Nepheline Pegmatite

A pegmatite is a holocrystalline intrusive igneous rock composed of interlocking phaneritic crystals usually larger than 2.5cm in size. The word pegmatite derives from Homeric Greek (pegnymi), which means to bind together, in reference to the intertwined crystals of quartz and feldspar in the texture known as graphic granite. Pegmatites are extreme igneous rocks that form during the final stage of a magma's crystallization. They are extreme because they contain exceptionally large crystals and they sometimes contain minerals that are rarely found in other types of rocks.

Most pegmatites have a composition that is similar to granite (granite pegmatites) with abundant quartz, feldspar, and mica. However, compositions such as gabbro pegmatite, syenite pegmatite, and any other plutonic rock name combined with pegmatite are possible. Pegmatites are sometimes sources of valuable minerals such as spodumene (rich in Li) and beryl (rich in Be) that are rarely found in economic amounts in other types of rocks. They also can be a source of gemstones.

Large crystals in igneous rocks are usually attributed to a slow rate of crystallization. However, with pegmatites, large crystals are attributed to low-viscosity fluids that allow ions to be very mobile.
During the early states of a magma's crystallization, the melt usually contains a significant amount of dissolved water and other volatiles such as chlorine, fluorine, and carbon dioxide. Water is not removed from the melt during the early crystallization process, so its concentration in the melt grows as crystallization progresses. Eventually there is an overabundance of water, and pockets of water separate from the melt. These pockets of superheated water are extremely rich in dissolved ions. The ions in the water are much more mobile than ions in the melt. This allows them to move about freely and form crystals rapidly. This is why crystals of a pegmatite grow so large.

The extreme conditions of crystallization sometimes produce crystals that are several meters in length and weigh over one ton. For example: a large crystal of spodumene at the Etta Mine in South Dakota was 42 feet long, 5 feet in diameter and yielded 90 tons of spodumene

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Giant Spodumene. Etta Mine, South Dakota


Pegmatites form from waters that separate from a magma in the late stages of crystallization; this activity often occurs in small pockets along the margins of a batholith. Pegmatite can also form in fractures that develop on the margins of the batholith. This is how pegmatite dikes are formed.

Large intrusions of feldspathoid syenites are commonly accompanied by pegmatites, veins, lenses and pods of coarse-crystalline material comprising the same minerals as found in the surrounding rocks (nepheline, sodalite, alkali feldspars, aegirine and sodic amphiboles), as well as copious quantities of rare minerals enriched in water and incompatible trace elements: Sr (lamprophyllite, belovite), Ba (barytolamprophyllite, batisite), REE (rinkolite, belovite), Zr (eudialyte, lovozerite, catapleiite), Nb (labuntsovite, loparite), Li (mangan-neptunite, tainiolite), Be (leucophanite, epididymite, chkalovite) and Th (steenstrupine). There is little doubt that some of these minerals crystallized from super-evolved melts left over after the formation of the surrounding alkaline rock.
However, this early magmatic stage is commonly followed by hydrothermal processes involving aqueous (and, in some cases, F- or CO3-rich) fluids, which leave their distinct mineralogical overprint, like the crystallization of fine-grained (sugary) albite, fibrous or spherulitic aegirine, exotic carbonate minerals, natrolite and various other zeolites.
In some cases, the primary mineral assemblage and texture are completely obliterated by late-stage hydrothermal reworking (metasomatism). These complex associations of minerals are described collectively as pegmatites or, to distinsguish them from their granitic counterparts, alkaline pegmatites.

Bibliography



• Eric A.K.Middlemost (1985): Magmas and Magmatic Rocks. Longman, London
• Ron H. Vernon (2004): A pratical guide to rock microstructure. Cambridge editore
• K.G.Cox, J.D.Bell & R.J Pankhurst (1979): The interpretetion of igneous rocks. George Allen&Unwin editori.


Photo
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green), cancrinite (high interference colors) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green), cancrinite (high interference colors) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green), cancrinite (high interference colors) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine and nepheline (gray) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green), cancrinite (high interference colors) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. XPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Aegirine (green) and nepheline (colorless) crystals in a nepheline-pegmatite from Mnt St. Hilare, Canada. PPL image, 2x (Field of view = 7mm)
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Cristalli di Aegirina e Nefelina. Immagine a NX, 2x (lato lungo = 7mm).
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Cristallo di Aegirina e Nefelina. Immagine a N//, 2x (lato lungo = 7mm).
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Cristallo di Aegirina e nefelina. Immagine a NX, 2x (lato lungo = 7mm).