A mineralogist is someone who studies minerals. He or she can work in a variety of settings, ranging from state laboratories which analyze mineral samples for the purpose of assay to private industry, where mineralogists determine the value of claimed land and mineral finds by looking at samples from the site. People who work in this branch of geology spend a lot of time in the field, sometimes in very remote locations, and they also work in lab environments where they can analyze minerals.
One of the key components of a mineralogist's job, no matter where he or she works, is accurate identification and classification of minerals. A variety of techniques can be used to test and examine a mineral to determine what it is, including chemical analysis to study its chemical composition. Once a mineral has been identified and classified, a mineralogist can use that information to draw additional conclusions and turn that data into something useful.
For example, a mineralogist who works for a diamond company might take samples from newly claimed land to look for so-called “indicator minerals” which usually accompany diamonds. Without actually finding any diamonds, the mineralogist may be able to determine whether or not diamonds are likely to be present, and conclusions may be drawn about the quantity and quality of the diamonds at the site, based on existing information about indicator minerals and diamond mines.
Some mineralogists focus on high temperature mineralogy, which is concerned with the minerals which form at high temperatures such as those found deep below the Earth's crust and in volcanoes. Others study low temperature mineralogy. Many mineralogists work with professionals such as engineers and geologists, pooling their knowledge and resources. Cooperative effort is often extremely important, as multiple fields of knowledge may be required to make sense of a mineral claim, and to determine how it should be used.
Companies which utilize minerals rely on mineralogists for exploration, with an exploratory team checking an area to determine whether or not it would be lucrative to acquire mineral rights. Mineralogists also develop new uses for minerals, and study minerals to see how they are used, and how their use might be made more effective and efficient. Mineralogists can also opt to focus on a particular mineral, developing extensive expertise and acting as consultants to a variety of companies and industries, or working exclusively for a particular company to make its products better.