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Quartz silica, also known as crystalline silica or crystalline silicone dioxide, is a mineral that is found in nature. It is one of the most abundant minerals on earth, and there are hundreds of different varieties of it, some of which are gemstones. The molecular structure of quartz silica is unusual and allows stones composed of the material to grow to large sizes over time.
One of the most common minerals on earth, quartz silica can be found on every continent and in every kind of environment. The mineral grows as layers of silicone dioxide are deposited on a seed crystal or on a small cluster of silicone dioxide molecules. These crystals are found in many different types of rocks, including igneous rock, like granite, and sedimentary rock, such as shale. Quartz is extremely hard, which means that it often outlasts the stone that it was originally found in. These stones often weather away over time, freeing the crystals.
Quartz silica has a very particular structure that is only found in one other type of mineral on earth. The molecules of silicone dioxide are arranged in sets of four that twist around like a corkscrew. The structure of the molecules in this mineral makes it relatively difficult to cut, though many varieties can be carefully worked into the common gemstone cuts. Over time, these crystals can grow to lengths of several meters, though these are rare.
There are many different forms of quartz silica that are found in nature. Citrine, amethyst, rose quartz, and smoky quartz are some of the common varieties of the mineral. Though the color and look of all of these stones varies considerably, they are all made up of silicone dioxide and are all crystalline forms of this compound. Other stones, such as onyx, agate, and bloodstone are also forms of silicone dioxide, though they are made up of both quartz and monganite, which have different crystalline structures.
Rock collectors prize quartz silica for the many varieties that they can find. Examining elements of the stones such as color, clarity, shape, and size can yield hundreds of different types of quartz, no two exactly alike. In computer science, extremely pure specimens of quartz silica are used to create certain electrical components, including timing devices. Quartz is also commonly used in watches because its resonance frequency remains stable for long periods of time and under many different environmental conditions.