A wide variety of minerals occur in Virginia. These minerals form the basic building blocks of the rocks that shape the landscape. Minerals exhibit distinctive properties that makes each unique. In Virginia minerals are mined for industrial purposes, collected by enthusiasts, and used for scientific research to help us better understand the Earth. The list of minerals below highlights a few of the most common or popular minerals that are found in Virginia. If you would like more details on the distribution of minerals in our state, click here. To view our Mineral Collecting In Virginia factsheet click here.
An iron oxide mineral, hematite is commonly metallic gray, brown, or reddish in color. It is an ore of iron and can form naturally in sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic rocks. Hematite is a primary constituent in what is perhaps the most famous rock in the world – the Banded Iron Formation which formed as Earth’s atmosphere first became oxygenated 2.2 billion years ago. Although the Banded Iron Formation is not found in Virginia, hematite has historically been mined in the Valley and Ridge Province.
Feldspar is an extremely common mineral. It can be found in many varieties of rock, especially metamorphic or igneous rock types. Feldspar is usually milky white, but can have color due to impurities in the crystal structure. Feldspar is currently mined in central Virginia and is very common in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Provinces. Photo courtesy of Rob Lavinsky.
This distinctive mineral is easy to identify by its platy appearance. Commonly seen as shiny flecks in sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic rocks, mica easily flakes off into thin crystal plates. Two common varieties of mica are muscovite (typically pale in color) and biotite (darker brown to black). Mica is commonly found in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Provinces of Virginia. Photo courtesy of Rob Lavinsky.
As a very common mineral, calcite can be seen in many different rocks including limestone, dolomite, and marble. Although calcite is commonly white, it can appear in various colors due to chemical impurities. Calcite can be distinguished from other similar looking minerals (such as quartz and feldspar) by its effervescent reaction with weak hydrochloric acid. Calcite can be found throughout Virginia. Photo courtesy of Rob Lavinsky.
One of the most common minerals in the world, quartz can be found in sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks throughout Virginia. Quartz typically appears as clear or whitish crystals within a rock such as granite. Amethyst, agate, chalcedony, chert (flint), and opal are all varieties of quartz.
Often mistaken for gold, pyrite is easily recognizable by its metallic luster and brass-yellow color. Pyrite forms into cubic crystals or as a mass of shapeless grains within sedimentary nodules, coal seams, or other rock veins. It is commonly associated with gold and found in the Gold-Pyrite belt of Virginia. Photograph courtesy of Rob Lavinsky.