Tweed Lion

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion reads the paper

Everything You Really, Really Want to Know About Magnetite

It’s quiet. Too quiet. Even the water falling from the roof of the cave has grown silent. The air is thick, composed of a million eyes watching your every move, silently waiting for you to make a mistake and join them for eternity. You press on, knowing  your prize is worth the risk. For in this cave lies the most savage of the grey rocks. You are on a quest for magnetite….

There. That was to establish the mood. Now, magnetite is a pretty cool rock. It’s not all flashy and glitzy like your feldspars or your quartzite because it’s secure with who it is. Before we hunt this magnificent mineral, let’s list what we know about it.

  1. It’s very heavy. Even for a rock.
  2. It may be magnetic. Seems like it ought to be with a name like magnetite.
  3. It is a fantastic shade of grey. Sometimes. Most of the time.
  4. Iron is involved somehow.
  5. Probably shouldn’t be used for culinary purposes.

Alright, admittedly that’s not very much. This is a mineral I haven’t dealt with much. So in our time of need, let’s consult a very important book–a book that has lessons on every page and can lead us to a better life. I speak, of course, of The Manual of Mineral Sciences, 22ed.

Seen here in it’s rightful place.

This book probably has information presented in an understandable fashion. I have a good feeling about this… Let’s see…. Magnetite…. Page 389… Here we are….

Uh oh! Numbers! Numbers and charts! This isn’t about magnetite at all! It’s about numbers and stuff! ROCKS DON’T HAVE NUMBERS IN THEM! I mean, what is this? Let’s find out about this dull grey wonder by ourselves!

First off, let’s have a look at the mineral in question…

Stockton to Magnetite
(Yeah, I know it’s not Stockton.)

Dia de los Magnetite


There, we can see it for ourselves. It is the only naturally magnetic rock (I think), which means  it’s done more with its life than I have. This particular piece formed when superheated water became saturated with iron and rushed to the surface where the iron slowly leaked out of the water and formed this nifty crystal. (“WHAT?!” you yell, “IRON HAS A CRYSTAL FORM?!” Yup, you’re looking at it.) A lot of meteorites take this form as they melt in the atmosphere and re-harden upon re-entry, which is re-ally cool to me. (See what I did there?) Here are some of magnetite’s other vital characteristics:

  1. It has a metallic luster.
  2. It is harder than chalk, but softer than glass.
  3. It is approximately 72.4% iron. So people mine it for iron. Iron to make cars and stuff.
  4. It is why “Iron County,” Utah got the name “Iron County.” Because of the iron. And because it’s a county. (I’m not going to help you out anymore with this one.)
  5. It is uncomfortably heavy. (For all of us.)
  6. Its name comes from a fable told by Pliny, who ascribes its name to a shepherd named Magnes who first discovered the mineral on Mount Ida by noting that the nails of his shoes and the iron ferrule (?) on his staff adhered to the ground. Neat!
  7. I don’t know who Pliny is, but he tells a mean fable.
  8. It is very magnetic. Want to see?

Magnet test: Prepare materials in sterile environment.

Magnet test: Apply racially insensitive refrigerator magnet.

Magnetism confirmed! The trusty Indian magnet never lies (because it’s governed by the laws of physics).

Now, you are all probably champing at the bit (which is made of iron) to get your hands on some of this fantastic stuff, and I can’t say I blame you. But, as with all things worth having, it’s not easy to obtain. Let’s list the things you will need.

A trusty hammer for rock-hounding:

A trusty water bottle for water-holding:


And miscellaneous supplies:

(A GPS probably doesn’t hurt either. I hear they run off satellites… MADE OF IRON! And probably other things. Sciencey things, like carbonate polymers and cell phones. I don’t know. This isn’t about satellites.)

Alright, let’s go magnetite hunting!

Don’t ever do what I I’m doing in this picture.

(Sadly, the act of harvesting magnetite probably holds very little allure to folks who aren’t interested in hefty grey rocks. So, in the interest of showmanship, I had decided to spruce things up a little bit. From here on out the role of magnetite will instead be portrayed by a terrifying creature of my own invention. Here we go!)

Ah! The prey has been spotted! At first glance, it may look a lot like an ordinary rock, but magnetite will turn and fight if you corner it or spill its Diet Coke. This is where you have to be quick, or you may end up with a nasty bruise on your foot. Lookout! THIS ONE’S A JUMPER!!!

Go for the torso! It’s the only weak spot!

Graffpp! Grunt!

Phew. Now to turn him in to the local metal interest and make a nice industrial chain, or perhaps some sort of fancy stand for holding a lamp. There’s no end to the potential! Just don’t leave it in the rain because it’ll rust.

And that is magnetite. Like I said, I took certain liberties with some of the data, but there‘s some true stuff in there too. (Mostly in the first half.)  So I hope we have all learned something today. Next up, limestone! Or maybe something else. I dunno.

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One Comment on “Everything You Really, Really Want to Know About Magnetite

  1. daniel
    January 7, 2015

    I love Scott. So much.

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Published on November 25, 2013 by .