Exploring the Crystal Systems: A Guide to Crystal Structures - Feel Bright

Exploring the Crystal Systems: A Guide to Crystal Structures

Have you ever been captivated by the beauty and symmetry of crystals? These natural wonders come in a dazzling array of shapes and forms, but did you know that they can be classified into different crystal systems based on their internal structure? Let's embark on a journey to uncover the fascinating world of crystal systems and learn how they contribute to the unique properties of crystals.


Crystal systems are a way to categorize crystals based on their symmetry and the arrangement of atoms within their structure.


There are seven main crystal systems, each with its own distinctive characteristics:


  • Cubic System (Isometric): Crystals in the cubic system have a cubic or square shape and exhibit three perpendicular axes of equal length. Examples include pyrite and halite (rock salt).
  • Tetragonal System: Crystals in the tetragonal system have a four-sided prism shape with a square base. They have three axes, two of which are perpendicular and equal in length, while the third is longer or shorter. Examples include zircon and rutile.
  • Orthorhombic System: Crystals in the orthorhombic system have three axes of different lengths, all perpendicular to each other. They form rectangular prism shapes. Examples include olivine and topaz.
  • Monoclinic System: Crystals in the monoclinic system have three axes of different lengths, two of which are perpendicular and one inclined. They form prism shapes with a parallelogram as the base. Examples include gypsum and azurite.
  • Triclinic System: Crystals in the triclinic system have three axes of different lengths, all inclined to each other. They form irregular shapes. Examples include turquoise and labradorite.
  • Hexagonal System: Crystals in the hexagonal system have four axes, three of which are equal in length and lie in the same plane, forming a hexagon. The fourth axis is perpendicular to the plane of the other three. Examples include quartz and beryl.
  • Trigonal System: Crystals in the trigonal system have three axes of equal length, lying in the same plane and intersecting at 120-degree angles. They form shapes such as six-sided prisms. Examples include calcite and tourmaline.


The crystal system of a mineral influences its physical properties, such as cleavage, fracture, and optical properties. For example, minerals in the cubic system often exhibit perfect cubic cleavage, while those in the triclinic system may show no cleavage at all.

Next time you marvel at the beauty of a crystal, take a moment to appreciate its unique crystal system and the intricate atomic arrangement that gives it its distinctive shape and properties. The world of crystals is a testament to the awe-inspiring beauty and complexity of nature.

Stay Vibrant,

Jamie Hillocks 

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