Are cobalt oxide, sulfur, and cadmium sulfide used to make the traditional holiday hues in your seasonal decorations? Of course they are! According to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists who collect worldwide data on almost all mineral resources, holiday lights are made with these and other minerals from around the world. The world’s supply of minerals — such as salt, manganese and lime — lights up the holiday season, helping many nations and cultures to celebrate their long-time traditions.
“Every light bulb is made from materials extracted from the Earth,” said USGS Mineral Resources Program Coordinator Kathleen Johnson. “Minerals are an important part of our everyday lives — even if we don't think about them.”
The Earth’s industrial minerals and metals make up the intricate parts of each bulb and modify the colors they project. Aluminum, copper, feldspar, lime, manganese, nickel, nitrogen, quartz, salt, soda ash and tungsten are some of the mineral materials used in the construction of a light bulb. Materials used to color or coat the glass can include cadmium sulfide or the combination of cerium oxide and titanium dioxide for yellow; cuprous oxide or gold chloride for ruby red; cobalt oxide for blue-violet; manganese dioxide for amethyst-purple; neodymium oxide or nickel oxide for violet; sulfur for yellow-amber; uranium for fluorescent green; or chromic oxide for yellow-green or emerald-green.
The minerals in holiday lights come from countries around the world, including those in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. Today the United States is the world's leading user of mineral commodities. Every year about 25,000 pounds of new, non-fuel mineral materials are extracted from the Earth for every person in the United States. In 2005, the mineral materials processed domestically accounted for more than $478 billion in the U.S. economy.
USGS scientists provide information on where mineral commodities are known and suspected to be in the Earth. They also describe current production and consumption of about 100 mineral commodities for approximately 180 countries. The USGS is the sole Federal agency providing objective information, resource assessments, and unbiased research results on mineral resources, production, consumption and environmental effects. For more information about this and other mineral related topics, visit the USGS Mineral Resources Program Web site at http://minerals.usgs.gov/.