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James Smithson
White, grey, yellow, green to apple-green, blue, pink, purple, bluish grey, and brown; colourless or faintly tinted in transmitted light.
Vitreous, Pearly
4 - 4½
Specific Gravity:
4.42 - 4.44
Crystal System:
Member of:
Lapis calaminaris was a name used by Agricola in 1546. In 1747, Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (Vallerius) used the simplified form calamine for the zinc carbonate. In 1780, Torbern Bergmann analyzed calamines and found they were mixed ores of zinc carbonates and silicates. In 1803, James Smithson made a systematic investigation of calamines and showed that ores identified as calamine consisted of several different minerals: a carbonate and a silicate. The carbonate "calamine" was re-named smithsonite in 1832 by François Sulpice Beudant in honor of James Smithson [1754-1829], British chemist, mineralogist, and benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC, USA).
Calcite Group. Siderite-Smithsonite Series.

Smithsonite is often found as a secondary mineral in the oxidation zone of zinc ore deposits. It can also be observed in sedimentary deposits and as a direct oxidation product of sphalerite.

Visit for gemological information about Smithsonite.

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Classification of SmithsoniteHide

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

A : Carbonates without additional anions, without H2O
B : Alkali-earth (and other M2+) carbonates

1 : A(XO3)

11 : Carbonates
6 : Carbonates of Zn and Cd

Physical Properties of SmithsoniteHide

Vitreous, Pearly
White, grey, yellow, green to apple-green, blue, pink, purple, bluish grey, and brown; colourless or faintly tinted in transmitted light.
4 - 4½ on Mohs scale
Very Good
On {1011}.
Irregular/Uneven, Sub-Conchoidal
Translation gliding:
Translation gliding with T{0001}, t{1010}.
4.42 - 4.44 g/cm3 (Measured)    4.43 g/cm3 (Calculated)

Optical Data of SmithsoniteHide

Uniaxial (-)
RI values:
nω = 1.842 - 1.850 nε = 1.619 - 1.623
Max Birefringence:
δ = 0.223 - 0.227
Image shows birefringence interference colour range (at 30µm thickness)
and does not take into account mineral colouration.
Surface Relief:

Chemical Properties of SmithsoniteHide

CAS Registry number:

CAS Registry numbers are published by the American Chemical Society
Common Impurities:

Crystallography of SmithsoniteHide

Crystal System:
Class (H-M):
3m (3 2/m) - Hexagonal Scalenohedral
Space Group:
Cell Parameters:
a = 4.6526(7) Å, c = 15.0257(22) Å
a:c = 1 : 3.23
Unit Cell V:
281.68 ų (Calculated from Unit Cell)
Crystals rhombohedral {1011}; less commonly {0221}. Crystal faces usually curved and rough or composite; rarely scalenohedral. Botryoidal, reniform, or stalactic; incrustations; coarsely granular to compact massive; earthy, friable.
None observed.
Cell parameters are similar to those of magnesite.

Crystallographic forms of SmithsoniteHide

Crystal Atlas:
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Smithsonite no.1 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Smithsonite no.13 - 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

Epitaxial Relationships of SmithsoniteHide

Epitaxial Minerals:
Epitaxy Comments:
Smithsonite upon calcite with parallel axes. Oriented pseudomorphs of ZnO are formed by thermal dissociation. Otavite oriented growths on Smithsonite (Tsumeb).

X-Ray Powder DiffractionHide

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Radiation - Copper Kα
Data Set:
Data courtesy of RRUFF project at University of Arizona, used with permission.

Synonyms of SmithsoniteHide

Other Language Names for SmithsoniteHide

Varieties of SmithsoniteHide

Dry Bone OreA variety of massive or botryoidal smithsonite with a dull, dry appearance.
HerreriteA Cu-bearing variety of smithsonite (CuCO3 ca. 3%).
Originally reported from León Mine, León Group, San Pedro Corralitos, Mun. de Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.
MonheimiteA ferroan (iron-bearing) variety of smithsonite. Fe" substitutes for Zn up to at least Fe:Zn = 1:1.59.
Turkey-Fat OreAn old name for a botryoidal variety of smithsonite usually coloured bright yellow by included cadmium sulfide. The Cd content may not be necessary for the material at hand to be termed "Turkey-Fat Ore."

