What is Luster? - Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:01 What is Luster?
  • 0:37 Different Types of Luster
  • 1:07 Metallic and Submetallic
  • 1:30 Nonmetallic
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Have you ever wondered how scientists identify minerals? One of the properties they examine for identification purposes is called luster. In this lesson, we will talk about luster and its different types.

What Is Luster?

When you look at precious stones and minerals, you will notice some are shiny and some are not so shiny. That's because these substances reflect light in different ways. Some can look 'glassy,' and there are others that can be described as 'waxy.' There are some that do not really reflect light well, so they can be described as 'dull.' The way that these objects reflect light differently can be attributed to a property called 'luster.'

Luster is a property that describes how light is reflected on the surface of a mineral. It is one of the properties mineralogists look at when trying to determine the identity of a mineral.

Different Types of Luster

The Earth has so many minerals in different categories. Since luster is a property of minerals, luster also varies widely, so there are many different types. Mineralogists first divide the types of luster into two categories: metallic and nonmetallic. The metallic minerals are opaque and shiny in appearance. Nonmetallic minerals don't look like metals and have different subcategories, which will be further discussed. The following are the different types of luster and some examples:

Metallic and Submetallic

Metallic luster is for minerals that are opaque and reflective and have the look of polished metal. Some common examples are different pyrites, which are used to make coins, gold nuggets, and copper.

Minerals with submetallic luster are ones that resemble a metal but, due to weathering and corrosion, have become less reflective or dull. Some examples are sphalerite and cinnabar.


Nonmetallic luster is the type of luster for minerals that do not look metallic. These are further divided into different types:


Minerals that have remarkable shine and brilliance and have the hard look of a diamond are called adamantine. These minerals can be transparent or translucent, and the most popular examples are found in jewelry and accessory stores: diamonds and cubic zirconia.


Dull luster is also known as 'earthy' and is used to describe minerals that have poor reflectivity. The surface of minerals with dull luster is coarse and porous. Some examples are kaolinite and montmorillonite.


The reflective property of minerals with vitreous luster is similar to that of glass. This is a very common type of luster and can occur in minerals that are transparent or translucent. Some of these minerals are quartz and calcite.


The greasy type of luster can be found in minerals that look like they were coated with oil or grease. These minerals can also be said to resemble fat, and they also feel greasy to touch. Some examples are opal and halite.

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