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Tendency of a crystalline substance to split into fragments bounded by plane surfaces. Cleavage surfaces are seldom as flat as crystal faces, but the angles between them are highly characteristic and valuable in identifying a crystalline material. Cleavage occurs on planes where the atomic bonding forces are weakest; for example, galena cleaves parallel to all faces of a cube. Cleavage is described by its direction (as cubic, prismatic, basal) and by the ease with which it is produced. A perfect cleavage produces smooth, lustrous surfaces. Other degrees include distinct, imperfect, and difficult. See alsofracture.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cleavage, visit Britannica.com.