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About SphaleriteHide

Yellow, light to dark brown, black, red-brown, colourless, light blue. green
Adamantine, Resinous
3½ - 4
Specific Gravity:
3.9 - 4.1
Crystal System:
Named in 1847 by Ernst Friedrich Glocker from the Greek σφαλεροζ "sphaleros" = treacherous, in allusion to the ease with which dark varieties were mistaken for galena, but yielded no lead. Originally called blende in 1546 by Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer). Known by a variety of chemical-based names subsequent to Agricola and before Glocker, including "zincum".
Dimorph of:
Sphalerite Group.

Sphalerite, also known as blende or zinc blende, is the major ore of zinc. When pure (with little or no iron) it forms clear crystals with colours ranging from pale yellow (known as Cleiophane) to orange and red shades (known as Ruby Blende), but as iron content increases it forms dark, opaque metallic crystals (known as Marmatite).
Very rare green crystals owe their colour to trace amounts of Co (Henn & Hofmann, 1985; Rager et al., 1996).

Sphalerite may also contain considerable Mn, grading into alabandite. Samples containing up to 0.36 apfu (atoms per formula unit) Mn (21.4 wt.% MnO) have been described by Hurai & Huraiová (2011).

See "Best Minerals" article on the Schalenblende variety, by Harjo Neutkens:

According to Haussühl and Müller (1963), there are numerous polytypes; the ones identified by them are 3R (=3C); 2H, 4H, 6H; and 9R, 12R, 15R and 21R.

Visit for gemological information about Sphalerite.

Classification of SphaleriteHide

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

2 : SULFIDES and SULFOSALTS (sulfides, selenides, tellurides; arsenides, antimonides, bismuthides; sulfarsenites, sulfantimonites, sulfbismuthites, etc.)
C : Metal Sulfides, M: S = 1: 1 (and similar)
B : With Zn, Fe, Cu, Ag, etc.

8 : AmXp, with m:p = 1:1

3 : Sulphides, Selenides, Tellurides, Arsenides and Bismuthides (except the arsenides, antimonides and bismuthides of Cu, Ag and Au, which are included in Section 1)
4 : Sulphides etc. of Group II metals other than Hg (Mg, Ca, Zn, Cd)

Physical Properties of SphaleriteHide

Adamantine, Resinous
Transparent, Translucent
Yellow, light to dark brown, black, red-brown, colourless, light blue. green
Pale yellow to brown.
3½ - 4 on Mohs scale
VHN100=208 - 224 kg/mm2 - Vickers
Perfect {011}
3.9 - 4.1 g/cm3 (Measured)    4.096 g/cm3 (Calculated)

Optical Data of SphaleriteHide

RI values:
nα = 2.369
May show strain induced birefringence
Isotropic minerals have no birefringence
Surface Relief:

Chemical Properties of SphaleriteHide

Common Impurities:

Age distributionHide

Recorded ages:
Phanerozoic : 519 Ma to 0 Ma - based on 23 recorded ages.

Crystallography of SphaleriteHide

Crystal System:
Class (H-M):
4 3m - Hextetrahedral
Space Group:
F4 3m
Cell Parameters:
a = 5.406 Å
Unit Cell V:
157.99 ų (Calculated from Unit Cell)

Crystallographic forms of SphaleriteHide

Crystal Atlas:
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Sphalerite no.1 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.3 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.9 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.13 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.33 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.46 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.53 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
Sphalerite no.162 - Goldschmidt (1913-1926)
3d models and HTML5 code kindly provided by

Edge Lines | Miller Indices | Axes

Opaque | Translucent | Transparent

Along a-axis | Along b-axis | Along c-axis | Start rotation | Stop rotation

X-Ray Powder DiffractionHide

Image Loading

Radiation - Copper Kα
Data Set:
Data courtesy of RRUFF project at University of Arizona, used with permission.
Powder Diffraction Data:
3.123 (100)
2.705 (10)
1.912 (51)
1.561 (30)
1.351 (6)
1.240 (9)
1.1034 (9)
Similar to that of cerianite-(Ce).

