Other Earth Materials: Metals and Precious Rocks

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  • 0:01 Earth Materials
  • 0:40 Metals
  • 2:09 Precious Rocks
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Our planet contains a variety of natural resources that we rely on to survive. Some of these resources, including metals and precious rocks, are less common than others and serve unique functions.

Earth Materials

What do you think of when you hear the phrase 'natural resource?' Many people think of something that comes from Earth and that we as humans do not make ourselves. The Earth has many natural resources, known as Earth materials. There are four main resources, and they include minerals, rocks, soil and water. These four resources work together to form and sustain the majority of life on Earth.

Although these four resources are the most common, there are other Earth materials that are important and unique. Let's examine two additional types of Earth materials, known as metals and precious rocks.


First, let's examine metals. Metal is a substance that frequently has a shiny surface, conducts electricity and heat, and can be melted and shaped. If you look around you, there is most likely metal somewhere in your view. Although we mainly think of metal as a construction material or a component in electronics, there is actually metal found naturally within the Earth. Metals are essential nutrients that organisms need to grow and survive and are necessary to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Most metals are extracted from ores. Ores are naturally-occurring rocks that contain metals and other minerals. A rock is considered an ore if it contains a large amount of the metal and if that metal can be economically extracted from the rock. Basically, there are many types of rocks that contain metals, but some only contain small amounts, so it is not worth the expense of extracting the metal. When extracting metals, people look for large concentrations of ores so that they can make the largest profit for the extraction effort.

Humans extract metals from the Earth for a variety of reasons. One of the most famous natural metals is gold. During the Gold Rush, people traveled across the United States in hopes of extracting gold from the land and becoming wealthy. Other natural metals include aluminum, which is used to make cans, copper for wiring, lead for batteries, silver for jewelry, and iron for steel.

Precious Rocks

Now, let's examine precious rocks. What does the word 'precious' mean to you? Although most of us do not describe rocks as precious, some rocks are. Precious rocks are stones that are very rare and have economic value. Precious rocks are also referred to as 'gemstones' or 'jewels.' These stones gain their economic value due to their aesthetics, or natural beauty. They are also very durable and difficult to break or scratch. Precious rocks are commonly used in jewelry but are also carved or inserted into artwork or furniture.

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