Sand Magnified

Sand grains magnified 110-250 times reveal each grain is unique.

grains of sand
The tip of a spiral shell has broken off and become a grain of sand. After being repeatedly tumbled by action of the surf this spiral sand grain has become opalescent in character. It is surrounded by bits of coral, a pink shell fragment, a foram (a type of protozoa) and volcanic material. Photo copyright Dr. Gary Greenberg.

grains of sand
A handful of sand grains selected from a beach in Maui and arranged on a black background. Photo copyright Dr. Gary Greenberg.

Every grain of sand in the world is unique when viewed through a microscope.
sand grains
Sand magnified 250 times. Photo copyright Dr. Gary Greenberg.

sand grains magnified
Sand Magnified. Photo by Yanping Wang.

magnified sand
Sand magnified 250 times. Photo via Tumblr.

Sand Magnified Around The World

grains of sand
The glacially deposited sands around Lake Winnibigoshish, Minnesota, contain abundant sediments from the igneous and metamorphic minerals of the Lake Superior basin. A sample includes pink garnets, green epidote, iron-rich red agates, black magnetite, and hematite. Photo copyright Dr. Gary Greenberg.

sand grains magnified
Magnified grains of star sand from Southern Japan, made up of the calcified shells of tiny organisms. Photo by Richard Mouser Williams.


Beautiful Framed Seashell

Neat idea for decorating a beach house, or any space you want a splash of the sea. The frame is 14″x17″, and yes, it’s a real seashell. Sold by for $119.99.

magnified grains of sand
Magnified grains of Star Sand. Photo by Richard Mouser Williams.

grains of sand
Puffy Stars: Star-Shaped Sand Grains from Okinawa. These tiny foram, a type of protozoa, secrete beautiful star-shaped, calcium carbonate shells, or tests. Photo via

magnified sand
Coral sand magnified one-hundred times using transmission electron microscopy, brightfield mode. By Dr. David Maitland, Feltwell, UK,

grain of sand
Many grains of sand are tiny crystals (shiny, flat-sided solids). Sand from Zushi Beach, Japan, contains what looks like a sapphire crystal. The crystal is larger than the surrounding grains and has survived eroding because of its hardness and quality. Photo copyright Dr. Gary Greenberg.

grain of sand
Fragments of baby sea urchin shells, magnified one-hundred times. Biogenic sand, formed from the remains of marine life, is the major ingredient of many tropical beaches. Via

grains of sand
A magnified view of the tropical beach sand from the Caribbean island of St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands). The grains include porous fragments of brightly-colored corals, minute foraminiferan shells, fragments of sea shells and shiny, star-shaped sponge spicules. Photo via

Sand Photographer Dr. Gary Greenberg

Every grain of sand is a jewel waiting to be discovered. That’s what Dr. Gary Greenberg found when he first turned his microscope on beach sand. Gemlike minerals, colorful coral fragments, and delicate microscopic shells reveal that sand comprises much more than tiny beige rocks.

Author and photographer Dr. Gary Greenberg is a visual artist who creatively combines art with science. He has a Ph.D. in biomedical research from University College London and holds 17 patents for high-definition 3-D light microscopes. Dr. Greenberg lives in Haiku, Hawaii.

Dr. Greenberg has published two books:

The Universe Of Sand

Carl Sagan famously remarked “the total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on the planet Earth.” University of Hawai’i researches estimate that the total number of ‘all’ grains of sand on the whole planet could be approximately 75 billion billion. Scientists still believe there are more stars in the Universe.

Speaking of planets: If a grain of sand represented an entire galaxy; so each grain of sand, or galaxy, contains 100’s of billions of stars, you would need to fill six rooms full of sand to contain all the galaxies in the known universe. If you drilled a tiny hole in one of the grains of sand, ‘our Milky Way universe,’ that would be the area that we have been capable of seaching for planets so far. About 2000 planets have been discovered so far.

Written by Keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building. Keiren originally founded Inspiration Green in 2007, which merged with Insteading in 2016.


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  1. I am blown away with the beauty and wonder of a tiny

    sand, each is unique, with its own component , with a

    very classic element from where it comes from. If it isn’t

    the work of an ARTIST, we call GOD, who else can claim this vast diversity of amazing colors, inherent magnificence of a tiny sand ?

    Thank you Doctors for sharing your wonderful discovery.

  2. We can’t imagine the beauty that surrounds us, can we? Such a common thing and yet so many precious things under our very feet. Wow!

  3. Can’t even express the wonder of it all! His works always amaze me, but this takes my breath away! Seeing this makes me wonder how anyone could say ‘there is no God’!! There certainly is MY GOD who does such miraculous things! Thank you for proving HIS existence to all!!

  4. Fantastic images of the micro-world under our feet, but I’m absolutely astounded at all the ‘God is Great’ junk…wow, you really think a God created all that sand? It’s simply small polished pieces of coral, crystal, animal shell, minerals…etc, worn off from larger pieces over eons of time.