Synonyms of SphaleriteHide

Other Language Names for SphaleriteHide

Low Saxon/Low German:Sphalerit
Norwegian (Nynorsk):Sinkblende
Simplified Chinese:闪锌矿
Traditional Chinese:閃鋅礦

Varieties of SphaleriteHide

Cadmian SphaleriteA Cd-bearing variety of sphalerite. Rather common. Reported, e.g., from La Fossa fumaroles, Italy.
CleiophaneLight-coloured (usually yellowish or greenish) up to colourless sphalerite with low contents of Fe" and Mn".

Originally reported first from Franklin, Franklin Mining District, Sussex Co., New Jersey, USA.
Cockade oreAn ore type showing ring-like structures. From French "cocarde", meaning cockade.
Further English terms: ring ore, sphere ore, cocarde ore.
German terms are "Kokardenerz" and "Ringelerz".

Mainly shown by sphalerite and galena.
Gem BlendeA ruby-red translucent variety of "blende" (= sphalerite), the translucency increases the lower the iron content
HonigblendeGerman name for honey-coloured sphalerite.
Indian SphaleriteAn In-bearing variety of sphalerite.
KokardenerzAn ore type showing ring-like structures. From French "cocarde", meaning cockade.
"Ringelerz" is another German designation.
In English: ring ore, sphere ore, cocarde ore, cockade ore.

Mainly shown by sphalerite and galena.
MarmatiteAn opaque black iron-rich variety of sphalerite.
Mercurian SphaleriteA mercury-bearing variety of sphalerite.

See also Polhemusite
MátraiteA densely twinned columnar variety of sphalerite. Discredited as 2006-C.
Nitta et al. (2008) showed that the sphalerite is twinned on {111}.

Originally reported from Gyöngyösoroszi, Mátra Mts., Heves Co., Hungary.
Przibramite (of Huot)A variety of sphalerite with up to 2% Cd.
SchalenblendeCompact, fine grained Sphalerite of a mid brown to yellow or cream colour, occurring in concentric layers with reniform surfaces which also may contain intergrown wurtzite, marcasite, pyrite and galena. It is believed to have formed by relatively rapid cr...

Relationship of Sphalerite to other SpeciesHide

Other Members of this group:
BrowneiteMnS Iso. 4 3m : F4 3m
ColoradoiteHgTeIso. m3m (4/m 3 2/m)
HawleyiteCdSIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
Ishiharaite(Cu,Ga,Fe,In,Zn)SIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
MetacinnabarHgSIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
Rudashevskyite(Fe,Zn)SIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
TiemanniteHgSeIso. 4 3m : F4 3m

Common AssociatesHide

Associated Minerals Based on Photo Data:
Quartz4,444 photos of Sphalerite associated with Quartz on
Calcite2,924 photos of Sphalerite associated with Calcite on
Galena2,782 photos of Sphalerite associated with Galena on
Pyrite2,437 photos of Sphalerite associated with Pyrite on
Chalcopyrite1,824 photos of Sphalerite associated with Chalcopyrite on
Fluorite1,685 photos of Sphalerite associated with Fluorite on
Dolomite1,304 photos of Sphalerite associated with Dolomite on
Siderite1,184 photos of Sphalerite associated with Siderite on
Baryte682 photos of Sphalerite associated with Baryte on
Marcasite545 photos of Sphalerite associated with Marcasite on

