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Introduction to Ore Microscopy I

Erich U. Petersen
OBJECTIVE
In this laboratory exercise you will learn to use reflected-light observations to
identify minerals in polished mounts or polished thin-sections.
PROCEDURE
Read Craig and Vaughan (1981), Spry and Gedlinske (1987), and review the
accompanying summary before you begin work. Eight techniques will be used to
distinguish minerals in reflected-light.
1.

Color - especially color contrasts between your unknown and known minerals.
Best seen in oil, but it's messy (We will not use oils).

2.

Reflectivity - the amount of light reflected back by the mineral. In a lab set up for
quantitative work, monochromatic light sources are used, and the light reflected
from the mineral is measured by a photocell. We will simply note whether the
reflectivity is weak, moderate, or strong.

3.

Hardness - In a lab set up for quantitative work, the size of indentations made by
small weights dropped for a fixed distance onto the polished surface are compared
from mineral to mineral (Microhardness testing). Instead, we will observe the
movement of the pseudo-Becke line, a faint bright line which moves into the softer
of two adjacent minerals as the objective/sample distance is increased.

4.

Texture of the polished surface is often diagnostic. For example, intersecting


orthogonal cleavages in galena give rise to prominent triangular pits. In addition,
noting whether the mineral tends to form euhedral crystals or is anhedral is very
useful.

5.

Bireflectance - an optical effect similar to pleochroism - the mineral changes color as


it is rotated in plane polarized light (polarizers not crossed).

6.

Anisotropy - a change in color observed with cross-polarized light. Weak


anisotropy (which is quite common) is best observed with the polarizers, almost,
but not quite, crossed.

7.

Internal reflections are apparent in some incompletely opaque minerals.

8.

Mineral associations are extremely useful.


occurs with galena.

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For example sphalerite commonly

