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Colorless, white, also ...
6 - 7
Named after the type locality of Cerro San Cristobal, Mexico.
Cristobalite is a silica polymorph that is thermodynamically stable only at temperatures above 1470°C, up to the melting point at 1705°C, at atmospheric pressures. It commonly metastably persists or even forms at much lower temperatures in silica-rich volcanic and sedimentary environments. It can form crystals in cavities, probably vapour-deposited, or spherulites in obsidian or other silicic volcanics.

It is commonly reported as a major constituent of certain types of opal (opal-C and opal-CT) in marine sedimentary rocks derived from biogenic opaline sediments, and as cavity fills formed from low-temperature groundwater.

Some precious opal is opal-CT. However, some workers note that this material is hydrous and lacks any long-range ordering, the opal structure just mimicking cristobalite and tridymite, so may not be considered true cristobalite (Smith, 1998).

At ambient temperatures, cristobalite is tetragonal, and specimens from volcanic environments are paramorphs of cubic β-Cristobalite or high-cristobalite (stable above 1470°C), still showing the initially cubic crystal morphology. To distinguish it from the high-temperature cubic type, tetragonal cristobalite is also called α-cristobalite or low-cristobalite.

May be intergrown with Tridymite.

Classification of Cristobalite

Approved, 'Grandfathered' (first described prior to 1959)

4 : OXIDES (Hydroxides, V[5,6] vanadates, arsenites, antimonites, bismuthites, sulfites, selenites, tellurites, iodates)
D : Metal: Oxygen = 1:2 and similar
A : With small cations: Silica family

75 : TECTOSILICATES Si Tetrahedral Frameworks
1 : Si Tetrahedral Frameworks - SiO2 with [4] coordinated Si

7 : Oxides and Hydroxides
8 : Oxides of Si

Physical Properties of Cristobalite

Diaphaneity (Transparency):
Transparent, Translucent
Colorless, white, also blue grey, brown, grey, yellow
Often white due to numerous cracks
Hardness (Mohs):
6 - 7
2.32 - 2.36 g/cm3 (Measured)    2.33 g/cm3 (Calculated)

Optical Data of Cristobalite

Uniaxial (-)
RI values:
nω = 1.487 nε = 1.484
Max Birefringence:
δ = 0.003
Image shows birefringence interference colour range (at 30µm thickness) and does not take into account mineral colouration.
Surface Relief:

Chemical Properties of Cristobalite

Elements listed in formula:
Common Impurities:

Crystallography of Cristobalite

Crystal System:
Class (H-M):
4 2 2 - Trapezohedral
Space Group:
P41 21 2
Cell Parameters:
a = 4.9709(1) Å, c = 6.9278(2) Å
a:c = 1 : 1.394
Unit Cell Volume:
V 171.18 ų (Calculated from Unit Cell)
Pseudo octahedral crystals, commonly dendritic, spherulites.
On {111} (paramorphs of cubic β-Cristobalite twins)

Crystallographic forms of Cristobalite

Crystal Atlas:
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Cristobalite no.1 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
3d models and HTML5 code kindly provided by

Edge Lines | Miller Indicies | Axes

Opaque | Translucent | Transparent

Along a-axis | Along b-axis | Along c-axis | Start rotation | Stop rotation
X-Ray Powder Diffraction Data:
4.05 (100)
3.135 (11)
2.841 (13)
2.485 (20)
2.465 (5)
2.118 (5)
1.870 (7)
For synthetic material.

Occurrences of Cristobalite

Type Occurrence of Cristobalite

Relationship of Cristobalite to other Species

Common Associates:
4.DA.Carbon Dioxide IceCO2
4.DA.10OpalSiO2 · nH2O
4.DA.25Melanophlogite46SiO2 · 6(N2,CO2) · 2(CH4,N2)
7.8.7Silhydrite3SiO2 · H2O
7.8.8OpalSiO2 · nH2O

Other Names for Cristobalite

Other Information

Thermal Behaviour:
Inverts from high cristobalite at 268°C.
Health Risks:
No information on health risks for this material has been entered into the database. You should always treat mineral specimens with care.

Cristobalite in petrology

Accessory component of (items highlighted in red)

References for Cristobalite

Reference List:
vom Rath, G. (1887) Ueber Cristobalit vom Cerro S. Cristóbal bei Pachuca (Mexico). Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie: 1987: 198-199.

Wyckoff, R.W.G. (1925) The crystal structure of the high temperature form of cristobalite (SiO2). American Journal of Science: 9: 448-459.

Barth, T.F.W. (1932) The cristobalite structures: I. High cristobalite. American Journal of Science: 23: 350-356.