Related Minerals - Nickel-Strunz GroupingHide

2.CB.05aColoradoiteHgTeIso. m3m (4/m 3 2/m)
2.CB.05aHawleyiteCdSIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
2.CB.05aMetacinnabarHgSIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
2.CB.05bSakuraiite(Cu,Zn,Fe)3(In,Sn)S4 Iso.
2.CB.05aTiemanniteHgSeIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
2.CB.05aRudashevskyite(Fe,Zn)SIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
2.CB.10aChalcopyriteCuFeS2Tet. 4 2m : I4 2d
2.CB.10aGalliteCuGaS2Tet. 4 2m : I4 2d
2.CB.10bHaycockiteCu4Fe5S8Orth. 2 2 2
2.CB.10aLenaiteAgFeS2Tet. 4 2m : I4 2d
2.CB.10aRoquesiteCuInS2Tet. 4 2m : I4 2d
2.CB.10bTalnakhiteCu9(Fe,Ni)8S16Iso. 4 3m : I4 3m
2.CB.10aLaforêtiteAgInS2Tet. 4 2m : I4 2d
2.CB.15aČernýiteCu2(Cd,Zn,Fe)SnS4Tet. 4 2m : I4 2m
2.CB.15aFerrokësteriteCu2(Fe,Zn)SnS4Tet. 4 : I4
2.CB.15aHocartiteAg2(Fe2+,Zn)SnS4Tet. 4 2m : I4 2m
2.CB.15aKësterite Cu2ZnSnS4Tet. 4 : I4
2.CB.15aPirquitasiteAg2ZnSnS4Tet. 4 : I4
2.CB.15aStanniteCu2FeSnS4Tet. 4 2m : I4 2m
2.CB.15cUM2006-11-S:CuFeGeZnCu8(Fe,Zn)3Ge2S12 (?)
2.CB.20ChatkaliteCu6FeSn2S8Tet. 4 2m : P4m2
2.CB.20MawsoniteCu6Fe2SnS8Tet. 4 2m : P4m2
2.CB.30ColusiteCu13VAs3S16Iso. 4 3m : P4 3n
2.CB.30GermaniteCu13Fe2Ge2S16Iso. 4 3m : P4 3n
2.CB.30Ovamboite Cu20(Fe,Cu,Zn)6W2Ge6S32Iso.
2.CB.35aKiddcreekiteCu6SnWS8Iso. 4 3m : F4 3m
2.CB.35aRenierite(Cu1+,Zn)11Fe4(Ge4+,As5+)2S16Tet. 4 2m : P4 2c
2.CB.35bCatamarcaiteCu6GeWS8Hex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.40LautiteCuAsSOrth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m) : Pnma
2.CB.45CadmoseliteCdSeHex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.45GreenockiteCdSHex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.45Wurtzite(Zn,Fe)SHex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.45RambergiteMnSHex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.45Buseckite(Fe,Zn,Mn)SHex. 6mm : P63mc
2.CB.55aCubaniteCuFe2S3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
2.CB.55bIsocubaniteCuFe2S3Iso. m3m (4/m 3 2/m) : Fm3m
2.CB.60PicotpauliteTlFe2S3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m) : Cmcm
2.CB.65ArgentopyriteAgFe2S3Mon. 2/m
2.CB.65SternbergiteAgFe2S3Orth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
2.CB.80EmpressiteAgTeOrth. mmm (2/m 2/m 2/m)
2.CB.85MuthmanniteAuAgTe2Mon. 2/m : P2/m

Related Minerals - Dana Grouping (8th Ed.)Hide 4 3m : F4 3m 4 3m : F4 3m m3m (4/m 3 2/m) 4 3m : F4 3m,Zn)SIso. 4 3m : F4 3m

Related Minerals - Hey's Chemical Index of Minerals GroupingHide

3.4.2Oldhamite(Ca,Mg)SIso. m3m (4/m 3 2/m) : Fm3m
3.4.5Wurtzite(Zn,Fe)SHex. 6mm : P63mc
3.4.7GreenockiteCdSHex. 6mm : P63mc
3.4.8HawleyiteCdSIso. 4 3m : F4 3m
3.4.9CadmoseliteCdSeHex. 6mm : P63mc

Other InformationHide

Health Risks:
No information on health risks for this material has been entered into the database. You should always treat mineral specimens with care.

Sphalerite in petrologyHide

An essential component of rock names highlighted in red, an accessory component in rock names highlighted in green.