Relationship of Smithsonite to other SpeciesHide

Member of:
Other Members of this group:
CalciteCaCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
Cobaltoan calcite-spherocobaltiteCobaltoan dolomite and cobaltoan calcite are frequently mislabeled as spherocobaltite.
MagnesiteMgCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
OtaviteCdCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m)
RhodochrositeMnCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
SideriteFeCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
SpherocobaltiteCoCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
Forms a series with:

Common AssociatesHide

HemimorphiteZn4Si2O7(OH)2 · H2O
Associated Minerals Based on Photo Data:
Cerussite231 photos of Smithsonite associated with Cerussite on
Calcite231 photos of Smithsonite associated with Calcite on
Aurichalcite180 photos of Smithsonite associated with Aurichalcite on
Hemimorphite168 photos of Smithsonite associated with Hemimorphite on
Rosasite155 photos of Smithsonite associated with Rosasite on
Malachite115 photos of Smithsonite associated with Malachite on
Quartz108 photos of Smithsonite associated with Quartz on
Azurite105 photos of Smithsonite associated with Azurite on
Galena105 photos of Smithsonite associated with Galena on
Fluorite100 photos of Smithsonite associated with Fluorite on

Related Minerals - Nickel-Strunz GroupingHide

5.AB.05CalciteCaCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
5.AB.05MagnesiteMgCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
5.AB.05OtaviteCdCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m)
5.AB.05RhodochrositeMnCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
5.AB.05SideriteFeCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
5.AB.05SpherocobaltiteCoCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m) : R3c
5.AB.10AnkeriteCa(Fe2+,Mg)(CO3)2Trig. 3 : R3
5.AB.10DolomiteCaMg(CO3)2Trig. 3 : R3
5.AB.10KutnohoriteCa(Mn,Mg,Fe)(CO3)2Trig. 3 : R3
5.AB.10MinrecorditeCaZn(CO3)2Trig. 3 : R3
5.AB.15AragoniteCaCO3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
5.AB.15CerussitePbCO3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
5.AB.15StrontianiteSrCO3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
5.AB.15WitheriteBaCO3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
5.AB.20VateriteCaCO3Hex. 6/mmm (6/m 2/m 2/m) : P63/mmc
5.AB.25HuntiteCaMg3(CO3)4Trig. 3 2 : R3 2
5.AB.30NorsethiteBaMg(CO3)2Trig. 3 2 : R3 2
5.AB.45BarytocalciteBaCa(CO3)2Mon. 2/m : P21/m
5.AB.50Carbocernaite(Ca,Na)(Sr,Ce,Ba)(CO3)2Orth. mm2
5.AB.55BenstoniteBa6Ca6Mg(CO3)13Trig. 3 : R3
5.AB.60JuangodoyiteNa2Cu(CO3)2Mon. 2/m : P21/b

Related Minerals - Dana Grouping (8th Ed.)Hide 3m (3 2/m) : R3c 3m (3 2/m) : R3c 3m (3 2/m) : R3c 3m (3 2/m) : R3c 3m (3 2/m) : R3c 3m (3 2/m)éiteNi(CO3)Hex.

Related Minerals - Hey's Chemical Index of Minerals GroupingHide

11.6.2HydrozinciteZn5(CO3)2(OH)6Mon. 2/m : B2/m
11.6.3Rosasite(Cu,Zn)2(CO3)(OH)2Mon. 2/m : P21/b
11.6.5Aurichalcite(Zn,Cu)5(CO3)2(OH)6Mon. 2/m : P21/m
11.6.7MinrecorditeCaZn(CO3)2Trig. 3 : R3
11.6.8Loseyite(Mn2+,Zn,Mg)4Zn3(CO3)2(OH)10Mon. 2/m
11.6.9Sclarite(Zn,Mg,Mn2+)4Zn3(CO3)2(OH)10Mon. 2/m : B2/b
11.6.10OtaviteCdCO3Trig. 3m (3 2/m)

Fluorescence of SmithsoniteHide

May fluoresce pale green or pale blue.

Other InformationHide

Soluble in acids with effervescence.
Health Risks:
No information on health risks for this material has been entered into the database. You should always treat mineral specimens with care.
Industrial Uses:
Ore of zinc.

Smithsonite in petrologyHide

Common component of (items highlighted in red)

