1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Emery

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EMERY (Ger. Smirgel), an impure variety of corundum, much used as an abrasive agent. It was known to the Greeks under the name of σμύρις or σμίρις, which is defined by Dioscorides as a stone used in gem-engraving. The Hebrew word shamir (related to the Egyptian asmir), where translated in our versions of the Old Testament “adamant” and “diamond,” probably signified the emery-stone or corundum.

Emery occurs as a granular or massive, dark-coloured, dense substance, having much the appearance of an iron-ore. Its specific gravity varies with its composition from 3.7 to 4.3. Under the microscope, it is seen to be a mechanical aggregate of corundum, usually in grains or minute crystals of a bluish colour, with magnetite, which also is granular and crystalline. Other iron oxides, like haematite and limonite, may be present as alteration-products of the magnetite. Some of the alumina and iron oxide may occasionally be chemically combined, so as to form an iron spinel, or hercynite. In addition to these minerals emery sometimes contains quartz, mica, tourmaline, cassiterite, &c. Indeed emery may be regarded as a rock rather than a definite mineral species.

The hardness of emery is about 8, whereas that of pure corundum is 9. The “abrasive power,” or “effective hardness,” of emery is by no means proportional to the amount of alumina which it contains, but seems rather to depend on its physical condition. Thus, taking the effective hardness of sapphire as 100, Dr J. Lawrence Smith found that the emery of Samos with 70.10% of alumina had a corresponding hardness of 56; that of Naxos, with 68.53 of Al2O3, a hardness of 46; and that of Gumach with 77.82 of Al2O3, a hardness of 47.

Emery has been worked from a very remote period in the Isle of Naxos, one of the Cyclades, whence the stone was called naxium by Pliny and other Roman writers. The mineral occurs as loose blocks and as lenticular masses or irregular beds in granular limestone, associated with crystalline schists. The Naxos emery has been described by Professor G. Tschermak. From a chemical analysis of a sample it has been calculated that the emery contained 52.4% of corundum, 32.1 of magnetite, 11.5 of tourmaline, 2 of muscovite and 2 of margarite.

Important deposits of corundum were discovered in Asia Minor by J. Lawrence Smith, when investigating Turkish mineral resources about 1847. The chief sources of emery there are Gumach Dagh, a mountain about 12 m. E. of Ephesus; Kula, near Ala-shehr; and the mines in the hills between Thyra and Cosbonnar, south of Smyrna. The occurrence is similar to that in Naxos. The emery is found as detached blocks in a reddish soil, and as rounded masses embedded in a crystalline limestone associated with mica-schist, gneiss and granite. The proportion of corundum in this emery is said to vary from 37 to 57%. Emery is worked at several localities in the United States, especially near Chester, in Hampden county, Mass., where it is associated with peridotites. The corundum and magnetite are regarded by Dr J. H. Pratt as basic segregations from an igneous magma. The deposits were discovered by H. S. Lucas in 1864.

The hardness and toughness of emery render it difficult to work, but it may be extracted from the rock by blasting in holes bored with diamond drills. In the East fire-setting is employed. The emery after being broken up is carefully picked by hand, and then ground or stamped, and separated into grades by wire sieves. The higher grades are prepared by washing and eleutriation, the finest being known as “flour of emery.” A very fine emery dust is collected in the stamping room, where it is deposited after floating in the air. The fine powder is used by lapidaries and plate-glass manufacturers. Emery-wheels are made by consolidating the powdered mineral with an agglutinating medium like shellac or silicate of soda or vulcanized india-rubber. Such wheels are not only used by dentists and lapidaries but are employed on a large scale in mechanical workshops for grinding, shaping and polishing steel. Emery-sticks, emery-cloth and emery-paper are made by coating the several materials with powdered emery mixed with glue, or other adhesive media. (See Corundum.)  (F. W. R.*)