Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. The most common constituent of sand, in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings, is silica, usually in the form of quartz, which because of its chemical inertness and considerable hardness is the most common mineral resistant to weathering.
The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions. The bright white sands found in tropical and subtropical coastal settings are eroded limestone and may contain coral and shell fragments in addition to other organic or organically derived fragmental material. The gypsum sand dunes of the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico are famous for their bright, white color.
Sands rich in magnetite are dark to black in color, as are sands derived from volcanic basalts and obsidian. Chlorite-glauconite bearing sands are typically green in color, as are sands derived from lava with a high olivine content. Many sands, especially those found extensively in Southern Europe, have iron impurities within the quartz crystals of the sand, giving a deep yellow color. Sand deposits in some areas contain garnets and other resistant minerals, including some small gemstones.
The study of individual grains can reveal much historical information as to the origin and kind of transport of the grain. Quartz sand that is recently weathered from granite or gneiss quartz crystals will be angular. It is called sharp sand in the building trade where it is preferred for concrete, and in gardening where it is used as a soil amendment to loosen clay soils. Sand that is transported long distances by water or wind will be rounded, with characteristic abrasion patterns on the grain surface. People who collect sand as a hobby are known as arenophiles or psammophiles.