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Why Is Quartz Used in Watches?

Quartz, made up of silica and oxygen, is one of the most common minerals on Earth. Billions of people use quartz every day, but few realize it because the tiny crystals they use are hidden in their watches and clocks. But what do the clear or whitish crystal rocks found all over the world have to do with timekeeping?

Some materials, such as certain ceramics and quartz crystals, can produce electricity when placed under mechanical stress. The ability to convert voltage to and from mechanical stress is called piezoelectricity. Quartz crystals maintain a precise frequency standard, which helps to regulate the movement of a watch or clock, thus making the timepieces very accurate. Quartz is also used in radios, microprocessors, and many other technological and industrial applications.

While it's interesting to think that the quartz you find beautifying a landscaped lawn is also in your wristwatch, most of the quartz in electronics is synthetic, and specific quartzes can be created with specific frequencies for specific functions.

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Benjamin Radford
Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries," "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" and “Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits,” out in fall 2017. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.