THE OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF ORE MINERALS


(A Primmer)
The optical properties of ore minerals determinable in polarized reflected light fall
naturally into two groups:
1. Properties observed without the analyzer: color, reflectivity, relative hardness, kalb
hardness, bireflectance, morphological character and pleochroism.
2. Properties observed between crossed nicols: anisotropism vs. isotropism,
polarization colors, rotation properties, dispersion colors, morphological character
and internal reflections.
This handout describes these various optical properties and the procedures used to
observe them. For a theoretical explanation of these phenomena, the reader is referred to
the contributions of Cameron (1961) and Freund (1967).
A. Relative Reflectivity and Color
In reflected light there is no optical path in the specimen and hence there is no
interference. The phenomena observed are due to surface reflection, and the most striking
is the reflectivity, which varies from below 10 to nearly 100 percent in opaque substances.
Reflectivity is defined as the ratio of the intensity of the light reflected by a mineral to the
intensity of the light incident upon it, expressed in percent. The qualitative degree of
reflectivity is judged in comparison with a known mineral. It must be considered that the
visual impression of the reflectivity is influenced markedly by the effect of contrast to
neighboring crystals with higher or lower reflectivity. In an environment of highly
reflecting crystals, a moderately reflecting crystal appears oppressed and pale or,
conversely, will seem brighter than would correspond to its real reflectivity. For example,
consider a polished specimen of quartzose gangue with molybdenite (R percent 20.9-40.0)
and arsenopyrite (R percent to 52.0). The molybdenite appears bright against the gangue,
but when there is arsenopyrite in the field, the molybdenite is so dull that it hardly appears
to be the same mineral as before. In such cases, use of the incident field stop (IFS) may be
of assistance in ascertaining relative reflectivity of ore minerals. Remember that the
brightest crystal present in the field of vision determines the impression of brightness of the
others.
Estimation by eye can rapidly establish an order of reflectivity in the ore minerals in
a specimen, but a difference in color can affect this subjective judgment. For example,
niccolite is pinkish-yellow and has a range of 52 to 58 percent reflectivity in white light.
Cobaltite is pinkish white and in the same light has a reflectivity of 52.7 percent, yet it
generally appears distinctly the brighter of the two. Even in well-polished sections
minerals vary in the way that they take the polish. If one mineral takes a less good polish
than another of similar reflectivity, then the first mineral will appear distinctly less highly
reflecting than the second.
Assuming equally good polish, isometric minerals exhibit constant reflectivity
within a given species - all galena, regardless of the orientation of the crystal with respect to
the plane of the polish, has the same silvery-white appearance in vertically reflected light.
Non-isometric minerals theoretically have different absorption coefficients, hence different
reflectivities, in different optical directions. In a few minerals, such as covellite and
molybdenite, such differences are readily recognizable to the unaided eye, and a given
species, e.g. chalcopyrite, shows essentially the same reflectivity regardless of orientation.
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Dissolved impurities also affect reflectivity, but again, except in a few cases like
sphalerite where an increase in iron content increases reflectivity, the differences are
practically negligible as far as visual comparison is concerned.
B. Color of Reflection
The colors of ore minerals, which range from pure white to gray, are one of their
most characteristic and useful properties. The eye is poor at 'remembering' a particular
color after even a very short time lag, and hence consecutive comparisons of color can be
made only for large differences. This means that a color cannot be distinguished by a
name, except in a crude way. For example pyrrhotite has a characteristic color ('pyrrhotite
color') which the observer soon learns to recognize, but which has been described in the
literature as cream, pale brownish-cream, clear-bronze, pale yellowish-red, and so on. As
color is a function of the character of the human eye, each observer must make his own
descriptions of the colors of minerals and must not be disconcerted if the pale cream
mineral he has just observed is described as light yellow by someone else. As the eye is
quite sensitive to very slight differences in hue or brightness of two minerals lying side by
side, use of the double, or comparison microscope is strongly urged. This apparatus
allows an unknown mineral to be viewed in the same field with a standard mineral from
another specimen.
Notes:
1. A difference in reflectivity can affect the eye, and where two minerals have a similar
color but different reflectivity, the one of higher reflectivity appears the clearer
because of its greater brightness.
2. The color of a mineral is strongly influenced by the color of neighboring crystals
('mutual color interference').
For example, chalcopyrite by itself has a
characteristic and easily recognizable yellow color. Inside sphalerite, it appears a
very clear yellow, but in contrast with native gold, it appears a dull greenish
yellow. In these circumstances, it may help to close down the IFS, so that the field
of view is essentially monomineralic.
3. Color is a function of the index of refraction of the immersion medium (the medium
comprising the space between the objective and the surface of the mineral).
Covellite in air (R.I. = 1.00) is deep blue, in water (R.I. - 1.333) violet blue, in
cedar oil (1.515) red violet, and in methelene iodide (R.I. = 1.74) orange red.
4. It should be stressed that many minerals which occupy solid solution fields (for
example ilmenite, sphalerite, pentlandite) will exhibit color variations, even in
identically oriented sections; occasionally, this leads to an overlapping of the colors
of minerals which may normally distinguished readily.
In some cases the change of color produced by immersion in cedar oil is an aid to
identification.
TO OBSERVE COLOR:
IFS and IAD (incident aperture diaphram) opened wide
Low power objective
High voltage for light of good intensity
Polarizer inserted, Analyzer withdrawn
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C. Bireflectance and Pleochroism


Isometric minerals (for example, pyrite, galena, pentlandite) remain unchanged in
color and brightness as the stage of the microscope is turned. Many minerals of the other
crystal systems, however, show distinct changes in brightness or color, or both, with
rotation of the stage, and grains of differing orientation side by side in a section differ in
color or brightness. The effects are analogous in appearance to absorption, dichroism and
pleochroism shown by transparent minerals in thin section, and in the literature of ore
microscopy are commonly referred to as pleochroism or reflection pleochroism.
Bireflectance or bireflexion is the change in intensity of the light reflected from a
mineral as it is rotated on the microscope stage.
Reflection pleochroism is the variation in tint of a colored mineral observed as it is
rotated on the microscope stage. A pleochroic mineral is by necessity also
bireflectant.
The change of tint may make it difficult to be certain of change in intensity, if this is
slight. These two phenomena are manifestations of anisotropy in the mineral section. The
bireflectance depends on the difference between the two reflectivities (O and E) whereas the
pleochroism depends on the differences between the dispersions of the two reflectivities. It
must be remembered that for a given mineral, the intensity of the bireflectance varies with
the orientation of the section and that the highest bireflectance observed for the mineral in a
polished section is not necessarily the maximum for the mineral. For example, only a
vertical section of a uniaxial mineral (//C) will show the maximum bireflectance for the
mineral in question. For all practical purposes, four degrees of intensity can be
distinguished:
1. Bireflectance strong:
graphite, molybdenite, pyrolusite, covellite, marcasite, stibnite
2. Bireflectance medium:
ilmenite, pyrrhotite, niccolite, cubanite
3. Bireflectance weak:
arsenopyrite, enargite, hematite, loellingite (Best observed by contrast
against neighboring isotropic crystals)
4. Bireflectance weak to absent:
chalcocite, argentite, chalcopyrite
In white light, weak bireflectance is much more easily observed if accompanied in
the mineral by even a slight reflection pleochroism, since the eye is much more sensitive to
change of tint than to change of intensity. Thus, with minerals showing dispersion of the
bireflectance sufficient to alter the color perceived by the eye (i.e. the mineral is
pleochroic), the detection of even very weak bireflectance is difficult. In reflection
pleochroism usually the dominant color does not change, only the tints and intensities;
these changes are, however, very useful in diagnosis. Some examples are given below:

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Examples of Reflection Pleochroism


Mineral

Mean Color

Color of R1 (darker)

Color of R2 (lighter)

covellite

blue

deep violet blue

bluish-white

molybdenite

whitish to gray

whitish-gray

white

pyrrhotite

clear brownish yellow

pinkish-brown

brownish-yellow

niccolite

pinkish to brownish white

clear pinkish-brown

bluish-white

cubanite

bronze-yellow

pink-brown

clear yellow

Notes:
1. Bireflectance, like color, is a function of the index of refraction of the immersion
medium. Generally, the higher the index of refraction of the immersion medium,
the higher the bireflectance of an ore mineral. You should examine covellite both in
air and in cedar oil to convince yourself of this fact.
2. Bireflectance is also a function of crystallographic orientation, and for every
anisotropic mineral, there is at least one crystallographic plane, sections parallel to
which will show no bireflectance (for example, sections of hexagonal or tetragonal
crystals perpendicular to the c-axis). Thus, observations of bireflectance should be
made on several grains of each anisotropic silicates.
3. Bireflectance is also shown by the carbonate of Pb, Fe, Mg and Ca, but not by the
common rock-forming silicates.
4. When studying a section, always record the strength of the bireflectance, and also
any color changes, if detectable, for several grains of each bireflectant mineral,
noting the relationships between the positions of maximum and minimum
reflectance and crystal outline, cleavage traces, etc.
TO OBSERVE BIREFLECTANCE (AND PLEOCHROISM):
IFS and IAD opened wide
Polarizer inserted, analyzer withdrawn
Low power objective
High voltage
Choose an area with several grains of the mineral in question and NO grains
of any other mineral showing bireflectance. (If this is not possible, close
down the IFS to shut out the unwanted mineral grains from the field of
view).
One final note . . . when you can detect the bireflectance of pyrrhotite and
arsenopyrite your eye is trained to a satisfactory sensitivity. Congratulations.

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D. Measurement of Hardness
There are numerous ways of estimating hardness in polished surfaces. When a
specimen is polished on a yielding (e.g. cloth) lap, obviously the harder minerals will be
cut less than the softer and thus stand in positive relief with respect to the softer. In such
cases it is possible to judge the relative polishing hardness by mere observation. But if the
specimen has a low-relief polish from a hard lap and diamond dust the hardness of minerals
softer than a steel needle may be judged by drawing the needle lightly across the surface of
the mineral in question. The lightest possible scratch is the most definitive. Comparative
hardness can be ascertained by drawing the needle lightly across a contact between a
known-mineral and an unknown, and relative hardness can be obtained by varying the
specimen - objective distance. With a little practice it is possible to estimate the difficulty
with which soft minerals scratch. One should eventually be able to estimate which of
Short's soft mineral groups A, B, C and D applies. With increasing practice, one can add
qualifications such as A-, slightly softer than A. This is an important property to measure
as accurately as possible.
Kalb Hardness Determination
At the junction of a hard and soft
grain, there tends to be a slight departure
from flatness, and the Kalb light-line effect,
which is analogous to the Becke-line effect,
can be observed.
As the distance between the objective
lens and the polished section is increased (i.e.
the stage is lowered) the white line will move
into the softer mineral.
TO OBSERVE THE KALB LINE:
Moderate voltage
IFS opened wide
IAD closed
10 X or 40 X power objective
Polarizer inserted, analyzer withdrawn

Formation of the Kalb line at the junction


of a hard mineral (M1) and a soft
mineral (M2).

