Rock Discoveries

Unveiling the Hidden Colors of Minerals: The Importance of the Streak Test

Introduction to Mineral Streak Test

Mineral identification can be an exciting and informative exercise for hobbyists and scientists alike. Through the use of various mineral property tests, mineral specimens can be accurately classified and studied.

One essential mineral identification test is the streak test. The mineral streak is a valuable property that helps differentiate minerals from one another.

It reveals the color of the mineral’s powder when it’s scratched against a streak plate.

The Importance of Mineral Streak Test

Some minerals can be easily identified by their physical appearance, such as their shape, color, luster, and hardness. But others tend to look similar, and their identification can become confusing.

The streak test is an essential tool to help differentiate between minerals because it brings out a mineral’s true color.

For instance, native metals and sulfide minerals can be easily confused due to their similar appearance.

Native metals commonly occur in metallic shades, whereas sulfide minerals often appear in non-metallic colors like brown, black, or gray. But both mineral types typically have bold, shiny surfaces.

The streak test helps to distinguish these two types of minerals.

Meaning of Mineral Streak

The streak test often involves rubbing the mineral against an unglazed porcelain plate or streak plate. This creates a small amount of mineral powder that goes onto the surface, revealing the true color.

The color of the streak can help identify the mineral accurately.

For example, one of the most renowned metals in the world is gold.

Gold is a yellow metal and possesses a yellow streak. On the other hand, another mineral that appears similar to gold is pyrite, famously known as fool’s gold.

Its appearance can be deceiving because it appears identical to gold. However, the streak of pyrite is black, unlike the yellow streak of gold.

Examples of Minerals Differentiated by Streak Color

Streak colors can vary widely and is often distinct from the mineral’s outward appearance. Consider another mineral- limonite.

This mineral can have an earthy appearance, varying from brown to yellow. However, its streak color is yellowish-brown.

Similarly, hematite has a rusty-red color, while its streak can be like that of limonite- a yellowish color. This difference is useful for mineral identification since the streak test is often easy to perform and can be done with a plain piece of porcelain plate.

Understanding Mineral Streak

The use of streak tests is especially essential for metallic-colored minerals. The streak from metallic colored minerals is often bold and quite consistent.

In contrast, non-metallic minerals tend to produce a white streak that doesn’t vary much in color.

However, there is a catch: streak tests aren’t always the best at identifying minerals with a white, grayish, or colorless appearance.

For instance, silicate minerals and other harder minerals like quartz, feldspar, and calcite tend to produce white streaks, which make them challenging to identify using the streak test alone.

Furthermore, streak tests are subjective.

The color observed might be influenced by the person conducting the test, the quality of the streak plate, and the amount of applied pressure. Thus, one must take into consideration the specificity of the mineral and the nature of the sample before making any final conclusions about its identification.

Limitations of the Streak Test

The streak test is one of the easiest and most accessible mineral identification tests known. Nonetheless, it can be imprecise.

This is especially noticeable in the inability to identify minerals with a white, gray, or colorless appearance.

Moreover, the streak test isn’t particular to minerals alone as various other materials can produce similar marks.

For instance, stains and paint residue on materials could produce streaks that may be easily mistaken for mineral streaks.


In conclusion, the streak test’s primary use is to help distinguish minerals with physical properties that cannot be identified through other tests. Streak tests can accurately aid in identifying native metals and sulfide minerals that often appear similar to each other.

Understanding mineral streaks offers valuable insights into a mineral’s unique properties, making it an essential tool for hobbyists and mineralogists alike. While the test is not perfect, it is useful for small mineral specimens that require quick identification.

3) Significance of Mineral Streak

The mineral streak test remains a fundamental test in identifying minerals. One reason for this is that it reflects a mineral’s true color, despite the potential for impurities, crystal structure defects, or phenomenal minerals.

Therefore, minerals with these aforementioned features may exhibit irregular colors, but the mineral streak test helps to distinguish the original mineral color from any undesired hues.

Furthermore, mineral streak tests are extremely useful in differentiating minerals that appear similar to each other.

For instance, hematite and magnetite have an almost identical metallic appearance and luster. However, through the streak test, it’s possible to differentiate between the two minerals, with hematite having a reddish-brown streak, and magnetite having a black streak.

Similarly, the difference between gold and pyrite is not easy to distinguish merely by their appearance. The gold mineral has a lustrous yellow color, while pyrite, also known as “fool’s gold,” has a similar metallic yellow appearance.

However, using the streak test, we can differentiate between the two as gold leaves a glowing yellow streak on a streak plate, whereas pyrite leaves a dark black streak.

4) Process of Conducting a Streak Test

The process of conducting a streak test is relatively simple and straightforward. However, to obtain meaningful and valuable results, there are a few essential steps to be taken.

Preparation for Streak Test

Before conducting a streak test, mineral samples must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any impurities, dirt, or dust. The mineral sample’s surface must be clean, with a fresh mineral surface that is free from blemishes and fractures.

