Minerals are concentrated combinations of elements. Remember way back in science class. The periodic table of elements. Some of those elements are more reactive than others. They are willing to combine more easily with others. Oxygen is one. So is Chlorine. Others are more stable. Less willing to combine with things. Gold is one of those. Take those elements and combine them to make a mineral. Some are never found combined in nature. Some are only man made.
Water is a mineral. Hydrogen and oxygen combined. Water also makes crystals. Those beautiful single snowflakes. Frost patterns on your windshield in the morning. Those are crystal forms of water. If the right conditions exist minerals will form crystals. If not you'll find minerals in massive forms. Veins filled with white quartz. Solid veins of Pyrite etc.
Minerals are also grouped together. Some are huge groups and some are very few. A lot of my hints on the giveaway will be what group a mineral belongs to. Some are really common. Found everywhere. Some are exceedingly rare. Found only when certain conditions have existed. There is also mineral associations. If you find one mineral you'll most likely find these others with it. Often the same combination of minerals will be found in locations worldwide.
Some minerals will always exhibit the same basic geometrical shape when it forms a crystal. Others will have a myriad of shapes. Into the hundreds. Even having several different shapes in the same sample. You'll have to use other identifying features to find out what that particular mineral is.
A good analogy is minerals are like recipes. One part of this with two parts of that and a sprinkle of this. Bake at 5000 degrees for 3 centuries and there you go. A fresh loaf of quartz.
If I add or replace this with this it's no longer quartz. Now its Kyanite. Or if I add even more of this now its something entirely different. The list goes into the thousands.
There's a number of ways to identify minerals. Most advanced collectors will be able to do so by sight. Theres hardness. Cleavage. Luster. Streak and density also. Once you been collecting a while you'll be able to use these methods easily.
We will get into the field testing later on in the club.