E. Anisotropy and Polarization Colors


To observe these phenomena, both the analyzer and polarizer must be crossed.
When the stage is rotated with the polars crossed, it is noticeable that certain ore grains
remain dark; these are referred to as uniradial sections (mono-reflecting) and are either
isometric minerals or else basal sections of some uniaxial mineral. These basal sections can
be recognized as such because different sections of the same mineral are bireflecting.
Sometimes the section, although uniradial, is not completely dark; this is the case with
minerals of high (metallic) reflectivity. But such sections can be recognized as being
uniradial because the slight luminosity remains constant on rotation of the stage; this can be
more easily observed if the polarizer is uncrossed very slightly (2 or 3o ). Thus, under
crossed polars, an isotropic mineral will show one of two kinds of behavior:

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1. It will remain completely dark through 360o of rotation. Examples of isotropic


minerals with good extinction (i.e. low to medium reflectivity) are sphalerite,
magnetic and chromite.
2. It will be very faintly illuminated, but will show no change in color or intensity of
illumination through 360o of rotation. Isotropic minerals with poor extinction (i.e.
of high reflectivity) are pyrite and native silver.
One precaution must be kept in mind, however. Not all isometric minerals are fully
isotropic. Pyrite and bornite, for example, are often anisotropic, although many X-ray
studies have shown that pyrite at least is invariably isometric. Anomalous anisotropism is
very weak, however, and it rarely hinders identification.
Under crossed polars an anisotropic mineral will show a change in intensity of
illumination or color of illumination, or both, as the stage is rotated. The observed colors
are referred to as polarization colors and are often highly characteristic and useful in mineral
identification. If the nicols are exactly crossed, then in general in a 360o rotation of the
stage there will be four positions of maximum darkness ('extinction positions') 90o apart
alternating with four positions of maximum illumination lying at about 45o to the positions
of darkness. Examples of distinctly anisotropic minerals (i.e. with distinct positions of
extinction or minimum luminosity on rotation of the stage) are pyrrhotite, wolframite and
arsenopyrite. Strongly anisotropic minerals, which have bright reflection in between the
four definite positions of extinction (or minimum illumination) include graphite, covellite,
sylvanite and chalcophenite. Weakly anisotropic minerals such as chalcopyrite should be
viewed very carefully in strong light. In many cases it is best to view adjacent grains while
rotating the stage of the microscope, rather than try to see light and dark positions in a
single grain. Remember that polarization colors are constant only if the nicols are exactly
crossed.
Care must be taken in using anisotropy not to confuse reflection from scratches or
roughness of polish for a true anisotropic. Poorly polished pyrite often shows apparent
anisotropy which will disappear if the polish is improved. It must also be remembered that
any anisotropic mineral may show an isotropic section by fortuitous orientation. More than
one grain must be observed before concluding that a mineral is isotropic.
Some anisotropic minerals show a distinct and characteristic sequence of colors as
the polarizer is turned, degree by degree, to and beyond the minimum position. The
section is turned in white light between crossed polars, so that the vibration direction of
greater reflectivity is parallel to the vibration direction of the polarizer (N S). The stage is
then turned first clockwise to the plus 45o position. In each of these two positions the
polarizer is slowly turned through a few degrees, and the sequence of tints is noted. Two
examples are shown below; in the last column, mention is made only of the tints which
differ in the two stage settings:
Mineral
niccolite

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Tints at 45o setting


of stage

Rotation of
polarizer

Tints at 45o setting


of stage

0o
-1o
-2o
-4o

Blue
Deep blue
Dark violet gray
Deep brownish-yellow
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cubanite

Clear orange-brown

-5o

Bluish-gray
Deep violet
Reddish brick-brown
Leather-brown
Purplish

0o
-2o
-5o to -4o
-6o to -5o
-6o

Bluish-white to clear blue

Bluish-gray
yellowish-white

TO OBSERVE ANISOTROPY/POLARIZATION COLORS:


