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Titanite: Characteristics, Origin and Applications

By Dom Einhorn Subscribe to RSS | December 10th 2011 | Views:

Learn more about the mineral called titanite - its characteristics, history, and uses and applications. Titanite is a mineral which contains titanium and calcium. It has a chemical formula of CaTiSiO5. Mineralogists categorize it under the nesosilicate group of minerals.


Usually reddish brown in color, titanite minerals also occur in nature in shades of gray, yellow, green, or red. It has a reddish white streak and a luster described by mineralogists as subadamantine with tendency to have a slightly resinous luster. It has also been observed to be pleochroic when strongly colored. Its crystals are described as wedge-like due to their elongated wedges whic1111h, when joined together, form tabular or platy crystals. Some titanite crystals are translucent while others are transparent. The transparent crystals are especially valued specimens due to their trichroism, a characteristic wherein the crystals exhibit three different colors. In the Mohs scale of hardness, titanite falls in the 5.0 to 5.5 scale which means it is a relatively soft or brittle mineral. Titanite is also noted to be radioactive and should be handled accordingly and properly. While most titanite minerals are purely CaTiSiO5, there are specimens of titanite which tend to include trace amounts of iron and aluminum. When trace amounts of other elements are present, the specimens are considered to contain impurities. Other known impurities and trace elements found in titanite minerals include such rare earth metals as cerium and yttrium. Thorium has also been known to appear in titanite minerals, sometimes even replacing titanite’s calcium content.

Origin and History

Titanite was originally called sphene. Sphene derives from the Greek word sphenos which means wedge – a description of the minerals’ crystals which are typically wedge-like in appearance. It was originally known as “sphene” until 1982, when the International Mineralogical Association – Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names believed the term “sphene” can raise confusion between the calcium titanium nesosilicate mineral which it originally refers to, and the rare earth metals that fall under the titanate pyrochlores series of minerals as well as those minerals that exhibit the perovskite structure. Despite this, sphene remains an active (if informal) term for titanite in peer-reviewed scientific journals and titanite gemstones. Known sources of titanite include local mines in Pakistan, Russia, and China in Asia; Italy, Switzerland, and Austria in Europe; Madagascar in Africa; Brazil in South America; and Canada and the United States in North America.

Uses and Applications

Titanite is tapped for its rich titanium dioxide (Ti02) content. Titanium dioxide is used primarily as pigment in commercial manufacturing and industries. Another, lesser known use for titanite is in jewelry. Titanite gemstones are a rarity in the gem market due to its unique shade of chartreuse. As a gemstone, titanite has a dispersive power – a “fire”, in gemstone parlance – that is higher than the dispersive power of diamond. However, under the Mohs scale of hardness, titanite only falls under the 5.0 to 5.5 range scale; this means that titanite is too soft and is therefore a challenge to use as a gemstone. This adds to the rarity of titanite gemstones in the market.

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