THE MINERAL OLIGOCLASE

  • Chemistry: Na(90-70%) Ca(10-30%) (Al, Si)AlSi2 O8, Sodium calcium aluminum silicate.
  • Class: Silicates
  • Subclass: Tectosilicates
  • Group: Feldspars
  • Uses: ornamental and semi-precious stone and as mineral specimens.
  • Specimens

Oligoclase is not a well-known mineral but has been used as a semi-precious stone under the names of sunstone and moonstone. Sunstone has flashes of reddish color caused by inclusions of hematite. Moonstone shows a glowing shimmer similar to labradorescence, but lacking in color. The display is produced from lamellar intergrowths inside the crystal. These intergrowths result from compatible chemistries at high temperatures becoming incompatible at lower temperatures and thus a separating and layering of these two phases. The resulting shimmer effect is caused by a ray of light entering a layer and being refracted back and forth by deeper layers before it exits the crystal. This refracted ray has a different character than when it went in and produces the moonlike glow. Moonstone is an alternate birthstone for the month of June.

Oligoclase is a member of the Plagioclase Feldspar Group. The plagioclase series comprises minerals that range in chemical composition from pure NaAlSi3 O8, Albite to pure CaAl2 Si2 O8 , anorthite. Oligoclase by definition must contain 90-70% sodium to 10-30% calcium in the sodium/calcium position of the crystal structure. The various plagioclase feldspars are identified from each other by gradations in index of refraction and density in the absence of chemical analysis and/or optical measurements.

All plagioclase feldspars show a type of twinning that is named after albite. Albite Law twinning produces stacks of twin layers that are typically only fractions of millimeters to several millimeters thick. These twinned layers can be seen as striation like grooves on the surface of the crystal and unlike true striations these also appear on the cleavage surfaces. The Carlsbad Law twin produces what appears to be two intergrown crystals growing in opposite directions. Two different twin laws, the Manebach and Baveno laws, produce crystals with one prominant mirror plane and penetrant angles or notches into the crystal. Although twinned crystals are common, single crystals showing a perfect twin are rare and are often collected by twin fanciers.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Color is usually off-white or gray or pale shades of green, yellow or brown.
  • Luster is vitreous to dull if weathered..
  • Transparency crystals are translucent to transparent.
  • Crystal System is triclinic; bar 1
  • Crystal Habits include blocky, or tabular crystals. Crystals have a nearly rectangular or square cross-section with slightly slanted dome and pinacoid terminations. Twinning is almost universal in all plagioclases. Crystals can be twinned according to the Albite, Carlsbad, Manebach and Baveno laws. Oligoclase can be found as a major rock forming component in granites and syenites.
  • Cleavage is perfect in one and good in another direction forming nearly right angled prisms.
  • Fracture is conchoidal.
  • Hardness is 6 - 6.5.
  • Specific Gravity is approximately 2.64 - 2.68 (average)
  • Streak is white.
  • Associated Minerals are quartz, muscovite and K-feldspars.
  • Other Characteristics: index of refraction is 1.533 - 1.552. Lamellar twinning may cause a grooved effect on cystal and cleavage surfaces that appear as striations.
  • Notable Occurrences include Sri Lanka; New York, USA; Russia; Sweden and Canada.
  • Best Field Indicators are occurrence, twinning striations, shimmer, density and index of refraction.

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