What is Sand?

After a few months of using sand in dance, I started to wonder what exactly sand was made of.  I knew enough to think vaguely about quartz but I wanted to know more.

I checked out The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization: The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser. 

Beiser writes,

“Sand has been important to us for centuries, even millennia. People have used it for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the fifteenth century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into fully transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution. But it was only with the advent of the modern industrialized world, in the decades just before and after the turn of the twentieth century, that people really began to harness the full potential of sand and begin making use of it on a colossal scale. It was during this period that sand went from being a resource used for widespread but artisanal purposes to becoming the essential building block of civilization, the key material used to create mass manufactured structures and products demanded by a fast-growing population. Today, your life depends on sand. You may not realize it, but sand is there, making the way you live possible, in almost every minute of your day. We live in it, travel on it, communicate with it, surround ourselves with it. The term sand encompasses loose grains of any hard material with a diameter between 2 and 0.0625 millimeters. Nearly 70 percent of all sand grains on Earth, however, are quartz.”

Raymond Siever writes in his book Sand, “Each cycle of deposition, burial, uplift and erosion renews the sand grains and rounds each grain a little more.” The average time for this cycle is 200 million years. The next time you dump sand out of your shoes, give those grains a little respect: they may predate the dinosaurs.”

“Sand is both minuscule and infinite, a means of measurement and a substance beyond measuring.” (Beiser)

This brings to mind a poetic statement by the Psalmist from the Bible in Psalm 139:17, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…”


Beiser, Vince. The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Shaped Civilization. New York: Riverhead Books, 2018.

Siever, Raymond. Sand. New York: Scientific American Library, 1988.

Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments: New International Version. New York: American Bible Society, 2010.

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