Polarizer and analyzer inserted
Intense illumination
Low power objective (10X)
IFS may be closed down to cut out periphery of field
F. Recognition of Internal Reflections
Many ore specimens (for example, sphalerite) are sufficiently translucent or
transparent to admit incident light to substantial depths below the surface of the specimen.
If this light is reflected back up through the tube of the microscope by a cleavage crack,
grain boundary, or some other subsurface feature, it will assume the color of the mineral in
transmitted light. Thus, malachite has green internal reflections, but the true surface
reflection color is dark-gray. Cuprite has scarlet red internal reflections, but the true
surface color is bluish-white.
After focusing the specimen in reflected light, turn off the vertically incident light
and view the surface in a strong beam of obliquely incident light. Scratches on the polished
surface will appear bright, but if the focus is lowered slightly, internal reflections may be
observed. Table 2 (Short, p. 293) lists minerals with distinctive internal reflections. Nonopaque minerals, for example, quartz and the feldspars, will also show internal reflections - usually white or perhaps yellow in the case of biotite.
Most internal reflections are in the range from red to brown to yellow. Some
experience is required for distinguishing the color of internal reflections of different
minerals in the above color range. Consequently, it is mostly not the color of internal
reflections of different minerals that is useful in the determination of minerals, but rather the
presence or absence of internal reflections, and, where present, their frequency and
intensity. Some examples are listed below:
Visibility of Internal Reflection

Mineral

Colors of Internal Reflection

Often visible in air

scheelite
sphalerite
clear blood red
miargyrite
rutile
azurite
cuprite

white and intense in oil


yellow to reddish-brown

cinnabar

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deep raspberry red


clear yellow to deep brown
blue
strong red
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Sometimes visible in air


and often in oil

chromite
hematite
wolframite
ilmenite

brownish-red
blood red
deep brown
very deep brown

Not usually visible in air


and only rarely in oil

tetrahedrite
uraninite

reddish brown
very deep brown

Variations in composition affect the abundance of internal reflections. Internal


reflections are usually numerous in sphalerite low in iron, and few or lacking in sphalerite
rich in iron or containing minute inclusions of chalcopyrite or pyrrhotite.
TO OBSERVE INTERNAL REFLECTIONS:
IAD opened
IFS opened or closed down
Nicols crossed 40X or 10X objective
Cedar oil immersion (R.I. = 1.515) strongly recommended for use with 100X
objective
Large grains generally show internal reflections best
It is hoped that these summary notes will be useful in giving you an appreciation of
some of the important optical techniques available for the identification of ore minerals.
The only way to become proficient in this art is through continued, diligent practice, and so
the ball is now in your court . . . . .

Focus initially at
F1; Lower mineral
specimen so that the
focus is now at F2
and observe th Kalb
line.

F2
F1

M2

M1

Formationof the Kalb Line at the


junction of a hard mineral (M1) and
a soft mineral (M1).

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Reflected Light Properties of Some Ore Minerals


argentite

Ag2S Isometric/Monoclinic H = 2-2.5


Gray to greenish
darker than galena; greener than silver
Low reflectivity
Isotropic to weakly anisotropic

arsenopyrite

FeAsS Monoclinic H = 5.5-6


White or cream to pink - pleochroic
whiter than pyrite; grayer than antimony
yellow relative to sphalerite and galena
High reflectivity
Anisotropic - strongly blue to green to brown

bismuth (native)

Bi Hexagonal H = 2-2.5
White tarnishing to pink and brown
brighter than antimony; whiter than niccolite
Pleochroic
Very high reflectivity
Anisotropic - distinct to strongly so

bornite

Cu5FeS4 Isometric H = 3
Pinkish brown to orange - tarnishes purple and violet; darker
and more variegated than enargite
Moderate reflectivity
Anisotropic - weakly anomalous (it's isometric)

cassiterite

SnO2 Tetragonal H = 6-7


Gray - weakly pleochroic
darker than sphalerite and wolframite
Low reflectivity
Anisotropic - distinctly so

chalcocite

Cu2S Orthorhombic H = 2.5-3


Bluish white - weekly pleochroic
bluish relative to galena
bluish-gray relative to pyrite
white relative to covellite, covellite looks pink
bluish relative to tetrahedrite
Moderate reflectivity
Anisotropic - weak to distinct; emerald green to pinkish

chalcopyrite

CuFeS2 Tetragonal H = 3.5-4


Brassy yellow but tarnishes - weakly pleochroic
darker and yellower than pyrite and galena
lighter than pyrrhotite
bright yellow relative to sphalerite and
magnetite and relative to tetrahedrite and stannite
High reflectivity
Anisotropic - weak; gray blue to greenish yellow

