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Feldspar crystal (18×21×8.5 cm) from Jequitinhonha valley, Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil
Category Tectosilicate
(repeating unit)
K Al Si 3 O 8NaAlSi3O8CaAl2Si2O8
Crystal system Triclinic or monoclinic
Colorpink, white, gray, brown
Cleavage two or three
Fracture along cleavage planes
Mohs scale hardness6.0–6.5
Luster Vitreous
Streak white
Diaphaneity opaque
Specific gravity 2.55–2.76
Density 2.56
Refractive index 1.518–1.526
Birefringence first order
Pleochroism none
Other characteristicsexsolution lamellae common
References [1]
Compositional phase diagram of the different minerals that constitute the feldspar solid solution. Feldspar group.svg
Compositional phase diagram of the different minerals that constitute the feldspar solid solution.

Feldspars (K Al Si 3 O 8Na Al Si 3 O 8Ca Al 2 Si 2 O 8) are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 41% of the Earth's continental crust by weight. [2] [3]

Potassium Chemical element with atomic number 19

Potassium is a chemical element with symbol K and atomic number 19. It was first isolated from potash, the ashes of plants, from which its name derives. In the periodic table, potassium is one of the alkali metals. All of the alkali metals have a single valence electron in the outer electron shell, which is easily removed to create an ion with a positive charge – a cation, which combines with anions to form salts. Potassium in nature occurs only in ionic salts. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and reacts vigorously with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite hydrogen emitted in the reaction, and burning with a lilac-colored flame. It is found dissolved in sea water, and is part of many minerals.

Aluminium Chemical element with atomic number 13

Aluminium or aluminum is a chemical element with symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic and ductile metal in the boron group. By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust; it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon and the most abundant metal in the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.

Silicon Chemical element with atomic number 14

Silicon is a chemical element with symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a hard and brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic lustre; and it is a tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. It is a member of group 14 in the periodic table: carbon is above it; and germanium, tin, and lead are below it. It is relatively unreactive. Because of its high chemical affinity for oxygen, it was not until 1823 that Jöns Jakob Berzelius was first able to prepare it and characterize it in pure form. Its melting and boiling points of 1414 °C and 3265 °C respectively are the second-highest among all the metalloids and nonmetals, being only surpassed by boron. Silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but very rarely occurs as the pure element in the Earth's crust. It is most widely distributed in dusts, sands, planetoids, and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. More than 90% of the Earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen.


Feldspars crystallize from magma as veins in both intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks and are also present in many types of metamorphic rock. [4] Rock formed almost entirely of calcic plagioclase feldspar is known as anorthosite. [5] Feldspars are also found in many types of sedimentary rocks. [6]

Crystal solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an ordered pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions

A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in all directions. In addition, macroscopic single crystals are usually identifiable by their geometrical shape, consisting of flat faces with specific, characteristic orientations. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography. The process of crystal formation via mechanisms of crystal growth is called crystallization or solidification.

Magma Mixture of molten or semi-molten rock, volatiles and solids that is found beneath the surface of the Earth

Magma is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed. Magma is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and evidence of magmatism has also been discovered on other terrestrial planets and some natural satellites. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and gas bubbles. Magma is produced by melting of the mantle and/or the crust at various tectonic settings, including subduction zones, continental rift zones, mid-ocean ridges and hotspots. Mantle and crustal melts migrate upwards through the crust where they are thought to be stored in magma chambers or trans-crustal crystal-rich mush zones. During their storage in the crust, magma compositions may be modified by fractional crystallization, contamination with crustal melts, magma mixing, and degassing. Following their ascent through the crust, magmas may feed a volcano or solidify underground to form an intrusion. While the study of magma has historically relied on observing magma in the form of lava flows, magma has been encountered in situ three times during geothermal drilling projects—twice in Iceland, and once in Hawaii.

Vein (geology) sheetlike body within a rock

In geology, a vein is a distinct sheetlike body of crystallized minerals within a rock. Veins form when mineral constituents carried by an aqueous solution within the rock mass are deposited through precipitation. The hydraulic flow involved is usually due to hydrothermal circulation.


