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.

Black riebeckite in an alkaline pegmatite from Lindinosa near Évisa, Corsica, France
CategorySilicate mineral
(repeating unit)
Crystal systemMonoclinic
Crystal classPrismatic (2/m)
(same H-M symbol)
Space groupC2/m
Unit cella = 9.76 Å, b = 18.04 Å
c = 5.33 Å; β = 103.59°; Z = 2
ColorBlack, dark blue; dark blue to yellow-green in thin section
Crystal habitAs prismatic crystals, commonly fibrous, asbestiform; earthy, massive
TwinningSimple or multiple twinning parallel to {100}
CleavagePerfect on {110}, intersecting at 56° and 124°; partings on {100} and {010}
FractureConchoidal to uneven
Mohs scale hardness6
LusterVitreous to silky
StreakPale to bluish gray
Specific gravity3.28–3.44
Optical propertiesBiaxial (-)
Refractive indexnα = 1.680–1.698 nβ = 1.683–1.700 nγ = 1.685–1.706
Birefringenceδ = 0.005–0.008
PleochroismX = blue, indigo; Y = yellowish green, yellow brown; Z = dark blue
2V angleMeasured: 68° to 85°, Calculated: 62° to 78°

Name and discovery

It was first described in 1888 for an occurrence on Socotra Island, Aden Governorate, Yemen and named for German explorer Emil Riebeck (1853–1885).[2]


It typically forms dark-blue elongated to fibrous crystals in highly alkali granites, syenites, rarely in felsic volcanics, granite pegmatites and schist. It occurs in banded iron formations as the asbestiform variety crocidolite (blue asbestos). It occurs in association with aegirine, nepheline, albite, arfvedsonite in igneous rocks; with tremolite, ferro-actinolite in metamorphic rocks; and with grunerite, magnetite, hematite, stilpnomelane, ankerite, siderite, calcite, chalcedonic quartz in iron formations.[1]

Riebeckite granite

The riebeckite granite known as ailsite, found on the island of Ailsa Craig in western Scotland, is prized for its use in the manufacture of curling stones.

Riebeckite granite was used for the facing stones of the Canton Viaduct from Moyles Quarry (a.k.a. Canton Viaduct Quarry) now part of Borderland State Park in Massachusetts, US. The commonwealth's name is even taken from an Algonquian word for the Great Blue Hill, which got its color from this form of granite.

Crocidolite (fibrous riebeckite)

The fibrous forms of riebeckite are known as crocidolite and are one of the six recognised types of asbestos. Often referred to as blue asbestos, it is considered the most hazardous. In 1964 Dr Christopher Wagner discovered an association between blue asbestos and mesothelioma.[5]

Crocidolite asbestos was mined in South Africa, Bolivia and also at Wittenoom, Western Australia. Bolivian crocidolite was used in Kent Micronite cigarette filters in the 1950s. Blue asbestos was also used in early gas masks.

See also


  1. "Riebeckite", Handbook of Mineralogy, Mineral Data Publishing, 2001
  2. "Riebeckite", Mindat.org
  3. "Riebeckite", The Mineralogy Database (webmineral.com)
  4. IMA Master List
  5. McDonald, Corbett. Obituary: Dr Christopher Wagner, The Independent 4 July 2000
  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Crocidolite" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 477.
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