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Mineral Properties and Uses

What is Sphalerite?

Sphalerite is a zince sulfide mineral commonly found in hydrothermal veins; or as fracture filings, cavity fillings and replacements in limestone; and, contact metamorphism deposits. Lesser amounts are found in many igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Sphalerite is the primary ore of zinc and is often mined for its content of cadmium, indium, gallium or germanium (these substitute for zinc within the sphalerite structure). Its six directions of cleavage, resinous to sometimes adamantine luster and sulfur smell upon streak make sphalerite very easy to identify.

Physical Properties of Sphalerite

Chemical Classification sulfide
Color pale yellow, light brown, black, red, green, white, colorless
Streak brown to light yellow, white
Luster resinous
Diaphaneity transparent to translucent
Cleavage perfect, dodecahedral
Mohs Hardness 3.5 to 4
Specific Gravity 3.9 to 4.1
Diagnostic Properties luster, cleavage, streak
Chemical Composition zinc sulfide , ZnS
Crystal System isometric
Uses primary ore of zinc, mined because it contains minor amounts of indium, cadmium, germanium or gallium

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Sphalerite with dolomite from Gilman, Colorado. Specimen is approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters) across.

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