The name feldspar derives from the German Feldspat, a compound of the words Feld, "field", and Spat meaning "a rock that does not contain ore". [7] The change from Spat to -spar was influenced by the English word spar, [8] meaning a non-opaque mineral with good cleavage. [9] Feldspathic refers to materials that contain feldspar. The alternate spelling, felspar, has fallen out of use.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Rock (geology) A naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids

Rock or stone is a natural substance, a solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids. For example, granite, a common rock, is a combination of the minerals quartz, feldspar and biotite. The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock.

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is an occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.


This group of minerals consists of tectosilicates. Compositions of major elements in common feldspars can be expressed in terms of three endmembers:

Silicate minerals Rock-forming minerals with predominantly silicate anions

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

Orthoclase feldspar mineral

Orthoclase, or orthoclase feldspar (endmember formula KAlSi3O8), is an important tectosilicate mineral which forms igneous rock. The name is from the Ancient Greek for "straight fracture," because its two cleavage planes are at right angles to each other. It is a type of potassium feldspar, also known as K-feldspar. The gem known as moonstone (see below) is largely composed of orthoclase.

Oxygen Chemical element with atomic number 8

Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O
. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.

Albite feldspar, mineral

Albite is a plagioclase feldspar mineral. It is the sodium endmember of the plagioclase solid solution series. It represents a plagioclase with less than 10% anorthite content. The pure albite endmember has the formula NaAlSi3O8. It is a tectosilicate. Its color is usually pure white, hence its name from Latin albus. It is a common constituent in felsic rocks.

Solid solutions between K-feldspar and albite are called "alkali feldspar". [10] Solid solutions between albite and anorthite are called "plagioclase", [10] or more properly "plagioclase feldspar". Only limited solid solution occurs between K-feldspar and anorthite, and in the two other solid solutions, immiscibility occurs at temperatures common in the crust of the Earth. Albite is considered both a plagioclase and alkali feldspar.

Solid solution Chemical solution in solid form; whose solvents crystal structure is not altered by solute

A solid solution is a solid-state solution of one or more solutes in a solvent. Such a multi-component system is considered a solution rather than a compound when the crystal structure of the solvent remains unchanged by addition of the solutes, and when the chemical components remain in a single homogeneous phase. This often happens when the two elements involved are close together on the periodic table; conversely, a chemical compound generally results when two metals involved are not near each other on the periodic table.

Plagioclase feldspars, albite - anorthite solid solution series

Plagioclase is a series of tectosilicate (framework silicate) minerals within the feldspar group. Rather than referring to a particular mineral with a specific chemical composition, plagioclase is a continuous solid solution series, more properly known as the plagioclase feldspar series (from the Ancient Greek for "oblique fracture", in reference to its two cleavage angles). This was first shown by the German mineralogist Johann Friedrich Christian Hessel (1796–1872) in 1826. The series ranges from albite to anorthite endmembers (with respective compositions NaAlSi3O8 to CaAl2Si2O8), where sodium and calcium atoms can substitute for each other in the mineral's crystal lattice structure. Plagioclase in hand samples is often identified by its polysynthetic crystal twinning or 'record-groove' effect.

Alkali feldspars

Alkali feldspars are grouped into two types: those containing potassium in combination with sodium, aluminum, or silicon; and those where potassium is replaced by barium. The first of these include:

Potassium and sodium feldspars are not perfectly miscible in the melt at low temperatures, therefore intermediate compositions of the alkali feldspars occur only in higher temperature environments. [14] Sanidine is stable at the highest temperatures, and microcline at the lowest. [11] [12] Perthite is a typical texture in alkali feldspar, due to exsolution of contrasting alkali feldspar compositions during cooling of an intermediate composition. The perthitic textures in the alkali feldspars of many granites can be seen with the naked eye. [15] Microperthitic textures in crystals are visible using a light microscope, whereas cryptoperthitic textures can be seen only with an electron microscope.

