Materials science: Mineralogy as multifaceted as the material itself

Ruby ring / The Natural Gem GmbH

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Driving the field of solid state and geosciences – modern mineralogy shapes the diversity of basic research and application – by Patrick-Noël Herold-Gregor MBA, Managing Partner at The Natural Gem GmbH.

Mineralogy has made significant contributions to technical-industrial development. Minerals as natural raw materials accompany us in everyday life as pencils, glass, cosmetics, powders, quartz watches, table salt, mineral wool, scouring powder, table chalk, porcelain, sterling silver or as jewelry made of precious stones. The company The Natural Gem GmbH in Vienna specializes in colored gemstones. Dr. Thomas Schröck, founder of The Natural Gem GmbH has been involved with mineralogy since he was six years old, practicing his hobby as a profession and celebrating 30 years in business. „Mineralogy has captivated me since my childhood and still does not let me go. In 2004 I started to establish gemstones as an asset class in Austria, in Germany and in Switzerland. For me, every stone is a precious rarity, a rarity and really something fascinating, which in its smallness can be kept at home in any place without effort,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck.

Origin Mineral – What is mineralogy?

Patrick-Noël Herold-Gregor / The Natural Gem GmbH - Mineralogy as multifaceted as the material itself
Patrick-Noël Herold-Gregor / The Natural Gem GmbH

Geology, geophysics and mineralogy are concerned with the study of the earth’s structure. Geology deals with the large-scale processes such as the formation of mountains, large-scale movements, the earth’s crust and the mineralogists turn to the individual mineral. The word mineral is derived from the Latin minare. Dr. Thomas Schröck comments: „Mining shows the close historical relationship between mining science and the study of the mined material, i.e. the mineral. Mineralogy encompasses all crystals that have formed in nature without human intervention.“

Minerals are incalculable in importance to mankind. „They were used as tools or jewelry by prehistoric people, and today minerals form the basis of the engineered world as raw materials for ore and building materials, glass, ceramics and many others,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck. But minerals go much further. Researchers found that the emergence and maintenance of life would be impossible without minerals. Studies show that the basic building blocks as well as the important trace elements originate from minerals. Essentially, mineral science deals with the determination of physical and chemical properties.

Mineralogy and crystals

The origin of the word crystal comes from the Greek crystallus. Crystals are ubiquitous. „The word crystal is used in everyday language as a generic term for minerals, gemstones and rocks, but in mineralogy, a crystal is understood to mean something different,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck. The structure of crystals follows certain regularities.The structural properties in crystals are studied through crystallography, the crystalline state of matter. „The physicist Max von Laue he discovered X-ray interference and received the Nobel Prize in Physics for it in 1914. This fundamental discovery had tremendous potential for application in both medicine, science and technology, and crystallography is entering the modern era. Thanks to X-ray structure analysis, the arrangement of atoms in crystals and their changes can be revealed,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck.

Internally, crystals are highly ordered structures consisting of individual chemical building blocks in the form of atoms, ions or molecules that have a fixed location. Crystal lattice refers to the spatial arrangement of the chemical components. The chemical and physical properties are present within the crystal lattice. The earth is almost completely built up of single crystals and therefore also the variety of technical products like the metals and alloys, the organic and inorganic chemical compounds. Even biological objects have to do with crystals. For example, the supporting skeleton of mammals and the teeth of animals and humans are made of crystals, as are the calcareous shells of mussels or the spines of sea urchins. Modern mineralogy and crystallography use state-of-the-art equipment such as ion beam probes, highly sensitive detectors and X-ray sources, for example.

Crystals with power and magic

Rock crystal, known as the crystal clear, colorless variety of quartz, has made a name for itself as the „king of crystal.“ Rock crystal occurs in groups of several rods pointing in different directions, as well as in prismatic or hexagonal crystals. This one is in front of our eyes when we talk about crystals. The occurrence of rock crystals is spread all over the world, in Brazil, Madagascar, Arkansas USA or in the Alps you can find rock crystals from the group of quartz in numerous shapes and sizes. Crystals are said to have special energetic properties. Worn as jewelry, the energy is said to transfer to the wearer, or in the Chinese healing arts, the stones are used, for example, to promote blood circulation with the rounded jade stone. Rock crystals weighing tons make it into the headline. „The largest rock crystal found is over 44 tons, but a rarity are suitable rock crystals for high-quality jewelry,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck.

Natural and untreated colored gemstones

Ruby ring / The Natural Gem GmbH
Ruby ring / The Natural Gem GmbH

What is the difference to a gemstone? First of all, a gemstone is just like a crystal a mineral, the decisive difference is the hardness of the stone. Minerals differ in their characteristic properties and on the basis of certain properties, such as hardness, luster and color. Dr. Schröck explains: „For a stone to be categorized as a gemstone, it must have a high hardness (Mohs‘ hardness 7 to 10), transparency and clarity, perfect colorlessness or intense colors, fire and luster, and rarity. Natural colored, untreated gemstones are very rare. For every 97 gemstones found (whether rubies, sapphires or emeralds), there are only three stones that are so perfect that they don’t need any treatment other than cutting.“

But how does The Natural Gem GmbH company get its hands on these rare natural and untreated colored gemstones? Dr. Thomas Schröck has now been active in the gemstone trade for over 30 years, has established a good relationship with the major families in the countries of origin to find resources that dominate the gemstone trade in each country. Thomas Schröck’s many years of experience in the gemstone trade are based to a great extent on trust. As a result, these families are willing to pass on such stones naturally. „We buy in the countries of origin. The gemstones we sell are all certified, assessed by independent gemmological institutes, appraised, certified accordingly – that is crucial. With us, and here we are the only ones in Central Europe to offer such a thing at all, every stone in the sale automatically also receives a valuation report from a court-certified expert, so that the customer ultimately also knows: what I buy is what I pay for, is what is in front of me,“ explains Dr. Thomas Schröck.

Conclusion: Mineralogy is richer by a new mineral – researchers discover a previously unknown mineral

Thanks to technological progress, advancement and research in modern mineralogy and crystallography with state-of-the-art equipment such as ion beam probes, highly sensitive detectors and X-ray sources, the discovery of new minerals has been achieved. Scientists have discovered a new mineral, ds grows on other already known gemstones. An unknown mineral was discovered in Tanzania by US researchers and is characterized by cylindrically coiled tiny silvery filaments. The Commission for New Minerals of the International Mineralogical Association decides on the recognition and also gives the official name. The activities for mineralogists are multifaceted and have a future. Especially in the industry and the numerous branches from the production area over the research and development area up to the application area like in the environmental compatibility, recycling or landfill and the different industrial branches.


Patrick-Noël Herold-Gregor
MBA, Managing Partner
The Natural Gem Ltd.

The Natural Gem GmbH
Walfischgasse 7 Top 10
1010 Vienna
(+)43 1 512 41 89

About The Natural Gem GmbH:
Dr. Thomas Schröck has been a gemstone expert for over 30 years and is the managing partner of The Natural Gem GmbH, a company based in Vienna, Austria. It wrote the work precious stones as Investment: The GEWINN councellor , Dr. George Wailand (publisher), author: Dr. Thomas Schröck.

Press contact:

Lobmeyr Public Image Conciliaris GmbH
Rudolph Lobmeyr
At the yard 11, Top 4
1010 Vienna
+43 (0) 1 / 361 55 00

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