A native element is an element that occurs in pure or nearly pure form as a natural mineral. Because atmospheric gases are capable of mixing, turning them from a native element into a combination of two or more elements, they are excluded from the definition. As such, native elements can also interchangeably be referred to as native minerals.
In other words, a native element is any number of chemical elements naturally occurring that remain uncombined or unadulterated with or by other elements.
To date, 90 chemical elements have been discovered in nature. Out of these 90 elements, only 19 are classified as minerals.
Of these 19 native elements, they are further classified into 3 primary groups:
- Metals: iron, tin, zinc, gold, silver, mercury, copper, osmium, iridium, platinum, and lead
- Semimetals: Arsenic, Antimony, Bismuth, Selenium, and Tellurium
- Non-metals: sulfur and carbon
The chemical bonds in metals have a mineral structure that is tightly packed and generally cubic or hexagonal.
By contrast, semi-metals are intricately more complex, being polymorphic in form, the shape, and bonds of which are situationally dependent on the conditions in which they take hold.
Formation of Native Elements
Native elements are individually unique and therefore not much can be said in the way of generalizations. Each native element is formed under vastly different and varying physiochemical conditions.
Each native element can also form and be found naturally occurring in incredibly diverse environments.
Native Metals (Elements)
Very few native metals occur in large quantities in natural form. Only copper, silver, and gold can be found in such quantities. Of these, gold is most notable for being found ‘native’ and not combined into compounds.
Although iron is considered a ‘native mineral’, most iron is derived from iron-nickel meteorites and arguably not actually ‘native’. True native iron does exist in nature but is quite uncommon.
- Aluminum (Al)
- Bismuth (Bi)
- Cadmium (Cd)
- Chromium (Cr)
- Cobalt (Co)
- Copper (Cu)
- Gold (Au)
- Indium (In)
- Iron (Fe)
- Iridium (Ir)
- Lead (Pb)
- Manganese (Mn)
- Mercury (Hg)
- Molybdenum (Mo)
- Nickel (Ni)
- Niobium (Nb)
- Osmium (Os)
- Palladium (Pd)
- Platinum (Pt)
- Rhenium (Re)
- Rhodium (Rh)
- Silver (Ag)
- Tantalum (Ta)
- Tin (Sn)
- Titanium (Ti)
- Tungsten (W)
- Vanadium (V)
- Zinc (Zn)
List of Native Elements (Minerals)
In the fields of mineralogy and geology, a mineral (also referred to as a ‘mineral species’), is a chemical compound, solid in form, with specific crystalline structures occurring in pure form and with a well-defined chemical composition.
An alloy is defined as a mixture of chemical elements comprised of at least one metal, with the resulting alloy retaining the properties of a metal.
Naturally Occurring Alloys:
- German silver
- Gold-mercury amalgam
- Lead-mercury amalgam
- Silver-mercury amalgam
- White gold
Native Elements That Are Metalloids
A metalloid is an element that has properties that are found to be intermediate between semiconductors, solid nonmetals, and/or metals.
- Some metalloids exist as native minerals. Antimony (Sb)
- Arsenic (As)
- Silicon (Si)
- Tellurium (Te)
Native Elements That Are Nonmetals
Apart from selenium and sulfur, carbon occurs as multiple allotropes including amorphous carbon, as graphite and as diamond.
- Carbon (C)
- Selenium (Se)
- Sulfur (S)