Barium feldspars

Barium feldspars are also considered alkali feldspars. Barium feldspars form as the result of the substitution of barium for potassium in the mineral structure. The barium feldspars are monoclinic and include the following:

Plagioclase feldspars

The plagioclase feldspars are triclinic. The plagioclase series follows (with percent anorthite in parentheses):

Intermediate compositions of plagioclase feldspar also may exsolve to two feldspars of contrasting composition during cooling, but diffusion is much slower than in alkali feldspar, and the resulting two-feldspar intergrowths typically are too fine-grained to be visible with optical microscopes. The immiscibility gaps in the plagioclase solid solutions are complex compared to the gap in the alkali feldspars. The play of colours visible in some feldspar of labradorite composition is due to very fine-grained exsolution lamellae. The specific gravity in the plagioclase series increases from albite (2.62 g/cm3) to anorthite (2.72–2.75 g/cm3).


Chemical weathering of feldspars results in the formation of clay minerals [18] such as illite and kaolinite.

Production and uses

About 20 million tonnes of feldspar were produced in 2010, mostly by three countries: Italy (4.7 Mt), Turkey (4.5 Mt), and China (2 Mt). [19]

Feldspar is a common raw material used in glassmaking, ceramics, and to some extent as a filler and extender in paint, plastics, and rubber. In glassmaking, alumina from feldspar improves product hardness, durability, and resistance to chemical corrosion. In ceramics, the alkalis in feldspar (calcium oxide, potassium oxide, and sodium oxide) act as a flux, lowering the melting temperature of a mixture. Fluxes melt at an early stage in the firing process, forming a glassy matrix that bonds the other components of the system together. In the US, about 66% of feldspar is consumed in glassmaking, including glass containers and glass fiber. Ceramics (including electrical insulators, sanitaryware, pottery, tableware, and tile) and other uses, such as fillers, accounted for the remainder. [20]

In earth sciences and archaeology, feldspars are used for K-Ar dating, argon-argon dating, and luminescence dating.

In October 2012, the Mars Curiosity rover analyzed a rock that turned out to have a high feldspar content. [21]


See also

Related Research Articles

Microcline feldspar, tectosilicate mineral

Microcline (KAlSi3O8) is an important igneous rock-forming tectosilicate mineral. It is a potassium-rich alkali feldspar. Microcline typically contains minor amounts of sodium. It is common in granite and pegmatites. Microcline forms during slow cooling of orthoclase; it is more stable at lower temperatures than orthoclase. Sanidine is a polymorph of alkali feldspar stable at yet higher temperature. Microcline may be clear, white, pale-yellow, brick-red, or green; it is generally characterized by cross-hatch twinning that forms as a result of the transformation of monoclinic orthoclase into triclinic microcline.

Anorthoclase mineral: intermediate member of a solid solution series (albite and sanidine)

The mineral anorthoclase ((Na,K)AlSi3O8) is a crystalline solid solution in the alkali feldspar series, in which the sodium-aluminium silicate member exists in larger proportion. It typically consists of between 10 and 36 percent of KAlSi3O8 and between 64 and 90 percent of NaAlSi3O8.

Anorthite mineral, Ca-feldspar, Ca-silicate, tectosilicate

Anorthite is the calcium endmember of the plagioclase feldspar mineral series. The chemical formula of pure anorthite is CaAl2Si2O8. Anorthite is found in mafic igneous rocks. Anorthite is rare on the Earth but abundant on the Moon.

Nepheline syenite holocrystalline plutonic rock

Nepheline syenite is a holocrystalline plutonic rock that consists largely of nepheline and alkali feldspar. The rocks are mostly pale colored, grey or pink, and in general appearance they are not unlike granites, but dark green varieties are also known. Phonolite is the fine-grained extrusive equivalent.

