Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide (Al2O3) with traces of iron, titanium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is one of the naturally clear transparent materials, but can have different colors when impurities are present. Transparent specimens are used as gems, called ruby if red, while all other colors are called sapphire.
The name "corundum" is derived from the Tamil word குருந்தம் "kuruntam" meaning "ruby", itself derived from the Sanskrit "kuruvinda".
Because of corundum's hardness (pure corundum is defined to have 9.0 Mohs), it can scratch almost every other mineral. It is commonly used as an abrasive, on everything from sandpaper to large machines used in machining metals, plastics, and wood. Some emery is a mix of corundum and other substances, and the mix is less abrasive, with an average hardness near 8.0.
In addition to its hardness, corundum is unusual for its density of 4.02 g/cm3, which is very high for a transparent mineral composed of the low atomic mass elements aluminium and oxygen.
Geology and occurrence
Corundum occurs as a mineral in mica schist, gneiss, and some marbles in metamorphic terranes. It also occurs in low silica igneous syenite and nepheline syenite intrusives. Other occurrences are as masses adjacent to ultramafic intrusives, associated with lamprophyre dikes and as large crystals in pegmatites. Because of its hardness and resistance to weathering, it commonly occurs as a detrital mineral in stream and beach sands. The largest documented single crystal of corundum measured about 65×40×40 cm.
Corundum for abrasives is mined in Zimbabwe, Russia, and India. Historically it was mined from deposits associated with dunites in North Carolina, USA and from a nepheline syenite in Craigmont, Ontario. Emery grade corundum is found on the Greek island of Naxos and near Peekskill, New York, USA. Abrasive corundum is synthetically manufactured from bauxite.
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