Examples of Different Mineral Lusters

Luster, also spelled lustre, is a simple word for a complex thing: the way light interacts with the surface of a mineral. This gallery shows the major types of luster, which range from metallic to dull.

I might call luster the combination of reflectance (shininess) and transparency. According to those parameters, here is how the common lusters would come out, allowing some variation:

Metallic: very high reflectance, opaque
Submetallic: medium reflectance, opaque
Adamantine: very high reflectance, transparent
Glassy: high reflectance, transparent or translucent
Resinous: medium reflectance, translucent
Waxy: medium reflectance, translucent or opaque
Pearly: low reflectance, translucent or opaque
Dull: no reflectance, opaque

Other common descriptors include greasy, silky, vitreous and earthy. 

There are no set boundaries between each of these lusters, and different sources may classify luster in different ways. Additionally, a single category of mineral may have specimens within it with different lusters. Luster is qualitative rather than quantitative. 

01
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Metallic Luster in Galena

Galena
Galena.

 

lissart / Getty Images 

Galena has the real metallic luster, with every fresh face like a mirror.

02
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Metallic Luster in Gold

Gold
Gold.

 

Jean-Philippe Boucicaut / EyeEm / Getty Images

Gold has a metallic luster, shiny on a clean face and dull on a worn face like this nugget. 

03
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Metallic Luster in Magnetite

Magnetite
Magnetite.

 

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Magnetite has a metallic luster, shiny on a clean face and dull on a weathered face.

04
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Metallic Luster in Chalcopyrite

Chalcopyrite
Chalcopyrite.

 

Assistant / Getty Images 

Chalcopyrite has a metallic luster although it is a metal sulfide rather than a metal. 

05
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Metallic Luster in Pyrite

Pyrite
Pyrite.

 

lissart / Getty Images 

Pyrite has a metallic or submetallic luster although it is an iron sulfide rather than a metal. 

06
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Submetallic Luster in Hematite

Hematite
Hematite.

 

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Hematite has a submetallic luster in this specimen, although it can also be dull. 

07
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Adamantine Luster in Diamond

Diamond
Diamond.

 

Mina De La O / Getty Images

Diamond shows the definitive adamantine luster (extremely shiny, even fiery), but only on a clean crystal face or fracture surface. This specimen has a luster better described as greasy.

08
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Adamantine Luster in Ruby

Ruby
Ruby.

 

Kerrick / Getty Images 

Ruby and other varieties of corundum can display an adamantine luster owing to its high index of refraction.

09
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Adamantine Luster in Zircon

Zircon
Zircon.

 

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Zircon has an adamantine luster owing to its high index of refraction, which is second only to diamond.

10
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Adamantine Luster in Andradite Garnet

Andradite
Andradite.

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Andradite can display adamantine luster in high-quality specimens, which led to its traditional name of demantoid (diamondlike) garnet.

11
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Adamantine Luster in Cinnabar

Cinnabar
Cinnabar.

 

Jasius / Getty Images

Cinnabar displays a range of lusters from waxy to submetallic, but in this specimen it is closest to adamantine.

12
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster in Quartz

Quartz
Quartz.

 Dianne Claire Alinsonorin / EyeEm / Getty Images

Quartz sets the standard for glassy (vitreous) luster, especially in clear crystals like these.

13
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster in Olivine

Peridot mineral stone
Peridot mineral stone.

 

Tom Cockrem / Getty Images

Olivine has a glassy (vitreous) luster that is typical of silicate minerals.

14
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster in Topaz

Topaz
Topaz.

 

SunChan / Getty Images

Topaz displays a glassy (vitreous) luster in these well-formed crystals.

15
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster in Selenite

Selenite crystal
Selenite, satin spar, desert rose, and gypsum flower are four varieties of the mineral gypsum.

 

Nastasic / Getty Images

Selenite or clear gypsum has a glassy (vitreous) luster, though not as well developed as other minerals. Its sheen, likened to moonlight, accounts for its name.

16
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster in Actinolite

Actinolite
Actinolite.

 

Tom Cockrem / Getty Images

Actinolite has a glassy (vitreous) luster, although it can also look pearly or resinous or even silky if its crystals are fine enough.

17
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Resinous Luster in Amber

Amber
Amber.

 

Image by Catherine MacBride / Getty Images

Amber is the typical material displaying resinous luster. This term generally is applied to minerals of warm color with some transparency.

18
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Resinous Luster in Spessartine Garnet

Spessartine Garnet
Spessartine Garnet.

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto

Spessartine garnet can display the golden, soft sheen known as resinous luster.

19
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Waxy Luster in Chalcedony

Chalcedony
Chalcedony.

 

Robert Redmond / Getty Images

Chalcedony is the form of quartz with microscopic crystals. Here, in the form of chert, it shows a typical waxy luster.

20
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Waxy Luster in Variscite

Variscite mineral, detail
Variscite mineral, detail.

 

Schafer & Hill / Getty Images

Variscite is a phosphate mineral with a well-developed waxy luster. Waxy luster is typical of many secondary minerals with microscopic crystals.

21
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Pearly Luster in Talc

Talc
Talc.

 Julian Popov / EyeEm / Getty Images

Talc is well known for its pearly luster, derived from its extremely thin layers that interact with light penetrating the surface.

22
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Pearly Luster in Muscovite

Muscovite
Muscovite.

 

 

Aaron Miller / Getty Images

Muscovite, like other mica minerals, gets its pearly luster from the extremely thin layers beneath its surface which is otherwise glassy.

23
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Dull or Earthy Luster in Psilomelane

Psilomelane
Psilomelane.

 University of Minnesota Mineral Collection

Psilomelane has a dull or earthy luster owing to its extremely small or nonexistent crystals and lack of transparency.

24
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Dull or Earthy Luster in Chrysocolla

Chrysocolla
Chrysocolla.

 

Jasius / Getty Images

Chrysocolla has a dull or earthy luster, even though it is vibrantly colorful, owing to its microscopic crystals.

25
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster - Aragonite

Aragonite
Aragonite.

 

Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Aragonite has a glassy (vitreous) luster on fresh faces or high-quality crystals like these.

26
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster - Calcite

Calcite
Calcite.

 Matteo Chinellato - ChinellatoPhoto / Getty Images

Calcite has a glassy (vitreous) luster, although being a soft mineral it turns duller with exposure.

27
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Glassy or Vitreous Luster - Tourmaline

Tourmaline
Tourmaline.

Shannon Gorman / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tourmaline has a glassy (vitreous) luster, although a black specimen like this schorl crystal is not what we normally think of as glassy.