Orange kyanite, from Tanzania

Orange kyanite Tanzania

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Orange kyanite, from Tanzania

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Kyanite is a typically blue silicate mineral, commonly found in aluminium-rich metamorphic pegmatites and/or sedimentary rock. Kyanite in metamorphic rocks generally indicates pressures higher than four kilobars. Although potentially stable at lower pressure and low temperature, the activity of water is usually high enough under such conditions that it is replaced by hydrous aluminosilicates such as muscovite, pyrophyllite, or kaolinite. Kyanite is also known as disthene, rhaeticite and cyanite.

Kyanite is a member of the aluminosilicate series, which also includes the polymorph andalusite and the polymorph sillimanite. Kyanite is strongly anisotropic, in that its hardness varies depending on its crystallographic direction. In kyanite, this anisotropism can be considered an identifying characteristic.

At temperatures above 1100 °C kyanite decomposes into mullite and vitreous silica via the following reaction: 3(Al2O3·SiO2) → 3Al2O3·2SiO2 + SiO2. This transformation results in an expansion.

Its name comes from the same origin as that of the color cyan, being derived from the Ancient Greek word κύανος. This is generally rendered into English as kyanos or kuanos and means “dark blue”.

Kyanite has been used as a semiprecious gemstone, which may display cat’s eye chatoyancy, though this use is limited by its anisotropism and perfect cleavage. Color varieties include recently discovered orange kyanite from Tanzania. The orange color is due to inclusion of small amounts of manganese (Mn3+) in the structure.

Identification

Kyanite’s elongated, columnar crystals are usually a good first indication of the mineral, as well as its color (when the specimen is blue). Associated minerals are useful as well, especially the presence of the polymorphs of staurolite, which occur frequently with kyanite. However, the most useful characteristic in identifying kyanite is its anisotropism. If one suspects a specimen to be kyanite, verifying that it has two distinctly different hardness on perpendicular axes is a key to identification, it has a hardness of 5.5 parallel to {001} and 7 parallel to {100}

Orange kyanite, from Tanzania

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