References for SmithsoniteHide

Reference List:
Sort by Year (asc) | by Year (desc) | by Author (A-Z) | by Author (Z-A)
Bergmann, T. (1780) Opuscula of Tobernus Bergmann: 209.
Bergmann, T. (1782) Sciagraphia regni mineralis: 144.
Brongniart, A. (1827) 47 (as Zinc carbonaté).
Beudant, F.S. (1832) Smithsonite, zinc carbonaté. Traité élémentaire de Minéralogie, second edition, 2 volumes: 2: 354-357.
Dana, J.D. (1837) System of Mineralogy, 1st. edition, New Haven: 211.
Dana J.D. (1844) System of Mineralogy, 2nd. Edition, New York: 263.
Monheim (1850) Journal für praktische Chemie, Leipzig: 49: 382.
Monheim (1851) Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paleontologie, Heidelberg, Stuttgart: 705.
Dana, J.D. (1854) System of Mineralogy, 4th. Edition, New York: 447.
Breithaupt, A. (1841) Vollständige Handbuch der Mineralogie Vol. 2: 236 241.
Tanner (1874) Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science, London: 30: 141.
Christomanos (1896) Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences de Paris: 123: 62.
Ortloff (1896) Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie, Leipzig, Berlin: 19: 214.
Bergt (1903) Isis: 1: 20.
Buttgenbach (1906) Bulletin de la Société française de Minéralogie: 29: 190.
Doelter, C. (1911) Handbuch der Mineral-chemie (in 4 volumes divided into parts): 1: 443.
Manasse (1911) Mem. Soc. Tosc.: 27: 76.
Pilipenko (1915) Bulletin of the Imperial Tomsk University: 763.
Honess (1918) American Journal of Science: 45: 217.
Johnsen and Veit (1918) Centralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paleontologie, Stuttgart: 265.
Goldschmidt, V. (1923) Atlas der Krystallformen. 9 volumes, atlas, and text: vol. 9. Heidelberg: 117.
Müller (1924) Ind. Eng. Chem.: 16: 604.
Headden (1925) American Mineralogist: 10: 18.
Mountain (1926) Mineralogical Magazine: 21: 51.
Hintze, Carl (1927) Handbuch der Mineralogie. Berlin and Leipzig. 6 volumes: 1 [3A]: 3243.
Palache, C. (1928) American Mineralogist: 13: 321.
Goldschmidt and Hauptmann (1932) Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Berlin. Mathematisch-physikalische Klasse, Nachrichten: 53.
Mehmet and Valensi (1935) Bull. Soc. chim. France: 2: 1295.
Schaller, W.T., Fairchild, G. (1938) Cadmium in smithsonite from New Mexico. American Mineralogist: 23: 894.
Rose (1939) Comptes rendus de l’Académie des sciences de Paris: 208: 1914.
Neuhaus (1944) Ber. Freiberger Geol. Ges., no. 20: 39.
Rose (1948) Bulletin de la Société française de Minéralogie: 71: 15.
Palache, C., Berman, H., Frondel, C. (1951) The System of Mineralogy of James Dwight Dana and Edward Salisbury Dana, Yale University 1837-1892, Volume II: Halides, Nitrates, Borates, Carbonates, Sulfates, Phosphates, Arsenates, Tungstates, Molybdates, Etc. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 7th edition, revised and enlarged: 176-181.
Hurlbut, C.S., Jr. (1954) Smithsonite from Broken Hill Mine, Rhodesia. American Mineralogist: 39: 47-50.
Effenberger, H., Mereiter, K., Zemann, J. (1981) Crystal structure of magnesite, calcite, rhodochrosite, siderite, smithonite [sic], and dolomite, with discussion of some aspects of the stereochemistry of calcium type carbonates. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie: 156: 233-243.
Reviews in Mineralogy, Mineralogical Society of America: 11.
Robie, R.A., Haselton, H.T., Hemingway, B.S. (1989) Heat capacities and entropies at 298.15 K of MgTiO3 (geikielite), ZnO (zincite), and ZnCO3 (smithsonite). Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics: 21: 743-749.
Anthony, J.W., Bideaux, R.A., Bladh, K.W., Nichols, M.C. (2003) Handbook of Mineralogy, Volume V. Borates, Carbonates, Sulfates. Mineral Data Publishing, Tucson, AZ, 813pp.: 652.
Katerinopoulos, A., Solomos, C., Voudouris, P. (2005) Lavrion smithsonites: A mineralogical and mineral chemical study of their coloration. In: Mao, J.W. and Bierlein, F.P. (Eds.): Mineral deposit research: Meeting the global challenge. Springer, Berlin: 983-986.
Smithsonite: Think Zinc (2010) Extra Lapis English No. 13.
Samouhos, M., Zavašnik, J., Rečnik, A., Godelitsas, A., Chatzitheodoridis, E., Sanakis, Y. (2015) Spectroscopic and nanoscale characterization of blue-coloured smithsonite (ZnCO3) from Lavrion historical mines (Greece). Periodico di Mineralogia: 84: 373-388.

Internet Links for SmithsoniteHide

Localities for SmithsoniteHide

This map shows a selection of localities that have latitude and longitude coordinates recorded. Click on the symbol to view information about a locality. The symbol next to localities in the list can be used to jump to that position on the map.

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