Potassium feldspar refers to a number of minerals in the feldspar group, and containing potassium:


Perthite is used to describe an intergrowth of two feldspars: a host grain of potassium-rich alkali feldspar (near K-feldspar, KAlSi3O8, in composition) includes exsolved lamellae or irregular intergrowths of sodic alkali feldspar (near albite, NaAlSi3O8, in composition). Typically the host grain is orthoclase or microcline, and the lamellae are albite. If sodic feldspar is the dominant phase, the result is an antiperthite and where the feldspars are in roughly equal proportions the result is a mesoperthite.

Oligoclase mineral: intermediate member of a solid solution series (10 to 30 % anorthite and albite)

Oligoclase is a rock-forming mineral belonging to the plagioclase feldspars. In chemical composition and in its crystallographic and physical characters it is intermediate between albite (NaAlSi3O8) and anorthite (CaAl2Si2O8). The albite:anorthite molar ratio ranges from 90:10 to 70:30.

Essexite, also called nepheline monzogabbro, is a dark gray or black holocrystalline plutonic igneous rock. Its name is derived from the type locality in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States.

Sanidine feldspar, tectosilicate mineral

Sanidine is the high temperature form of potassium feldspar with a general formula K(AlSi3O8). Sanidine is found most typically in felsic volcanic rocks such as obsidian, rhyolite and trachyte. Sanidine crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system. Orthoclase is a monoclinic polymorph stable at lower temperatures. At yet lower temperatures, microcline, a triclinic polymorph of potassium feldspar, is stable.

Celsian feldspar, mineral

Celsian is an uncommon feldspar mineral, barium aluminosilicate, BaAl2Si2O8. The mineral occurs in contact metamorphic rocks with significant barium content. Its crystal system is monoclinic, and it is white, yellow, or transparent in appearance. In pure form, it is transparent. Synthetic barium aluminosilicate is used as a ceramic in dental fillings and other applications.


Myrmekite describes a vermicular, or wormy, intergrowth of quartz in plagioclase. The intergrowths are microscopic in scale, typically with maximum dimensions less than 1 millimeter. The plagioclase is sodium-rich, usually albite or oligoclase. These quartz-plagioclase intergrowths are associated with and commonly in contact with potassium feldspar. Myrmekite is formed under metasomatic conditions, usually in conjunction with tectonic deformations. It has to be clearly separated from micrographic and granophyric intergrowths, which are magmatic.


Litchfieldite is a rare igneous rock. It is a coarse-grained, foliated variety of nepheline syenite, sometimes called nepheline syenite gneiss or gneissic nepeheline syenite. Litchfieldite is composed of two varieties of feldspar, with nepheline, sodalite, cancrinite and calcite. The mafic minerals, when present, are magnetite and an iron-rich variety of biotite (lepidomelane).

An endmember in mineralogy is a mineral that is at the extreme end of a mineral series in terms of purity. Minerals often can be described as solid solutions with varying compositions of some chemical elements, rather than as substances with an exact chemical formula. There may be two or more endmembers in a group or series of minerals.

In subsolvus or two feldspar granites crystallisation occurs at high water pressures resulting in the formation of two types of feldspar as opposed to hypersolvus granites in which crystallization at relatively low water pressures results in the formation of a single feldspar variety. Quoting Tuttle and Bowen in 1958 : ″A classification of salic rocks based on the nature of the alkali feldspar is proposed. The classification has two major divisions: (1) subsolidus, and (2) hypersolvus, depending on the whereabouts of the soda feldspar. In the hypersolvus rocks all the soda feldspar is or was in solid solution in the potash feldspar whereas in the subsolvus rocks the plagioclase is present as discrete grains. The two major divisions are further subdivided according to the nature of the alkali feldspar modification.″ Note that here the word "subsolidus" unfortunately looks like a misprint and probably has to be replaced by "subsolvus".

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.

Rubicline, also referred to as Rb-microcline, is the rubidium analogue of microcline, an important tectosilicate mineral. Its chemical formula is (Rb, K)[AlSi3O8] with an ideal composition of RbAlSi3O8. Chemical analysis by electron microprobe indicated the average weight of the crystal is 56.66% SiO2, 16.95% Al2O3, and 23.77% Rb2O, along with trace amounts of caesium oxide (Cs2O) and iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3).


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Further reading