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Gemstones on Mohs Hardness Scale

Although there are many methods and systems used to gauge a material’s hardness, the most common of these is the Mohs Hardness Scale. Mohs Hardness Scale, a system founded by Friedrich Mohs in 1812, is a type of chart used to test and contrast the hardness of different minerals. The scale, which can best be described as ordinal rather than linear or logarithmic, provides a rough measure of a mineral’s hardness based on its smooth surface resistance to scratching and abrasion. In other words, it allows our custom jewelry designer in Seattle and Bellevue to rank the hardness of a mineral by its ability (or inability) to scratch another known mineral.

Mohs Hardness Scale Simplified

Mohs Hardness Scale is based on 10 minerals, each of which is assigned an arbitrary value from 1 to 10. These minerals, along with their assigned value are:

Mineral Mohs Hardness
Talc 1
Gypsum 2
Calcite 3
Fluorite 4
Apatite 5
Orthoclase 6
Quartz 7
Topaz 8
Corundum 9
Diamond 10

Common Gemstones Mohs Hardness
Turqoise 5
Opal 5.5
Moonstone 6
Garnet, Zircon, Tanzanite, Peridot, Bloodstone 6.5
Quartz, Amethyst, Citrine 7
Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Emerald, Pearls 7.5
Topaz, Spinel 8
Alexandrite 8.5
Corundum, Ruby, Sapphire 9
Diamond 10

When interpreting Mohs Hardness Scale, it is common to assume that a diamond, for instance, the hardest mineral listed on the scale, is ten times harder than talc, which is the lowest. This is not true, but is a common mistake. So when interpreting the Mohs Hardness Scale, it’s important to keep in mind that the scale is merely ordinal rather than linear. For example, corundum, with a value of 9 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, is twice as hard as topaz, with a value of 8, while a diamond is nearly four times as hard as corundum.

Using Mohs Hardness Scale

While Mohs Hardness Scale outlines the hardness or scratch resistance of ten common minerals, its true usefulness is in measuring the hardness of countless of other minerals and materials, almost all of which fall somewhere in between talc (1) and diamond (10). Gold, one of the most common minerals used by jewelers, generally ranks between 2.5 and 2.9 on Mohs Hardness Scale.

This number can be consistently ascertained by the ability of a particular sample of gold to scratch or leave an abrasion on gypsum (2), while being vulnerable to scratches when coming into contact with calcite (3) and all harder materials. Below we will take another look at Mohs Hardness Scale, as well as some common materials and how they compare in terms of hardness.

Mineral Hardness Ranking Common Materials Observations
Talc 1 Very soft (almost greasy). Can be scratched by a fingernail.
Gypsum 2
Fingernail (2.2) Fingernails can scratch gypsum but will be scratched by a penny
Calcite 3
Copper Penny & Dolomite (3.5) Both will scratch calcite but are scratched by fluorite
Flourite 4 Can easily be scratched by a knife
Apatite 5
Pocket Knife & Glass (approx. 5.5) Glass (with great difficulty) can be scratched by a pocket knife
Orthoclase 6 Cannot be scratched by a pocket knife
Quartz 7 Can scratch glass easily.
Garnet Paper (7.5)
Topaz 8
Corundum 9 Sandpaper Common sandpaper uses corundum and has a hardness value of 9
Diamond 10 Used as a glass cutter

It is important to remember that the Mohs Hardness Scale, while certainly the most common measuring tool, is just one of the ways to identify a material and gauge its hardness and scratch resistance. The rock type, as well as its color, cleavage, luster and crystalline form, must also be taken into account, in addition to the material’s ranking on the scale.