    God did not create all these little grains of sand, time, wind & waves did…grow up.

  5. Why make big deal of ‘God is Great’! Like the sand, we are all dikfferent. Accept that fact and you can think whatever you want. I accept your way of thinking, why not accept other’s many variations. What is ‘crap’ to you is NOT necessarily ‘crap’ to ALL. Get over yourself

  6. To Robert and Dave, and all who think like you, I will offer this. I wish for you an awakening…a time in your life where God shakes you to your foundation and proves to you in terms you cannot ignore that He not only exists, but He created everything there is, and demands to be recognized. People talk of a ‘still, small voice’. On the contrary, he is literally shouting at the top of His voice to all of us who will hear it – that all of creation is his – from the mountains he made, the sun moon and stars that serve us so well down to the seas, and the tiniest grains of sand. His hand is evident in the sunsets of earth; in the images of space from the Hubble telescope, a baby’s fingernail, or a maple seed helicoptering to rest away from the mother tree. And if you can’t see that, and appreciate it, it is to your eternal loss, my friend. That’s why we make a ‘Big deal’ of it…and that is why we can’t drop the ‘God crap’.

  7. We are fortunate to see the individual beauty in each grain of sand shown here–and can be grateful someone took the time to look more closely at them and share the discovery with us. This is more than the beauty of sand, though–which is so great in itself–it’s also a very clear life lesson; I hope we all embrace what can be learned here…

  8. Cant understand why ppl have to drag their religion into this. Please leave out your urge to attribute wonders of nature to supernatural woo and just admire nature for what it is. Then and only then will you be able to really appreciate its beauty. Awesome pics…by the way.

  9. Pretty stuff. And people just have to drag their religion into it because they rely on a mythical being to rationalize their own existence. They conveniently blame yet another magical being for all the bad stuff that happens – murderers, earthquakes, tsunami’s, hurricanes, plane crashes, etc. etc. Millions of people have been murdered in the name of ‘god’. People of faith do love their pagan beliefs!

    The sand is beautiful, and it came from all the little organisms that evolved over millions of years. Sorry if that ruins your day 🙂 !

  10. Awesome. These grains resemble shells, pearls, corals and a number of forms and colours formed and found on the sea bed. One feels as if he/she is taking a tour of coral reefs.

  11. I can safely say that these are God Particles that man can see, but there are many more that we can’t. These are building blocks of life. GREAT.

  12. Thank you Dr. Gary Greenberg for showing us so vividly the wondefrul Sand Grains. I live close to the beach and I will rejoice while walking on sand and respect more my steps over it.


  13. This is wonderful. Never thought about sand being shells. Just think how many eons it took for these to form. Thanks.

  14. MOTHER NATURE in all her amazing grandeur. Microscopic / Macroscopic. As a person who loves rocks no matter the size, these are beautiful.

  15. I’ve lived on the east and west coasts of the U.S. most of my life as a surfer, swimmer, snorkeling and more. And, while I’ve looked closely at sand and wondered about its origins, I never thought to magnify it like this to view it in such great detail.

    What a wonderful miniature world of natural beauty as a result of a long, slow, sometimes not-so-gentle, process.

    As a fine art consultant of almost a quarter of a century, I might suggest arranging them in a more artistic composition and photographing them at a high resolution, then print them as abstract art pieces. You might be able to sell them via organizations like ‘Save our Oceans’ and other similar ones as well as to art galleries, designers and the like.

    Thank you for this beautiful presentation!

  16. I have about 126 spice jars full of sample sands from around the world and I have wondered many times about the different colors and thickness of the sand … never could I have imagied the treasures in all the jars in my bathroom … very special to see and thank you for sharing your discovery with us

  17. Fricking amazing. But what amazes me more is the microscope that allowance us to see it. Mother Nature is always, always so wonderful that I’m no longer surprised by her intricacacies, just by my lack of imagination.


  19. Absolutely amazing and so very beautiful. The human eye just can’t see the beauty God has created for us, how sad. Thank You for opening our eyes for us.

  20. When you look at sand it just looks like plain dirty looking little pieces of dust, but close up they are magnificent jewels. It’s shows you that if you look closer at anything, there’s more to what meets the eye. Especially the creation of the whole earth and universe…

  21. very nice to see the small particles of sand through a microscope & nice to hear everyone’s comments which are also wonderful but it is sad that we cant have open minds as you may be both right there might be something out there for us when we finish our journey on this earth, if not faith helps us say goodbye to loved ones, meanwhile enjoy the world we live in.

  22. Silica sand also known as quartz sand is used for making glass. Sand without iron is sought for clear glass pieces, as iron will tint glass green.

  23. If these magnifications contain fossils and fuel is made from fossils, why can’t we make fuel from sand? Would that not bring fuel prices down? Am I missing something?

  24. I would like to make a quilt showing the grains of sand. I will enter it into a competition. I would like to ask permission to use one of your images.

    Sincerely, Peggy Paris

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