metallic lustre

Lustre (mineralogy)

Lustre (or luster) is a description of the way light interacts with the surface of a crystal, rock, or mineral. For example, a diamond is said to have an adamantine lustre and pyrite is said to have a metallic lustre. The term is also used to describe other items with a particular sheen (for example, fabric, especially silk and satin, or metals).

The word lustre traces its origins back to the Latin word lux, meaning "light", and generally implies radiance, gloss, or brilliance.


A broad range of terms are used to describe the lustre of minerals. It should be noted that lustre varies over a wide continuum, and so there are no rigid boundaries between the different terms. (For this reason, different sources can often describe the same mineral differently. This ambiguity is further complicated by the fact that lustre can vary widely within a particular mineral species.) The terms are frequently combined to describe intermediate types of lustre (for example, a "vitreous greasy" lustre).

Adamantine lustre

Adamantine minerals possess a superlative lustre, which is most notably seen in diamond. Such minerals are transparent or translucent, and have a high refractive index (of 1.9 or more). Minerals with a true adamantine lustre are uncommon, with other examples being cerussite and zircon.

Minerals with a lesser (but still relatively high) degree of lustre are referred to as subadamantine, with an example being garnet.

Dull lustre

Dull (or earthy) minerals exhibit little to no lustre, due to coarse granulations which scatter light in all directions, approximating a Lambertian reflector. An example is kaolinite. A distinction is sometimes drawn between dull minerals and earthy minerals, with the latter being coarser, and having even less lustre.

Greasy lustre

Greasy minerals resemble fat or grease. A greasy lustre often occurs in minerals containing a great abundance of microscopic inclusions, with examples including opal and cordierite. Many minerals with a greasy lustre also feel greasy.

Metallic lustre

Metallic (or splendent) minerals have the lustre of polished metal (and with ideal surfaces will act like a mirror). Examples include galena, pyrite and magnetite.

Pearly lustre

Pearly minerals consist of thin transparent co-planar sheets. Light reflecting from these layers give them a lustre reminiscent of pearls. Such minerals possess perfect cleavage, with examples including muscovite and stilbite.

Resinous lustre

Resinous minerals have the appearance of resin, chewing gum or (smooth surfaced) plastic. A principal example is amber, which is a form of fossilized resin.

Silky lustre

Silky minerals have a parallel arrangement of extremely fine fibres, giving them a lustre reminiscent of silk. Examples include asbestos, ulexite and the satin spar variety of gypsum. A fibrous lustre is similar, but has a coarser texture.

Submetallic lustre

Submetallic minerals have similar lustre to metal, but are duller and less reflective. A submetallic lustre often occurs in near-opaque minerals with very high refractive indices, such as sphalerite, cinnabar and cuprite.

Vitreous lustre

Vitreous minerals have the lustre of glass. This type of lustre is one of the most commonly seen, and occurs in transparent or translucent minerals with relatively low refractive indices. Common examples include calcite, quartz and fluorite.

Waxy lustre

Waxy minerals have a lustre resembling wax. Examples include jade and chalcedony.

Optical phenomena


Asterism is the display of a star-shaped luminous area. It is seen in some sapphires and rubies, where it is caused by impurities of rutile. It can also occur in garnet, diopside and spinel.


Aventurescence (or aventurization) is a reflectance effect like that of glitter. It arises from minute, preferentially oriented mineral platelets within the material. These platelets are so numerous that they also influence the material's body colour. In aventurine quartz chrome-bearing fuchsite makes for a green stone, and various iron oxides make for a red stone.


Chatoyant minerals display luminous bands, which appear to move as the specimen is rotated. Such minerals are composed of parallel fibers (or contain fibrous voids or inclusions), which reflect light into a direction perpendicular to their orientation, thus forming narrow bands of light. The most famous examples are tiger's eye and cymophane, but the effect may also occur in other minerals such as aquamarine, moonstone and tourmaline.


Schiller is a term used to describe the colourful iridescence that occurs when light is reflected between layers. It is seen in moonstone and labradorite.

See also


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