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Amphibole (Tremolite) Tremolite-121232.jpg
Amphibole (Tremolite)

Amphibole ( /ˈæmfɪbl/ ) is a group of inosilicate minerals, forming prism or needlelike crystals, [1] composed of double chain SiO
tetrahedra, linked at the vertices and generally containing ions of iron and/or magnesium in their structures. Amphiboles can be green, black, colorless, white, yellow, blue, or brown. The International Mineralogical Association currently classifies amphiboles as a mineral supergroup, within which are two groups and several subgroups. [2]



Photomicrographs of a thin section containing an amphibole crystal. In cross-polarized light on left, plane-polarized light on right. Thin section microscopy Siilinjarvi R636 6335 amphibole.jpg
Photomicrographs of a thin section containing an amphibole crystal. In cross-polarized light on left, plane-polarized light on right.

Amphiboles crystallize into two crystal systems, monoclinic and orthorhombic. In chemical composition and general characteristics they are similar to the pyroxenes. The chief differences from pyroxenes are that (i) amphiboles contain essential hydroxyl (OH) or halogen (F, Cl) and (ii) the basic structure is a double chain of tetrahedra (as opposed to the single chain structure of pyroxene). Most apparent, in hand specimens, is that amphiboles form oblique cleavage planes (at around 120 degrees), whereas pyroxenes have cleavage angles of approximately 90 degrees. Amphiboles are also specifically less dense than the corresponding pyroxenes. In optical characteristics, many amphiboles are distinguished by their stronger pleochroism and by the smaller angle of extinction (Z angle c) on the plane of symmetry. Amphiboles are the primary constituent of amphibolites.

In rocks

Amphiboles are minerals of either igneous or metamorphic origin; in the former case occurring as constituents (hornblende) of igneous rocks, such as granite, diorite, andesite and others. Calcium is sometimes a constituent of naturally occurring amphiboles. Those of metamorphic origin include examples such as those developed in limestones by contact metamorphism (tremolite) and those formed by the alteration of other ferromagnesian minerals (hornblende). Pseudomorphs of amphibole after pyroxene are known as uralite.

History and etymology

The name amphibole (Ancient Greek ἀμφίβολος - amphíbolos literally meaning 'double entendre', implying ambiguousness) was used by René Just Haüy to include tremolite, actinolite and hornblende. The group was so named by Haüy in allusion to the protean variety, in composition and appearance, assumed by its minerals. This term has since been applied to the whole group. Numerous sub-species and varieties are distinguished, the more important of which are tabulated below in two series. The formulae of each will be seen to be built on the general double-chain silicate formula RSi4O11. [3]

Four of the amphibole minerals are among the minerals commonly called asbestos. These are: anthophyllite, riebeckite, cummingtonite/grunerite series, and actinolite/tremolite series. The cummingtonite/grunerite series is often termed amosite or brown asbestos; riebeckite is known as crocidolite or blue asbestos. These are generally called amphibole asbestos. [4] Mining, manufacture and prolonged use of these minerals can cause serious illnesses.

Mineral species

Chemical formula

Orthorhombic series

Monoclinic series


On account of the wide variations in chemical composition, the different members vary considerably in properties and general appearance.

Anthophyllite occurs as brownish, fibrous or lamellar masses with hornblende in mica-schist at Kongsberg in Norway and some other localities. An aluminous related species is known as gedrite and a deep green Russian variety containing little iron as kupfferite. [3]

Hornblende is an important constituent of many igneous rocks. It is also an important constituent of amphibolites formed by metamorphism of basalt.

Actinolite is an important and common member of the monoclinic series, forming radiating groups of acicular crystals of a bright green or greyish-green color. It occurs frequently as a constituent of greenschists. The name (from Greek ἀκτίς, ἀκτῖνος/aktís, aktînos, a 'ray' and λίθος/líthos, a 'stone') is a translation of the old German word Strahlstein (radiated stone). [3]

Glaucophane, crocidolite, riebeckite and arfvedsonite form a somewhat special group of alkali-amphiboles. The first two are blue fibrous minerals, with glaucophane occurring in blueschists and crocidolite (blue asbestos) in ironstone formations, both resulting from dynamo-metamorphic processes. The latter two are dark green minerals, which occur as original constituents of igneous rocks rich in sodium, such as nepheline-syenite and phonolite. [3]

Pargasite is a rare magnesium-rich amphibole with essential sodium, usually found in ultramafic rocks. For instance, it occurs in uncommon mantle xenoliths, carried up by kimberlite. It is hard, dense, black and usually automorphic, with a red-brown pleochroism in petrographic thin section.

See also


  1. "Amphibole". Dictionary of Geology. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  2. Mindat, Amphibole Supergroup
  3. 1 2 3 4 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Spencer, Leonard James (1911). "Amphibole". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 883–884.
  4. US Geological Survey, Asbestos, accessed 20 July 2015.

Related Research Articles

Hornblende A complex inosilicate series of minerals

Hornblende is a complex inosilicate series of minerals. It is not a recognized mineral in its own right, but the name is used as a general or field term, to refer to a dark amphibole.

Actinolite Ca-amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Actinolite is an amphibole silicate mineral with the chemical formula Ca2(Mg4.5-2.5Fe2+0.5-2.5)Si8O22(OH)2.

Amphibolite A metamorphic rock containing mainly amphibole and plagioclase

Amphibolite is a metamorphic rock that contains amphibole, especially the species hornblende and actinolite, as well as plagioclase.