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covellite

CuS Hexagonal H = 1.5-2


Indigo blue to bluish white strongly pleochroic
pinkish and lighter relative to chalcocite
Moderate reflectivity
Extremely anisotropic: fiery orange to reddish brown

chromite

FeCr2O4 Isometric H = 5.5


Dark gray with brownish tint
darker than magnetite
darker and red brown relative to ilmenite
similar to sphalerite but slightly darker
Low reflectivity
Isotropic

enargite

Cu3AsS4 Orthorhombic H = 3
Grayish pink to grayish violet - pleochroic
pinkish white relative to bornite
pinkish brown relative to chalcocite
gray relative to galena
darker pink than tennantite
Moderate reflectivity
Anisotropic - strong blue to red to orange

galena

PbS Isometric H = 2.5


Bright white
whiter than sphalerite and stibnite
pinker than tennantite
Prominent triangular pits
High reflectivity
Isotropic

hematite

Fe2O3 Hexagonal H = 5.5-6.5


Gray-white with bluish tint - weakly pleochroic
whiter than ilmenite magnetite and goethite
bluish gray relative to pyrite
slightly brown relative to chalcocite
white relative to cuprite
Moderate to high reflectivity
Distinctly anisotropic - gray-blue to gray-yellow

huebnerite

MnWO4 Monoclinic H = 5
Gray - pleochroic
similar to sphalerite
reddish and lighter than wolframite
Low reflectivity
Anisotropic - strong

ilmenite

FeTiO3 Hexagonal H = 5.5-6


Pleochroic - Light to dark brown + pink or violet tints
darker than magnetite, much darker than hematite
brighter and brown relative to sphalerite
lighter and red brown relative to chromite
Low reflectivity
Anisotropic - strong - green gray to brown gray

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magnetite

Fe3O4 Isometric H = 6
Gray often with a brown tint
admixed TiO2 gives a brown tint
admixed MnO gives a yellow-green tint
much darker and browner than hematite
lighter than ilmenite
lighter than sphalerite
darker and duller than psilomelane
Low reflectivity
Isotropic

marcasite

FeS2 Orthorhombic H = 6-6.5


Yellowish white with pink green or yellow tints
Pleochroic white to yellow whiter than pyrite
High reflectivity
Anisotropic - strong: blue-yellow-gray
NiS Hexagonal H = 3-3.5
Yellow
lighter than chalcopyrite; chalcopyrite appears green
yellower than pentlandite; no brown tints
Pleochroic bright to brownish yellow
High reflectivity
Anisotropic - brown to blue gray - strong

molybdenite

MoS2 Hexagonal H = 1-1.5


White to dull gray with dark blue tint very similar to galena
much lighter than graphite
Pleochroic
Basal sections appear isotropic
Reflectivity - varies with orientation
Anisotropic - strongly - white with a pink tint

niccolite

NiAs Hexagonal H = 5-5.5


Yellow pink to brown pink - strongly pleochroic
pinker than bismuth
lighter and pinker than pyrrhotite
much lighter than bornite
Very high reflectivity
Anisotropic - strongly yellow to gray-green to violet blue

pentlandite

(Fe,Ni)9S8 Isometric H = 3.5-4


Light cream or yellowish
much lighter than pyrrhotite which appears brown
High reflectivity
Isotropic - but no complete extinction

pyrrhotite

Fe1-XS Hexagonal H = 4.
Cream to red brown-tarnishes-pleochroic
much darker than pentlandite and niccolite
cream-brown relative to bismuth
High reflectivity
Anisotropic - strong-yellow-gray to green-gray to blue gray

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pyrite

FeS2 Isometric H = 6-6.5


Yellowish white
yellower than marcasite, arsenopyrite, and galena
less yellow than chalcopyrite
gray-green relative to silver
High reflectivity
Isotropic

rutile

TiO2 Tetragonal H =
High reflectivity
Anisotropic
Internal reflections, Twinning common

silver (native)

