Mohs scale of mineral hardness
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is one of several definitions of hardness in materials science.1 The method of comparing hardness by seeing which minerals can scratch others, however, is of great antiquity, having been mentioned by Theophrastus in his treatise On Stones, c. 300 BC, followed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, c. 77 AD.234
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is based on the ability of one natural sample of matter to scratch another mineral. The samples of matter used by Mohs are all different minerals. Minerals are pure substances found in nature. Rocks are made up of one or more minerals.5 As the hardest known naturally occurring substance when the scale was designed, diamonds are at the top of the scale. The hardness of a material is measured against the scale by finding the hardest material that the given material can scratch, and/or the softest material that can scratch the given material. For example, if some material is scratched by apatite but not by fluorite, its hardness on the Mohs scale would fall between 4 and 5.6
The Mohs scale is a purely ordinal scale. For example, corundum (9) is twice as hard as topaz (8), but diamond (10) is four times as hard as corundum. The table below shows comparison with absolute hardness measured by a sclerometer, with pictorial examples.78
|Mohs hardness||Mineral||Chemical formula||Absolute hardness||Image|
On the Mohs scale, graphite (a principal constituent of pencil "lead") has a hardness of 1.5; a fingernail, 2.2–2.5; a copper penny, 3.2–3.5; a pocketknife 5.1; a knife blade, 5.5clarification needed; window glass plate, 5.5; and a steel nail, 5.5.9 A streak plate (unglazed porcelain) has a hardness of 7.0. Using these ordinary materials of known hardness can be a simple way to approximate the position of a mineral on the scale.1
The table below incorporates additional substances that may fall between levels:
|Hardness (Mohs)||Hardness (Vickers)
- Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Feb. 2009 "Mohs hardness."
- Theophrastus on Stones. Farlang.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-10.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia. Book 37. Chap. 15. ADamas: six varieties of it. Two remedies.
- Pliny the Elder.Naturalis Historia. Book 37. Chap. 76. The methods of testing precious stones.
- Learn science, Intermediate p. 42
- American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. "Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness"
- Amethyst Galleries' Mineral Gallery What is important about hardness?. galleries.com
- Inland Lapidary Mineral Hardness and Hardness Scales
- William S. Cordua (1998). "The Hardness of Minerals and Rocks". Lapidary Digest. Retrieved 2007-08-19. Hosted at International Lapidary Association
- Berger, Lev I. (1996). Semiconductor Materials (First ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0849389122.
- Mohs hardness of elements is taken from G.V. Samsonov (Ed.) in Handbook of the physicochemical properties of the elements, IFI-Plenum, New York, USA, 1968.
- Cordua, William S. "The Hardness of Minerals and Rocks". Lapidary Digest, c. 1990.