References for SphaleriteHide

Reference List:
Sort by Year (asc) | by Year (desc) | by Author (A-Z) | by Author (Z-A)
Agricola (1546) 465.
Wallerius (1747) 248.
Bergmann (1782).
Glocker (1847) 17.
Headden, W.P. (1906) Mineralogic notes, III, phosphorescent zinc blendes: Colorado Sci. Soc. Proc.: 8: 167-182.
Brown, J.S. (1936) Supergene sphalerite, galena, and willemite at Balmat, NY. Economic Geology: 31: 331-354.
Palache, C., Berman, H., Frondel, C. (1944) The System of Mineralogy of James Dwight Dana and Edward Salisbury Dana Yale University 1837-1892, Volume I: Elements, Sulfides, Sulfosalts, Oxides. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York. 7th edition, revised and enlarged, 834pp.: 210-215.
Smith. F.G. (1955) Structure of zinc-sulfide minerals. American Mineralogist: 40: 658-675.
Rigault G. (1956) Gallio e Indio nella blenda. Periodico di Mineralogia: 43-78.
Haussühl, S., Müller, G. (1963): Neue ZnS-Polytypen (9 R, 12 R und 21R) in mesozoischen Sedimenten NW-Deutschlands. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology: 9: 28-39 [in German, with English abstract].
Fleet, M.E. (1975) Thermodynamic properties of (Zn,Fe)S solid solutions at 850°C. American Mineralogist: 60: 466-470.
Fleet, M.E. (1977) Structural transformations in natural ZnS. American Mineralogist: 62: 540-546.
Fleet, M.E. (1977) The birefringence-structural state relation in natural zinc sulfides and its application to the schalenblende from Pribram. The Canadian Mineralogist: 15: 303-308.
Schaefer, S.C. (1978) Electrochemical determination of the Gibbs energy of formation of sphalerite (ZnS). U.S. Bureau of Mines, Report of Investigation 8301, 16 pp.
Togari, K. (1978) Colour of Sphalerite. Jour. Fac. Sci., Hokkaido Univ., Ser. IV, vol. 18, no. 3, Mar. 1978, pp. 283-290.
(1980) Acta Crystallographica: A36: 482.
Augustithis, S.S., Vgenopoulos, A. (1982) On the hawleyite-sphalerite-wurtzite-galena paragenesis from Ragada, Komotini, (Rhodope) North Greece. Special Publication of the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits: 2: 413-417.
Schaefer, S.C., Gokeen, N.A. (1982) Electrochemical determination of the thermodynamic properties of sphalerite, ZnS (beta). High Temperature Science: 15: 225-237.
Henn, U. & Hofmann, C. (1985) Green sphalerite from Zaire. Journal of Gemmology 19, 416-418.
Rager, H., Amthauer, G., Bernroider, M., Schürmann, K. (1996) Color, crystal chemistry, and mineral association of a green sphalerite from Steinperf, Dill syncline, FRG. European Journal of Mineralogy: 8: 1191-1198.
Bawden, T.M., et al. (2003) Extreme 34S depletions in ZnS at the Mike gold deposit, Carlin Trend, Nevada: Evidence for bacteriogenic supergene sphalerite. Geology: 31: 913-916.
Lusk, J., Calder, B.O.E. (2004) The composition of sphalerite and associated sulfides in reactions of the Cu–Fe–Zn–S, Fe–Zn–S and Cu–Fe–S systems at 1 bar and temperatures between 250 and 535 °C. Chemical Geology: 203: 319-345.
Deore, S., Navrotsky, A. (2006) Oxide melt solution calorimetry of sulfides: Enthalpy of formation of sphalerite, galena, greenockite, and hawleyite. American Mineralogist: 91: 400-403.
Cook, N.J., Ciobanu, C.L., Pring, A., Skinner, W., Shimizu, M., Danyushevsky, L., Saini-Eidukat, B., Melcher, F. (2009) Trace and minor elements in sphalerite: A LA-ICPMS study. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta: 73: 4761-4791.
Hurai, V., Huraiová, M. (2011) Origin of ferroan alabandite and manganoan sphalerite from the Tisovec skarn, Slovakia. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie - Abhandlungen: 188: 119-134.

Internet Links for SphaleriteHide

Significant localities for SphaleriteHide

Showing 45 significant localities out of 22,581 recorded on

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