The Elements Collection
Updated on August 9th, 2020

The Periodic Table

I gave my school aged grand children a calendar featuring selected elements as a present for Christmas 2019. My plan is to select an element every month for 2020 and provide a collection box and mineral samples of twelve elements or compounds which contain the featured elements. Hopefully, my grand children will learn important aspects about the "Element of the Month" by using the Internet to answer a few questions I will provide each month. Also, I plan to introduce terms such as atom, molecule, and compound in addition to element. I will introduce two groups of compounds; metals and non metals (with examples of metallic and non-metallic mineral examples. At the close of 2020, not only will each family will have a colorful collection of twelve mineral samples representing the "Elements of the Month", but they will have been introduced to the fields of inorganic chemistry and mineralogy.

Elements of the Month

January- Lithium

Element- Lithium (Symbol-Li) (Atomic Number-3)
Mineral- Lepidolite Mica
(from Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Lepidolite is a variety of a common type of mica called Muscovite.
Muscovite mica is composed of the elements; 
Potassium (K), Aluminum (Al), Silicon (Si), and Oxygen (O).

Lepidolite has the same composition as Muscovite except that it also contains Lithium (Li) which gives it its pale purple (Lilac) color.

1. What are three uses of Lithium?
2. What other mineral besides Lepidolite is a source of Lithium?
3. What is the hardness of Lepidolite on Mohs' Scale of Hardness?

February- Copper

Element- Copper (Symbol-Cu) (Atomic Number-29)
                                                                Mineral- Native Copper
(from Lake Superior, Michigan)

Native Copper is composed of only one element (Copper).
It is called native copper because it occurs naturally in the Earth's  crust.
The small greenish spots in this sample are either Malachite (a combination of copper, calcium, and oxygen) or Turquoise (a combination of copper, aluminum, potassium, hydrogen, and oxygen). These compounds are created when the pure Copper is combined with the other elements when exposed to the atmosphere and water.
1. Why is Copper used for electrical wiring?
2. Why is copper used in the bottom of high quality cooking pots?
3. What is the hardness of Copper in Mohs' Scale of Hardness?

Related Questions:
1. What does the Atomic Number mean?
2. What are protons. neutrons, and electrons?

March- Bismuth

Element- Bismuth (Symbol-Bi) (Atomic Number-83)
         Mineral- Rainbow Bismuth Crystal
(Synthetic-Grown in a Laboratory)

Naturally occurring Bismuth is an iridescent silvery white
crystalline, brittle, metal and is very rare.  It is usually a rainbow
colored crystal obtained as a by-product of mining and refining
lead, copper, tin, silver, and gold.

What does iridescent mean?
What does crystalline mean?
What does brittle mean?

What is the hardness of Bismuth in Mohs' Scale of Hardness?
What is Bismuth used for?

April- Zinc

Element- Zinc (Symbol-Zn) (Atomic Number-30)
         Minerals- Zinc Ore (Zincite and Franklinite)
(Zinc Ore from Sterling Hill Mine, Ogdensburg, NJ)

 I am using a sample of zinc ore from the Sterling Hill Mine to represent this moth's element element Zinc. They are:
Zincite, the red colored mineral which is a compound consisting of Zinc and Oxygen.
Franklinite, the black colored mineral which is a compound of Zinc, Iron, and Oxygen.

Google Question: "What is a compound" :-)

Zincite and Franklinite are zinc compounds. Zincite has a chemical formula ZnO which means it consists of one molecule of Zinc for every molecule of Oxygen. Franklinite has a chemical formula of ZnFe2O4 which means that it consists of one molecule of Zinc for every two (2) molecules of Iron and four (4) molecules of Oxygen.

What is the hardness of Zincite and Franklinite in Mohs' Scale of Hardness?
What is Zinc used for?
Zinc is of special interest in the COVID-19 pandemic. Why?

This is a picture of high grade zinc ore from the Sterling Hill Mine in Ogdensberg, NJ.  It is made up primarily of a mineral called Sphalerite (ZnFeS).  The Sphalerite is the brownish red mineral. The black mineral is either an iron rich variety if Sphalerite called Marmatite or the zinc iron oxide, Franklinite (ZnFe2O4).

