What Is the Basic Building Block of All Silicate Minerals?

The basic building block of all silicate minerals is the silicate tetrahedron, comprised of a central atom of silicon bonded to four atoms of oxygen. This is generally displayed symbolically as a three-sided, four-pointed pyramid.

When silicate tetrahedrons share oxygen items, they form parallel single chains known as inosilicates. Some single-chain inosilicates include diopside, rhodonite and jadeite. They can also loop into a hexagonal double chain, forming materials such as asbestos and hornblende. Chains that are joined in two directions are known as silicate sheets. Minerals such as quartz and feldspar are stacked silicate sheets that form an indefinite three-dimensional framework.