Ag Isometric H = 2.5-3
Bright white - tarnishes to pink or brown
brighter than native antimony, copper, or bismuth
Reflectivity - the highest of all ore minerals

sphalerite

ZnS Isometric H = 3.5-4


Gray - darker than magnetite
Often displays internal reflections
Low reflectivity
Isotropic

stannite

Cu2FeSnS 4 Isometric/Tetragonal H=3.5


Brownish olive green - variable pleochroic
darker than tetrahedrite
lighter than sphalerite
dark and green brown relative to chalcopyrite
Moderate reflectivity
Anisotropic - strongly yellow brown to olive to bluish

wolframite

(Fe, Mn)WO4 Monoclinic H = 5-5.5


Gray to white
similar to sphalerite and magnetite
Low reflectivity
Anisotropic strongly

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REFERENCES
Craig, J.R. and Vaughan, D.J., 1981, Ore Microscopy and Ore Petrography. Wiley,
New York, 1-14, 33-47, 315-377.
Klein, C. and Hurlbut, C.S., Jr., Manual of Mineralogy, (Any Edition), John Wiley and
Sons.
Palache, C., Berman, H. and Frondel, C., 1944, Dana's System of Mineralogy, Volume I,
(Seventh edition), John Wiley and Sons, 834 p.
Spry, P.G. and Gedlinske, B.L., 1987, Tables for the Determination of Common Opaque
Minerals. Economic Geology.
Wuensch, B.J., 1974, Sulfide crystal chemistry, Sulfide Mineralogy, (P.H. Ribbe, Ed.),
W21- W44.
Zoltai, T. and Stout, J.H., 1984, Mineralogy: Concepts and Principles, Burgess
Publishing Company.

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Mineral Identification Tree


Color

Pleochroism
(1 filter)

Colored

Anisotopism
(2 filters)

Weakly Colored

Internal Reflections

Hardness

Mineral Group

10

11

12

13

14

Pleochroism, Anisotropism:
W, weak
S, strong

Internal Refelctions:
A, absent
P, present

15

16

17

18

Hardness:
S, soft
M, medium
H, hard

19

20

Mineral Group
1 breithauptite
covellite
delafossite
famatinite
idaite
luzonite
mackinawite
marcasite
mawsonite
niccolite
valleriite
2 cubanite
enargite
millerite
niccolite
pyrrhotite
3 bornite
chalcocite
chalcopyrite
bornite
4 bornite
bravoite
chalcopyrite
copper
digenite
gold/electrum
pyrite
tetrahedritetennantite
ulvospinel
5 alabandite
amphibole
biotite
brannerite
chromite
columbite
cuprite
feldspar
franklinite
freibergite

garnet
jacobsite
pyroxene
quartz
sphalerite
tetrahedritetennatite
uraninite
wurtzite
zincite
6 calaverite
chalcocite
djurleite
freibergite
galena
silver
tetradymite
7 allargentum
carrolite
coffinite
cooperite
maghemite
maucherite
pentlandite
platinum
tetrahedritetennantite
8 bixbyite
braunite
carrolite
chromite
cobaltite
gersdorffite
jacobsite
linnaeite
magnetite
pyrite
seigenite
skutterudite
sperrylite
ullmannite

violarite
9 pearcite
realgar
10 cuprite
scheelite
zincite
11 cassiterite
columbite
goethite
hematite
wolframite
12 acanthite
argentite
stephanite
tetradymite
13 bournonite
chalcostibite
dyscrasite
gaucodot
14 braunite
cobaltite
15 cassiterite
cinnabar
cuprite
goethite
hausmannite
hematite
manganite
pearceitepolybasite
realgar
rutile
zincite
16 bismuth
bismuthinite
boulangerite

bournonite
krennerite
stromeyerite
tetradymite
17 antimony
arsenic
braggite
cubanite
enargite
pararammelsbergite
stannite
18 arsenopyrite
ilmenite
loellingite
pyrolusite
rammelsberite
safflorite
19 cnnabar
jamesonite
lepidochrocite
miargyrite
orpiment
pyrolusitepyrargyrite
psilomelane
20 berthierite
boulangerite
calcite
chalcophanite
graphite
mackinawite
marcasite
molybednite
stibnite
tenorite
valleriite