Can Minerals be Viewing Stones?

Before answering this question, it is necessary to clarify the distinction between rocks and minerals. Minerals are naturally occurring solid formations that are pure inorganic substance with a unique chemical and physical composition. Some minerals have clearly defined crystal formations that are pretty and colorful, but not always. Well known examples of minerals include agate, calcite, chalcedony, gypsum, quartz, jadeite, jasper, nephrite, and pyrite.

Rocks are a combination of more than one mineral and may include organic material. They do not have a unique chemical and physical structure; instead, they are classified according to the processes of their formation or origin. That is, rocks are grouped into one of three major categories—igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary. Common examples of rocks include basalt, chert, Gneiss, granite, limestone, marble, mudstone, obsidian, rhyolite, sandstone, serpentine, and slate.

Viewing stones are defined primarily on their aesthetic qualities rather than their chemical or physical properties. Their features are intentionally subjective and involve their ability to create a feeling of something other than the stone itself. Stones that are reminiscent of scenic landscapes, structures, various figures or abstraction objects are examples of viewing stones. These stones are oriented on a base or in a tray to deliberately suggest what they may represent. Whereas, mineral or rock specimens are displayed to feature their chemical and physical structures.

Most viewing stones utilized throughout the world are different types of rocks. However, certain minerals can and have been used as viewing stones for centuries. Different forms of types of jaspers, chalcedony and agates are prime examples of mineral viewing stones. Petrified wood has been used as a viewing stone for the last millennia. In this case, chalcedony often slowly replaces wood, bone or shells under certain conditions to leave behind a precise replica of the form of once living organic matter. In many respects, it is irrelevant if a viewing stone is a true mineral or rock. What is relevant is the fact that a rock or mineral can be an aesthetic object that represent something other than itself.

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