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Lustre (mineralogy)

Lustre or luster is the way light interacts with the surface of a crystal, rock, or mineral. The word traces its origins back to the latin lux, meaning "light", and generally implies radiance, gloss, or brilliance.

A range of terms are used to describe lustre, such as earthy, metallic, greasy, and silky. Similarly, the term vitreous (derived from the Latin for glass, vitrum) refers to a glassy lustre. A list of these terms is given below.

Lustre varies over a wide continuum, and so there are no rigid boundaries between the different types of lustre. (For this reason, different sources can often describe the same mineral differently. This ambiguity is further complicated by lustre's ability to vary widely within a particular mineral species.) The terms are frequently combined to describe intermediate types of lustre (for example, a "vitreous greasy" lustre).

Some minerals exhibit unusual optical phenomena, such as asterism (the display of a star-shaped luminous area) or chatoyancy (the display of luminous bands, which appear to move as the specimen is rotated). A list of such phenomena is given below.

Adamantine minerals possess a superlative lustre, which is most notably seen in diamond. Such minerals are transparent or translucent, and have a high refractive index (of 1.9 or more). Minerals with a true adamantine lustre are uncommon, with examples being cerussite and Cubic zirconia.

Minerals with a lesser (but still relatively high) degree of lustre are referred to as subadamantine, with some examples being garnet and corundum.

Dull (or earthy) minerals exhibit little to no lustre, due to coarse granulations which scatter light in all directions, approximating a Lambertian reflector. An example is kaolinite. A distinction is sometimes drawn between dull minerals and earthy minerals, with the latter being coarser, and having even less lustre.



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