Zinc ores, in the several varieties of carbonates, silicates, oxide, sulphide and sulphate of zinc, have been found in several of the Australian states, but have attracted little attention except in New South Wales, where special efforts are being made successfully to produce a high-grade zinc concentrate from the sulphide ores.
Its property of absorbing large proportions of water, up to 80%, and yet present the appearance of a hard solid body, makes the material a basis for the hydrated soaps, smooth and marbled, in which water, sulphate of soda, and other alkaline solutions, soluble silicates, fuller's earth, starch, &c. play an important and bulky part.
Tobacco is most generally cultivated on loose red soils, which are rich in clays and silicates; and sugar-cane preferably on the black and mulatto soils; but in general, contrary to prevalent suppositions, colour is no test of quality and not a very valuable guide in the setting of crops.
Land masses are denuded and minerals containing silicates are carried down to the sea as sediments.
They are silicates, usually orthosilicates, of aluminium together with alkalis (potassium, sodium, lithium, rarely rubidium and caesium), basic hydrogen, and, in some species magnesium, ferrous and ferric iron, rarely chromium, manganese and barium.
In making up a charge, the ores and fluxes, whose chemical compositions have been determined, are mixed so as to form out of the components, not to be reduced to the metallic or sulphide state, typical slags (silicates of ferrous and calcium oxides, incidentally of aluminium oxide, which have been found to do successful work).
Lead silicates are obtained as glasses by fusing litharge with silica; they play a considerable part in the manufacture of the lead glasses (see Glass).
The theory most widely accepted at present is that glass is a quickly solidified solution, in which silica, silicates, borates, phosphates and aluminates may be either solvents or solutes, and metallic oxides and metals may be held either in solution or in suspension.
It is convenient to treat these glasses as " normal " glasses, but they are in reality mixtures of silicates, and cannot rightly be regarded as definite chemical compounds or represented by definite chemical formulae.
The older optical glasses, now generally known as the " ordinary " crown and flint glasses, are all of the nature of pure silicates, the basic constituents being, in the case of crown glasses, lime and soda or lime and potash, or a mixture of both, and in the case of flint glasses, lead and either (or both) soda and potash.
The term flint-glass is now understood to mean a glass composed of the silicates of potash and lead.
It is found in the form of oxide (silica), either anhydrous or hydrated as quartz, flint, sand, chalcedony, tridymite, opal, &c., but occurs chiefly in the form of silicates of aluminium, magnesium, iron, and the alkali and alkaline earth metals, forming the chief constituent of various clays, soils and rocks.
The sulphur exists in the soil chiefly in the form of sulphates of magnesium, calcium and other metals; the phosphorus mainly as phosphates of calcium, magnesium and iron; the potash, soda and other bases as silicates and nitrates; calcium and magnesium carbonates are also common constituents of many soils.
Silicates also occur; sphene or titanite, CaTiS105, is the commonest; keilhauite is rarer.
The titanates are very similar to the silicates in their tendency to assume complex forms, e.g.
I a the basic tellurate montanite, Bi 2 (OH) 4 TeO 4; the silicates eulytite and agricolite, B14(S104) 3; and the uranyl arsenate walpurgite, Bi(U02)3(OH)24(As04)4.
Thus the sulphate constitutes the minerals anhydrite, alabaster, gypsum, and selenite; the carbonate occurs dissolved in most natural waters and as the minerals chalk, marble, calcite, aragonite; also in the double carbonates such as dolomite, bromlite, barytocalcite; the fluoride as fluorspar; the fluophosphate constitutes the mineral apatite; while all the more important mineral silicates contain a proportion of this element.
Calcium silicates are exceptionally abundant in the mineral kingdom.
It decomposes silicates on being heated with them.
Of the sodium silicates the most important is the mixture known as soluble soda glass formed by calcining a mixture of white sand, soda-ash and charcoal, or by dissolving silica in hot caustic soda under pressure.
In point of absolute mass they are insignificant compared with the abundance and variety of potassiferous silicates, which occur everywhere in the earth's crust; orthoclase (potash felspar) and potash mica may be quoted as prominent examples.
Such potassiferous silicates are found in almost all rocks, both as normal and as accessory components; and their disintegration furnishes the soluble potassium salts which are found in all fertile soils.
The pure carbonate is constantly used in the laboratory as a basic substance generally, for the disintegration of silicates, and as a precipitant.
Similar is the behaviour of the fused dry salt at a dull red heat; it acts on silicates, titanates, &c., as if it were sulphuric acid raised beyond its natural boiling point.
The magma, or molten lava in the interior of the earth, may be regarded as a mutual solution of various mineral silicates, charged with highly-heated vapour, sometimes to the extent of supersaturation.
The crop of English hay is carefully weighed, the moisture calculated, the silicates and the potash; but in all dells and pond-holes in the woods and pastures and swamps grows a rich and various crop only unreaped by man.