No, sand is not a mineral. Sand is not chemically consistent and it does not have an orderly internal structure.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain the five qualifications a substance needs to meet in order to be considered a mineral, and how sand meets (or doesn’t meet) each qualification.
What Would Make Sand A Mineral (Or Not)?
To be considered a mineral, sand would need to meet all five of the following characteristics. If sand failed at any of these (and it does fail), then it could not be considered a mineral.
The qualifications to be considered a mineral are::
#1: Sand must exist in nature, without the involvement of humans. The fact that humans can make sand would not disqualify it.
#2: Sand must be a solid (and cannot be a liquid or gas).
#3: Sand must be completely and totally inorganic.
#4: Sand must have a consistent chemical composition throughout all samples of the material.
#5: The internal structure of sand must be orderly and consistent.
What Is Sand Made Of?
Sand is a granular substance (think small particles). These particles are composed of many different kinds of materials, such as silica (quartz), calcium carbonate, argonite, gypsum, selenite, sandstone, and basalt.
To be considered sand (and not gravel or silt), the size of the particles has to be in a certain range (1/16mm-2mm), with varying degrees in between (making the sand very fine, fine, medium, coarse).
Why Is Sand a Mineral? Or Not?
#1: Sand Exists in Nature, Without the Involvement of Humans
All you have to do is wander down to the beach to confirm that sand passes this qualification.
#2: Sand Is A Solid
Sand is a solid, or at the very least, it is an aggregate of materials that is made up of solid materials. It definitely could not be considered a gas or a liquid.
#3: Sand Is Not Always Completely Inorganic
Theoretically, sand could be completely inorganic. In general, an organic substance chemically speaking is a substance that contains carbon to hydrogen chemical bonds of some kind.
Sand is generally composed of tiny particles of rock and minerals.
But if you were to wander down to the beach and take a sample, it is likely that the sand would contain tons of other random particles of dirt, wood, and other organic matter.
If you were able to get a sample of sand that was confirmed completely to be rock and mineral, we think it would pass this point. But in general, sand probably doesn’t.
#4: The Chemical Composition of Sand Is Not Consistent Throughout
Sand is different all around the world. One of the ways sand is formed is from the weathering or erosion of larger rocks and minerals into smaller pieces or particles.
As a result, the kind of particles, rocks, and minerals that make up the sand will be unique to the general geographic location of the sand.
If you took a sample of sand in Brazil and compared it to a sample of sand from Japan, the composition of the sand would be different.
As a result, sand does not meet this qualification.
#5: The Internal Structure of Sand Must Be Orderly and Consistent
Sand is not orderly or consistent. Sand as a material is a aggregate of a bunch of different kinds of substances. The components and minerals are not bonded to each other.
Thus, the structure of sand is very loose and completely and totally disorderly.
Some of the components of sand are considered minerals, but not all.
Since sand doesn’t have an orderly structure, it cannot pass this qualification.
Because Sand doesn’t meet the five qualifications, it doesn’t count as a mineral.
Why Do People Think That Sand Is a Mineral?
There’s a couple reasons.
First, sand is often composed of minerals. Sometimes, it is almost or even completely 100% composed of a specific mineral or a handful of minerals. If the sand is 100% composed of silica (quartz), it would be easy to conclude that sand is also a mineral.
But given that sand in the particle form does not have a consistent and orderly structure, it cannot be considered a requirement.
Second, sand is a component in many industrial applications. It is considered to be a non-renewable resource. People think of sand like they might think of natural gas, oil, and other valuable resources.
Many valuable resources are considered to be “minerals” by law in some states or in counties around the world, even though they cannot be scientifically considered minerals.
What Is Sand Made of Chemically?
As noted above, sand is made of many different kinds of rocks and/or minerals. The particular components of sand will be determined by where the sand comes from. While it is often composed of quartz/silica particles, it can be any number of things.
It can also be parrotfish poop.
Was it created by the erosion of nearby cliffs due to wind and water?
In the end, it really just depends.
Curious about the world? Check out our science hub page for more articles about rocks and minerals.