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Home » Minerals » Sphalerite


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 yellow, brown, black, red, green, white, colorless
Streak white to yellowish brown, often with an odor of sulfur
Luster nonmetallic, submetallic, resinous or adamantine
Diaphaneity transparent to translucent
Cleavage perfect, dodecahedral, in six directions!
Mohs Hardness 3.5 to 4
Specific Gravity 3.9 to 4.1
Diagnostic Properties luster, cleavage, streak
Chemical Composition zinc sulfide with variable amounts of iron, (Zn,Fe)S
Crystal System isometric
Uses The primary ore of zinc. Often mined for minor amounts of indium, cadmium, germanium or gallium as profitable byproducts. Mineral specimens. Faceted stones for collectors.

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

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