Mohs scale of mineral hardness

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The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is a qualitative ordinal scale which characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is one of several definitions of hardness in materials science, some of which are more quantitative.[1] The method of comparing hardness by seeing which minerals can visibly scratch others, however, is of great antiquity, having been mentioned by Theophrastus in his treatise On Stones, c. 300 BC, followed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, c. 77 AD.[2][3][4] While greatly facilitating the identification of minerals in the field, the Mohs scale is not suitable for accurately gauging the hardness of industrial materials.[5]


The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is based on the ability of one natural sample of mineral to scratch another mineral visibly. The samples of matter used by Mohs are all different minerals. Minerals are pure substances found in nature. Rocks are made up of one or more minerals.[6] As the hardest known naturally occurring substance when the scale was designed, diamonds are at the top of the scale. The hardness of a material is measured against the scale by finding the hardest material that the given material can scratch, and/or the softest material that can scratch the given material. For example, if some material is scratched by apatite but not by fluorite, its hardness on the Mohs scale would fall between 4 and 5.[7] "Scratching" a material for the purposes of the Mohs scale means creating non-elastic dislocations visible to the naked eye. Frequently, materials that are lower on the Mohs scale can create microscopic, non-elastic dislocations upon materials that have a higher Mohs number. While these microscopic dislocations are permanent and sometimes detrimental to the harder material's structural integrity, they are not considered "scratches" for the determination of a Mohs scale number.[8]

The Mohs scale is a purely ordinal scale. For example, corundum (9) is twice as hard as topaz (8), but diamond (10) is four times as hard as corundum. The table below shows comparison with absolute hardness measured by a sclerometer, with pictorial examples.[9][10]

Mohs hardnessMineralChemical formulaAbsolute hardness[11]Image
1TalcMg3Si4O10(OH)21Talc block.jpg
2GypsumCaSO4·2H2O3Gypse Arignac.jpg
4FluoriteCaF221Fluorite with Iron Pyrite.jpg
5ApatiteCa5(PO4)3(OH,Cl,F)48Apatite crystals.jpg
7QuartzSiO2100Quartz Brésil.jpg
8TopazAl2SiO4(OH,F)2200Topaz cut.jpg
9CorundumAl2O3400Cut Ruby.jpg
10DiamondC1600Rough diamond.jpg

On the Mohs scale, a streak plate (unglazed porcelain) has a hardness of 7.0. Using these ordinary materials of known hardness can be a simple way to approximate the position of a mineral on the scale.[1]

Intermediate hardness[edit]

The table below incorporates additional substances that may fall between levels:

HardnessSubstance or mineral
0.2–0.3caesium, rubidium
0.5–0.6lithium, sodium, potassium
1.5gallium, strontium, indium, tin, barium, thallium, lead, graphite, ice[12]
2hexagonal boron nitride,[13] calcium, selenium, cadmium, sulfur, tellurium, bismuth
2.5–3magnesium, gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lanthanum, cerium, Jet (lignite)
3calcite, copper, arsenic, antimony, thorium, dentin
4fluorite, iron, nickel
5apatite (tooth enamel), zirconium, palladium, obsidian (volcanic glass)
5.5beryllium, molybdenum, hafnium, glass, cobalt
6orthoclase, titanium, manganese, germanium, niobium, rhodium, uranium
6–7fused quartz, iron pyrite, silicon, ruthenium, iridium, tantalum, opal, peridot, tanzanite
7osmium, quartz, rhenium, vanadium
7.5–8emerald, hardened steel, tungsten, spinel
8topaz, cubic zirconia
8.5chrysoberyl, chromium, silicon nitride, tantalum carbide
9–9.5corundum, silicon carbide (carborundum), tungsten carbide, titanium carbide
9.5–10boron, boron nitride, rhenium diboride, stishovite, titanium diboride
10diamond, carbonado
>10nanocrystalline diamond (hyperdiamond, ultrahard fullerite)

Hardness (Vickers)[edit]

Comparison between Hardness (Mohs) and Hardness (Vickers):[14]

Hardness (Mohs)Hardness (Vickers)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Feb. 2009 "Mohs hardness."
  2. ^ Theophrastus on Stones. Retrieved on 2011-12-10.
  3. ^ Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia. Book 37. Chap. 15. ADamas: six varieties of it. Two remedies.
  4. ^ Pliny the Elder.Naturalis Historia. Book 37. Chap. 76. The methods of testing precious stones.
  5. ^ Non-Destructive Testing Resource Center
  6. ^ Learn science, Intermediate p. 42
  7. ^ American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. "Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness"
  8. ^ The True Microstructure of Materials
  9. ^ Amethyst Galleries' Mineral Gallery What is important about hardness?.
  10. ^ Inland Lapidary Mineral Hardness and Hardness Scales
  11. ^ Applied Mineralogy: Applications in Industry and Environment By Swapna Mukherjee 2011 [1]
  12. ^
  13. ^ Berger, Lev I. (1996). Semiconductor Materials (First ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0849389122. 
  14. ^

Further reading[edit]