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Examining Valence Electrons

Specimen of tourmaline from the Sapo Mine, Ferruginha, Conselheiro Pena, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil. HERITAGE AUCTIONS, WWW.HA.COM

It’s common knowledge that the atoms of each element are made up of three main particles; protons, electrons, and neutrons plus a host of other particles. This series of On the Rocks is devoted to the three major atomic components, which are most important to the determination of what an element is, what its properties are, and how it behaves in chemical reactions. For this discussion, the chemistry of minerals is based on the electrons located in the last most outer orbital and the next to last orbital. The electrons here are known as valence electrons. We need to know more about these two orbitals because they are what participate in a chemical reaction of their element by bonding or sharing electrons with other element’s electrons to form compounds. Minerals form through the sharing of or bonding of outer electrons of the elements that make up a mineral’s composition. Understanding the role played by valence electrons and the actual chemistry of bonding or sharing of electrons to form a mineral is far more complicated than can be explained here. But my hope is you’ll have some grasp of how the minerals many enjoy come about. The goal of most elements is to reach a balance of eight electrons in an orbital.

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