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Sample labeling is of paramount importance for the creation of a collection of rocks/minerals/soils. We use a nomenclature which preserves the heredity of the original sample (in the manner of a family tree).The samples are organized by relationship. The initial sample corresponds to the sample taken in the field (or prepared in the laboratory). It may consist of several pieces of rocks, sand, gravel, etc. It can be seen as “a box” containing all the samples originating from the same place and taken at the same time. The name of this initial sample box consists of: two numbers for the year, two letters for the country of origin and two numbers for the samples. For example: 10ZA02 is the sample 02 from South Africa obtained in 2010.
This nomenclature has been changed in February 2013 in order to follow the international ISO 3166-1 alpha 2 country codes (a table of equivalence between the old and the new nomenclature is available here). Finally, the letters AR are used for the synthetic (artificial) samples and letters UN are used for the samples whose the geographic origin is unknown.
Parts of each initial sample are then analyzed with or without any preparation (crushed powder, thin sections…). The name of a subsample corresponds to the name of the initial sample followed by a dash and a number, e.g. 10ZA02-1. The subsamples can also be split into other samples. Further sub-samples are named by adding a letter, then a number, then a letter… after the name of the parent. Thus, each “sample” has a parent sample that can be another sample or the initial sample. For example: 10ZA02-1a then 10ZA02-1a1… This relationship can be represented as a family tree: