date back to about the same time as the discovery of gunpowder in ancient China. Americans use nearly 30,000 short tons per year - much of that in celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. Individuals purchase and use about two-thirds of the total. The remainder is used in public fireworks displays. About 85 percent of consumer fireworks and half of the display variety are imported from China, Japan, Korea and such European countries as France and Italy.

Despite our use and exposure to fireworks, few people stop to consider the minerals that make them such a spectacular part of the festivities. Did you know that each basic color in a fireworks display is produced by a specific mineral or mineral compound?

More colors can be created by mixing compounds:
  • ORANGE is produced by a mixture of strontium and sodium.
  • SILVERY WHITE by a mixture of titanium, zirconium and magnesium alloys.
  • LAVENDER is obtained using a copper and strontium mix.

Special effects are created by yet other mineral products:
  • Iron filings (from the ore mineral hematite) and small particles of charcoal produce GOLD sparks.
  • Bright flashes are created by using fine ground aluminum powder. The use of larger particles, such as small flakes or granules, give a longer, shower-like effect.
  • Magnalium, a magnesium-aluminum alloy, produces a tiny series of silvery-white flashes.
  • Aluminum, antimony sulfide and perchlorate are other flash mixtures that are used.
Fireworks are just one more example of how we use minerals for the manufacture of everything from automobiles to toothpaste.