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The silicates constitute the largest and commonest class of minerals. They are translucent, at least in thin splinters, and on the average are lower in specific gravity and harder than most minerals. Water is present in a number of them, especially in the zeolites, where it is loosely bound. In other species, water is strongly held and cannot be removed without destroying the mineral. Regardless of their complex nature, silicates all contain the silicate atomic structure, whose fundamental building block is the tetrahedron, in which one silicon atom is surrounded by four equally spaced oxygen atoms. The structure of the tetrahedron corresponds to the four-sided tetrahedron in the isometric crystal system. The silicon atom is inside the tetrahedron at the center, and the oxygen atoms occupy the four corners of the tetrahedron. The number and manner of linking of the silicon-oxygen tetrahedrons are the basis upon which the different silicate structures are formed. Chesterman, p. 501


  • Chesterman, Charles W. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals, Alfred A. Knopf: New York (1987)