Barth, T.F.W. (1932) The cristobalite structures: II. Low cristobalite. American Journal of Science: 24: 97-110.

Nieuwenkamp, W. (1935) De Kristallstruktur des Tief-Cristobalits SiO2. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie: 92: 82-88.

Murdoch, J. (1942) Crystallographic notes: cristobalite, stephanite, natrolite. American Mineralogist: 27: 500-506.

Van Valkenburg, A., Buie, B.F. (1945) Octahedral cristobalite with quartz paramorphs from Ellora Caves, Hyderabad State, India. American Mineralogist: 30: 526-535.

Dollase, W.A. (1965) Reinvestigation of the structure of low cristobalite. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie: 121: 369-377.

Henderson, J.H., Jackson, M.L., Syers, J.K., Clayton, R.N., Rex, R.W. (1971) Cristobalite Authigenic origin in relation to montmorillonite and quartz origin in bentonite. Clays and Clay Minerals: 19: 229-238.

Peacor, D.P. (1973) High-temperature single-crystal study of the cristobalite inversion. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie: 138: 274-298.

Murata, K.J., Nakata, J.K. (1974) Cristobalite stage in the diagenesis of diatomaceous shale. Science: 184: 567-568.

Richet, P., Bottinga, Y., Deniélou, L., Petitet, J.P., Téqui, C. (1982) Thermodynamic properties of quartz, cristobalite, and amorphous SiO2: drop calorimetry measurements between 1000 and 1800 K and a review from 0 to 2000 K. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta: 46: 2639-2658.

Pluth, J.J., Smith, J.V., Faber, J. (1985) Crystal structure of low cristobalite at 10, 293, and 473 K: Variation of framework geometry with temperature. Journal of Applied Physics: 57: 1045-1049.

Drees, L.R., Wilding, L.P., Smeck, N.E., Senkayi, A.L. (1989) Silica in soils: quartz and disordered silica polymorphs. in Minerals in Soil Environments, Editor S.B. Weed. Soil Science Society of America (Madison Wisconsin, USA): 913-974.

Hatch, D.M., Ghose, S. (1991) The α-ß transition in cristobalite, SiO2. Physics and Chemistry of Minerals: 17: 554-562.

Downs, R.T., Palmer, D.C. (1994) The pressure behavior of α cristobalite. American Mineralogist: 79: 9-14.

Elzea, J.M., Odom, I.E., Miles, W.J. (1994) Distinguishing well ordered opal-CT and opal-C from high temperature cristobalite by X-ray diffraction. Analytica Chimica Acta: 286: 107-111.

Heaney, P.J. (1994) Structure and chemistry of the low-pressure silica polymorphs. In: Reviews in Mineralogy, Volume 29, Silica - Physical behavior, geochemistry and materials applications. Mineralogical Society of America, Washington, D.C.

Palmer, D.C., Finger, L.W. (1994) Pressure-induced phase transition in cristobalite: An X-ray powder diffraction study to 4.4 GPa. American Mineralogist: 79: 1-8.

Elzea, J.M., Rice, S.B. (1996) TEM and X-ray diffraction evidence for cristobalite and tridymite stacking sequences in opal. Clays and Clay Minerals: 44: 492-500.

Smith, D.K. (1998) Opal, cristobalite, and tridymite: Noncrystallinity versus crystallinity, nomenclature of the silica minerals and bibliography. Powder Diffraction: 13: 2-19.

Dove, M.T., Craig, M.S., Keen, D.A., Marshall, W.G., Redfern, S.A.T., Trachenko, K.O., Tucker, M.G. (2000) Crystal structure of the high-pressure monoclinic phase-II of cristobalite, SiO2. Mineralogical Magazine: 64: 569-576.

Garg, N., Sharma, S.M. (2007) Classical molecular dynamical simulations of high pressure behavior of alpha cristobalite (SiO2). Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter: 19: 456201.

Donadio, D., Martonak, R., Raiteri, P., Parrinello, M. (2008) Influence of temperature and anisotropic pressure on the phase transitions in α-cristobalite. Physical Review Letters: 100: 165502-165504.

Dera, P., Lazarz, J.D., Prakapenka, V.B., Barkley, M., Downs, R.T. (2011) New insights into the high-pressure polymorphism of SiO2 cristobalite. Physics and Chemistry of Minerals: 38: 517-529.

Pabst, W., Gregorová, E. (2013) Elastic properties of silica polymorphs - a review. Ceramics - Silikáty: 57: 167-184.

Matsui, M., Sato, T., Funamori, N. (2014) Crystal structures and stabilities of cristobalite-helium phases at high pressures. American Mineralogist: 99: 184-189.

Internet Links for Cristobalite URL:
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Localities for Cristobalite

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