For instance, a mineral sample for which the crystal faces are coated with secondary minerals or tarnish won’t be suitable for a streak test.

The Steps for Streak Test

There are three primary steps required for a streak test:

1. Obtain a streak plate- A streak plate is required for all streak tests.

The plate is usually a small, rectangular, unglazed porcelain plate that can be easily scratched and is unreactive with the tested minerals’ powder.


Run the mineral sample across the plate- After obtaining a clean surface, one must scratch the mineral sample against the streak plate. This should be done in a controlled manner with proper pressure, creating an impalpable quantity of mineral powder on the plate.

3. Observe the color- Examine the color of the streak made by the mineral on the plate.

One must ensure that the streak line observed is a single, confident, and reliable line. Generally, it’s recommended that minerals with a metallic luster should scratch the plate steadily, pressing somewhat hard, while non-metallic minerals should scratch gently.

Tools Required for Streak Test

Apart from the mineral sample and streak plate, it’s also recommended to have a few additional tools. These tools can aid in improving observation and help in identifying the mineral accurately.

1. Sandpaper- A rough-surfaced sandpaper is useful for removing the external coatings and other materials that cover natural minerals.

2. Magnifying Glass- This tool provides a closer look at the mineral’s texture and its appearance, making it easier to recognize blemishes or other unwanted mineral impurities.


In conclusion, the streak test, despite its simplicity, is an essential tool in mineral identification. It helps identify a mineral’s color and differentiate between minerals that look similar.

Proper preparation, execution of the procedure, and the use of proper tools will provide more accurate results. Conducting a streak test is a quick and easy method to help identify minerals and is an essential tool for anyone interested in mineral identification.

5) Comparing Mineral Streak and Color

Mineral color and streak color are two of the most significant visual characteristics that define a mineral’s identity. However, there are significant differences between the two properties.

Mineral color is a reflection of how the mineral appears in normal crystalline form, taking into account factors such as the presence of impurities, crystal structure defects, and light absorption properties. In contrast, mineral streak color exhibits the color of the mineral’s fine powdered state without being subject to these factors, which are commonly associated with the mineral’s external coloration.

Streak tests have various benefits, especially for minerals that have impurities or crystal defects that interfere with their real appearance. In such cases, the streak test is a reliable method for identifying the mineral’s genuine color.

Some minerals, such as calcite, malachite, lazurite, native gold, and spectroscopic minerals, are difficult to identify using external color but have distinctive streak features that make their identification simpler. Furthermore, not all minerals are suitable for streak tests.

Generally, harder and silicate minerals are not suitable for this test, as they often produce a white streak. However, softer minerals such as fluorite, hematite, galena, and pyrite are well-suited for streak testing, providing valuable insights about their true color.

6) Table of Selected Minerals for Streak Test

Minerals can be categorized based on their characteristic streak colors. Minerals with various hues will exhibit distinctive streak colors when subjected to a streak test.

In particular, yellowish and grayish minerals are common, and their streak colors are essential for their identification. A table of selected minerals for a streak test can be seen below:

Mineral Name | Color

— | —

Gold | Yellow

Pyrite | Black

Chalcopyrite | Dark gray-black

Copper | reddish-brown

Bournite | Gray to black

Limonite | Yellowish-brown

Hematite | Red to brown

Galena | Gray to black

Magnetite | Black

Chromite | Black

Silver | Gray

Graphite | Gray-black

Pyrolusite | Dark gray-black


In conclusion, the mineral streak test and mineral coloration are essential characteristics that define a mineral’s identity. Understanding the mineral properties that impact the coloration of the mineral and streak becomes significant in identifying a mineral accurately.

While not all minerals are suitable for the streak test, it remains a valuable tool for mineral identification. Moreover, categorizing minerals based on their characteristic streak colors facilitates their identification and helps distinguish between similar-looking minerals.

In conclusion, mineral streak testing is an essential tool in mineral identification and provides valuable insights into a mineral’s unique properties. Through this test, one can accurately differentiate between minerals that appear similar and obtain a mineral’s original color despite impurities or crystal structure defects.

While not suitable for all minerals, the streak test remains one of the easiest and most accessible mineral tests known, making it an essential tool for hobbyists and mineralogists alike.



Can all minerals be tested using the streak test? Answer: No, some harder minerals and silicate minerals produce a white streak and are not suitable for streak testing.

2. Does the streak test reveal a mineral’s true color?

Answer: Yes, the streak test helps to reveal a mineral’s true color regardless of any external factors.


Is the streak test subjective? Answer: Yes, the color observed may be influenced by the person conducting the test, the quality of the streak plate, and the amount of applied pressure.

4. What tools are required for a streak test?

Answer: A mineral sample, a streak plate, sandpaper, and a magnifying glass can aid in making observations and identifying minerals accurately.


What are some of the most suitable minerals for the streak test? Answer: Some minerals that are well-suited for streak testing include fluorite, hematite, galena, and pyrite.

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