The difficult and fascinating relationship between archaeometry and mineralogy continuously offers challenges and topics for research, though it is often troubled by the sectorial organization of academic structure, at present also severely limited by budgetary cuts. The existing competition between traditional academic disciplines in the field of cultural heritage is often pernicious and poorly effective as far as information and knowledge transmission are concerned. The continuity in the employment of highly trained researchers and the poor strategy in the data publication are issues of great concern. Centralised research facilities could have a leading role in the management of multi-disciplinary research, though they have a limited practical effect in a shrinking budget world.
Within this frame, disciplines such as mineralogy and petrology, intrinsically used to deal with complex systems, found new natural areas of applications in cultural heritage materials. Archaeometry-oriented applications raised from the status of exotic studies to widely diffused areas of research within the last decades, partly because of the fascination of the involved problems, and partly because of the limited funding in the traditional fields of research. It is argued that mineralogy as a discipline at the crossroad between the core Earth sciences, crystallography, materials science and geochemistry might be a key area of innovation for cultural heritage studies.
A few case studies are discussed to convey a personal view of mineralogical applications within the broader context of cultural heritage investigations. Key issues are: the use of combined and simultaneous techniques for the characterization of complex systems, the optimization of non-invasive techniques, and the appropriate use of databases in archaeometry.