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crystals rocks minerals

What is Cryptocrystalline?

the mineral olivine under a microscope

Cryptocrystalline Microcrystalline Macrocrystalline

Crystalline describes a naturally occurring solid made up of crystals.  These materials are known as minerals.

Microcrystalline is a term used in geology to describe a rock or mineral with crystals too small to be seen with the naked eye.  Although microscopic the crystals can usually be seen when magnified.

Cryptocrystalline describes a rock or mineral whose crystals are so tiny they look like a dense, compact and uniform mass. 

The only way to view a cryptocrystalline mineral's crystals is with a powerful microscope.  

The prefix "crypto" comes from Latin word for "hidden" or "secret".

Although not really accurate, cryptocrystalline and microcrystalline are often used interchangeably when describing any rock or mineral whose crystals cannot be seen with the naked eye.  

Microcrystalline should not be confused with macrocrystalline.  This word describes crystals that can be clearly seen.  An example of macrocrystalline crystals can be see in an amethyst geode.

Article Photo

Our photo is the mineral olivine under powerful magnification.  The photo is a royalty free image. 

It's likely to have been taken in polarised light so the colours will have been produced by the interference of light.

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