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Mica is a naturally occurring sheet-like mineral. It can be found in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Mica has almost perfect cleavage and is easily split into layers that separate parallel to the original sheet symmetry. It comes in various colours and transparency – the most common being purple, rosy or silver micas from lepidolite; dark green, brown and black micas from biotite; yellowish-brown, grey and white micas from phlogopite; and colourless micas have a pearly vitreous lustre.
The melting point of mica varies depending on the composition. For example, muscovite mica melts at around 1500°C, but fluorphlogopite mica can withstand temperatures of 1100°C. Mica also has the ability to withstand high temperatures and pressures.
Commercial micas are of two types: sheet and scrap or flake. Sheet muscovite is used in dielectric capacitors and vacuum tubes in electronic equipment, as well as insulators for home electrical appliances. It can also be used in atomic force microscopy and as window sheets for stove and kerosene heaters. High quality muscovite is also used for a variety of special applications such as diaphragms in oxygen-breathing devices and marker dials on navigation compasses.
Sheet muscovite is also available as a decorative surface for glassware, and it can be fired in a kiln to produce a smooth, glossy finish. Mica flakes and powder can be used to create a wide range of patterns in glass, and it is easy to use in combination with other types of decoration. When used in this way, it is important to exercise caution when encasing mica as air bubbles can easily form from shearing of the layers and contact with glass. These can be reduced by using one of the many fluxes on hand such as borax or boron nitrate.