists and researchers the opportunity to study aquamarine and other minerals intimately.
In the early 1900s, Southern California was known for its tourmaline. Tourmaline, one of the most complicated chemical formulas of the mineral family, was a highly sought-after gem by China’s empress Tz’u Hsi in 1902. The empress loved California’s pink tourmaline so much, that all of China became enamored with the gem. This led to a boost in the tourmaline mining business in Southern California. Tourmaline is still a prized gem in Southern California, however, its mining has decreased due to high costs.
- Rock image by Leopold from Fotolia.com