Chemistry: C, Elemental Carbon
Class: Native Elements
Subclass: Non-metallic
Group: Carbon
Uses: for the lead in pencils, as a toughener of steel and as a lubricant.

Graphite is a polymorph of the element carbon. Diamond is another polymorph. The two share the same chemistry, carbon, but have very different structures and very different properties.

Diamond is hardest mineral known to man; Graphite is one of the softest.

Diamond is an excellent electrical insulator; Graphite is a good conductor of electricity.

Diamond is the ultimate abrasive; Graphite is a very good lubricant.

Diamond is usually transparent, Graphite is opaque.

Diamond crystallizes in the Isometric system and graphite crystallizes in the hexagonal system.

Somewhat of a surprise is that at surface temperatures and pressures, Graphite is the stable form of carbon. In fact, all diamonds at or near the surface of the Earth are currently undergoing a transformation into Graphite. This reaction, fortunately, is extremely slow. All of the differences between graphite and diamond are the result of the difference in their respective structures. Graphite has a sheet like structure where the atoms all lie in a plane and are only weakly bonded to the graphite sheets above and below. Diamond has a framework structure where the carbon atoms are bonded to other carbon atoms in three dimensions as opposed to two in graphite. The carbon-carbon bonds in both minerals are actually quite strong, but it is the application of those bonds that make the difference. Graphite can only be confused with the mineral molybdenite, which is metallic bluish silver in color. However, molybdenite is much denser and has a silver blue streak. Most graphite is produced through the metamorphism of organic material in rocks. Even coal is occasionally metamorphosed into graphite. Some graphite is found in igneous rocks and also as nodules inside of iron meteorites.


Color is black silver. Luster is metallic to dull. Transparency crystals are opaque Crystal System is hexagonal; 6/m 2/m 2/m Crystal Habits include massive lamellar veins and earthy masses, also as scaly granules in metamorphic rocks. Hardness is 1 - 2 Specific Gravity is 2.2 (well below average) Cleavage is perfect in one direction. Fracture is flaky. Streak is black gray to brownish gray. Associated Minerals include quartz, calcite, micas, iron meteorites and tourmalines. Other Characteristics: thin flakes are flexible but inelastic, mineral can leave black marks on hands and paper, weakly conducts electricity. Notable Occurrences include New York and Texas, USA; Russia; Mexico; Greenland and India. Best Field Indicator is softness, luster, density and streak. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------