Mica is a mineral name given to a group of minerals that are similar in their physical properties and chemical compositions. They are all silicate minerals, which means that chemically they all contain silica(SiO4). Mineralogists call micas sheet silicates because their molecules combine to form distinct layers. These layers can be seen in muscovite mica specimens because it can be split (mineralogists call this feature cleavage) into very thin, flexible, transparent layers. This physical property is so distinctive that all minerals that cleave in this fashion are said to have micaceous cleavage.
The two micas used as a commodity are: brown mica or phlogopite which contains iron and magnesium; and the “reddish, green, or white (or clear) mica” or muscovite which contains potassium and aluminum.
Large sheets of muscovite form in igneous rocks. Very large sheets or crystals of muscovite form in a pegmatite. A pegmatite is an extremely slow-cooling igneous rock in which very large crystals can form. Phlogopite generally forms in metamorphic rocks, especially in metamorphosed limestone, although it occasionally forms in igneous rocks, too.
Mica crystals are six-sided. They are fairly light and relatively soft, at 2 to 4 on Mohs’ hardness scale for the univalent micas. Sheets and flakes of mica are flexible. Mica is heat-resistant and does not conduct electricity.
Two distinct forms of mica are utilized as a commodity. Scrap and flake mica is mica that either occurs naturally or is ground into very small flakes and pieces. Sheet mica is large pieces of mica that can be cut into various shapes for use in electronics.