Tremolite Amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Tremolite is a member of the amphibole group of silicate minerals with composition: Ca2(Mg5.0-4.5Fe2+0.0-0.5)Si8O22(OH)2. Tremolite forms by metamorphism of sediments rich in dolomite and quartz. Tremolite forms a series with actinolite and ferro-actinolite. Pure magnesium tremolite is creamy white, but the color grades to dark green with increasing iron content. It has a hardness on Mohs scale of 5 to 6. Nephrite, one of the two minerals of the gemstone jade, is a green variety of tremolite.

Silicate mineral Rock-forming minerals with predominantly silicate anions

Silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals made up of silicate groups. They are the largest and most important class of minerals and make up approximately 90 percent of the Earth's crust.

Glaucophane Na-amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Glaucophane is the name of a mineral and a mineral group belonging to the sodic amphibole supergroup of the double chain inosilicates, with the chemical formula ☐Na2(Mg3Al2)Si8O22(OH)2.

Riebeckite A sodium-rich member of the amphibole group of silicate minerals

Riebeckite is a sodium-rich member of the amphibole group of silicate minerals, chemical formula Na2(Fe2+3Fe3+2)Si8O22(OH)2. It forms a solid solution series with magnesioriebeckite. It crystallizes in the monoclinic system, usually as long prismatic crystals showing a diamond-shaped cross section, but also in fibrous, bladed, acicular, columnar, and radiating forms. Its Mohs hardness is 5.0–6.0, and its specific gravity is 3.0–3.4. Cleavage is perfect, two directions in the shape of a diamond; fracture is uneven, splintery. It is often translucent to nearly opaque.

Cummingtonite Mineral discovered and named after its place of discovery, Cummington, Massachusetts

Cummingtonite ( KUHM-meeng-ton-nyte) is a metamorphic amphibole with the chemical composition (Mg,Fe2+)2(Mg,Fe2+)5Si8O22(OH)2, magnesium iron silicate hydroxide.

Anthophyllite Mg-Fe-Mn-amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Anthophyllite is an amphibole mineral: ☐Mg2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2 (☐ is for a vacancy, a point defect in the crystal structure), magnesium iron inosilicate hydroxide. Anthophyllite is polymorphic with cummingtonite. Some forms of anthophyllite are lamellar or fibrous and are classed as asbestos. The name is derived from the Latin word anthophyllum, meaning clove, an allusion to the most common color of the mineral.

Asbestiform is a crystal habit. It describes a mineral that grows in a fibrous aggregate of high tensile strength, flexible, long, and thin crystals that readily separate. The most common asbestiform mineral is chrysotile, commonly called "white asbestos", a magnesium phyllosilicate part of the serpentine group. Other asbestiform minerals include riebeckite, an amphibole whose fibrous form is known as crocidolite or "blue asbestos", and brown asbestos, a cummingtonite-grunerite solid solution series.

Grunerite Mg-Fe-Mn-amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Grunerite is a mineral of the amphibole group of minerals with formula Fe7Si8O22(OH)2. It is the iron endmember of the grunerite-cummingtonite series. It forms as fibrous, columnar or massive aggregates of crystals. The crystals are monoclinic prismatic. The luster is glassy to pearly with colors ranging from green, brown to dark grey. The Mohs hardness is 5 to 6 and the specific gravity is 3.4 to 3.5.

Talc carbonates are a suite of rock and mineral compositions found in metamorphosed ultramafic rocks.

Tschermakite Amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

The endmember hornblende tschermakite (☐Ca2(Mg3Al2)(Si6Al2)O22(OH)2) is a calcium rich monoclinic amphibole mineral. It is frequently synthesized along with its ternary solid solution series members tremolite and cummingtonite so that the thermodynamic properties of its assemblage can be applied to solving other solid solution series from a variety of amphibole minerals.

Metamorphic facies

A metamorphic facies is a set of mineral assemblages in metamorphic rocks formed under similar pressures and temperatures. The assemblage is typical of what is formed in conditions corresponding to an area on the two dimensional graph of temperature vs. pressure. Rocks which contain certain minerals can therefore be linked to certain tectonic settings, times and places in the geological history of the area. The boundaries between facies are wide because they are gradational and approximate. The area on the graph corresponding to rock formation at the lowest values of temperature and pressure is the range of formation of sedimentary rocks, as opposed to metamorphic rocks, in a process called diagenesis.

Gedrite Mg-Fe-Mn-amphibole, double chain inosilicate mineral

Gedrite is a crystal belonging to the orthorhombic ferromagnesian subgroup of the amphibole supergroup of the double chain inosilicate minerals with the ideal formula: Mg2(Mg3Al2)(Si6Al2)O22(OH)2

This list gives an overview of the classification of minerals (silicates) and includes mostly IMA recognized minerals and its groupings. This list complements the alphabetical list on List of minerals approved by IMA and List of minerals. Rocks, ores, mineral mixtures, non-IMA approved minerals and non-named

Magnesiocummingtonite is the magnesium rich endmember of the cummingtonite-grunerite series of the amphibole group of minerals, with the following composition: (Mg)7Si8O22(OH)2.

Ferro-actinolite is the ferrous iron-rich endmember of the actinolite-tremolite continuous solid solution series of the double chain calcareous amphibole group of inosilicate minerals. All the series members belong to the monoclinic crystal system.

Coupled substitution Geological process by which two elements simultaneously substitute into a crystal

Coupled substitution is the geological process by which two elements simultaneous substitute into a crystal in order to maintain overall electrical neutrality and keep the charge constant. In forming a solid solution series, ionic size is more important than ionic charge, as this can be compensated for elsewhere in the structure.