  Fluorescent minerals found in Franklin and Ogdensberg, New Jersey

There are many unique minerals found in the Franklin and Sterling Hill Mines. These mines are the home of some of the finest examples of minerals which have the property called fluorescence. Minerals exhibit fluorescence when they produce unusually bright colors when their molecules react to fluorescent light in specific ultraviolet frequencies.

The pinkish flesh colored mineral is Willemite (Zn2SiO4)- It fluoresces bright green
The white colored mineral is Calcite (CaCO3)- It fluoresces bright red

There are many less common minerals at Franklin and Sterling Hill Mines that fluoresce many different colors!

You can take as tour of the Sterling Hill Mine in Ogdensberg, NJ. One of the stops of the tour after entering the Edison Tunnel to the mine features a beautiful display of the fluorescent minerals in walls of the tunnel.

May- Iron
Element- Iron (Symbol-Fe) (Atomic Number-26)
         Mineral- Pyrite- FeS2
The Pyrite sample is from Peru in South America

I am using Pyrite for this month's sample because it is shiny and attractive. But is is not a primary source of iron.
What two minerals are the most important sources of iron? (We are talking sources of the metal iron; not dietary iron)
These two minerals are compounds of Iron and Oxygen.

What is Lodestone?

What is Iron used for?

What is Fools Gold?

What is the hardness of Pyrite
in Mohs' Scale of Hardness?

June- Lead
(Symbol- Pb) (Atomic Number 82)
Mineral- Galena-  PbS

I am using Galena PbS for this month's sample because it is a common form of lead which has been a primary source of lead for hundreds of centuries.

What is lead used for?

Why has lead been discontinued for use in water pipes and paint.

Galena is a compound consisting of one part _______ and one part of _______.  
What is the hardness of Pyrite
in Mohs' Scale.?

Smelting: In the last three months, I have featured minerals which consisted of metal elements (Zinc, Iron,and Lead) with Sulfur.  This group of compounds are called Sulfides.  The metals are separated from the Sulfur by a process called smelting. Use Google to look up "smelting" and send me a brief email about what you learned!

July- Sulfur
(Symbol-S) (Atomic Number 16)

We have already learned about the role of Sulfur as a Sulfide mixture of metals and sulfur where the metal can be extracted through a process called smelting.

But Sulfur is used in other ways.  What are at least two of them?

Use Google to determine "How does Sulfur occur naturally in the Earth". The most natural occurrence of Sulfur is near what __________.

What is the hardness of Sulfur i
n Mohs' Scale of harness.?

Check out this website about Elements:
When you get to the website, just double click on the Element you want to investigate in the Periodic Table. You will find some excellent pictures of different forms of the element and in some cases information about it's use.

August- Carbon
(Symbol-C) (Atomic Number 6)
Minerals- Graphite and Diamond- C

I have selected Graphite as the sample for Carbon because I couldn't afford to use Diamond !

Carbon occurs naturally at the extremes of Mohs' scale of hardness.   What is the hardness of Graphite i
n Mohs' Scale of harness.?

List five uses of Graphite!

Graphene is similar to Graphite but it is an "allotrope".
An allotrope is a form (Graphene) of an element (Carbon) which has a different molecular structure of another form (Graphite) of the same element (Carbon).

Graphene is an important new form of Graphite.  List some uses of Graphene.

What is the hardness of Diamond in Mohs' Scale of harness.?

Why is Diamond used in jewelry?
List some industrial uses of Diamond?

Where are Diamonds found in the United States?
Are Diamonds found in North Carolina? 

After you use Google to answer this question, is there anything special about the picture of the Diamond on the left.

What is Coal?
 Coal is a material which contains carbon in an organic form. The carbon atoms in coal are combined with hydrogen. Coal started with plants about 300  millions of years ago. When the plants died, their remains were preserved in sedimentary rocks.

Stages (types) of coal can be described is either four or five types. We will pick four. Briefly describe each of them.

1. Lignite-
2. Subbituminous-
3. Bituminous (soft coal)-
4. Anthracite (hard coal)-

The ranking depends on the types and amounts of Carbon each contains and the amount of heat energy each can produce.

Coming in September - Silicon
(Symbol-Si) (Atomic Number 16)
Mineral- Rose Quartz- SiO2

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Robert S. "Bo" Smith