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Cryolite with Siderite

The Mineral cryolite

Cryolite is an unusual mineral with an interesting history. It was commercially mined in large quantities in Greenland since the mid-1800's, and this one locality produced almost the entire source of collectors specimen. Cryolite's economic importance was as a flux for the production of aluminum, but its significance became entirely diminished once it was able to be synthesized. This made the mining operation no longer necessary, and mining and production of Cryolite was entirely stopped.

Cryolite is usually lightly colored, and it commonly associated with contrasting dark brownish yellow Siderite. The Siderite may also be in microcrystals covering the Cryolite, making it appear yellow or brown. Cryolite has a very low refractive index, similar to water, and therefor if transparent pieces put in water, they will blend right in and be hard to distinguish in the water.

Crylolite is name afte the Greek words kryos - Ice, and lithos - stone, based on the typical icy-white color of this mineral.
Chemical Formula Na3AlF6
Composition Sodium aluminum fluoride
Color White, colorless, light yellow, light tan, brown
Streak White
Hardness 2.5
Crystal System Monoclinic
3D Crystal Atlas
(Click for animated model) 
Crystal Forms
and Aggregates
Individual crystals, which are rare, are usually prismatic. Most often roughly crystallized with multiple pseudocubic or pseudo-octahedral faces appearing similar to cleavages. Also massive and grainy.
Transparency Transparent to translucent
Specific Gravity 2.9 - 3.0
Luster Vitreous, pearly
Cleavage None, though exhibits good parting
Fracture Uneven
Tenacity Brittle
Other ID Marks 1) Has a weak salty taste.
2) Slightly soluble in water.
3) May fluoresce bluish-white.
In Group Halides
Striking Features Mode of occurrence and taste.
Environment Granite pegmatites.
Rock Type Igneous, Metamorphic
Popularity (1-4) 3
Prevalence (1-3) 3
Demand (1-3) 2


Cryolite has been mined for its use as a flux to dissolve Bauxite in the recovery of aluminum by way of the Hall–Héroult process. It was eventually synthesized and is no longer mine economically. 

The most important mine was at Ivittutt (Ivigtut), Arsuk, Greenland, where Cryolite was extensively mined for its use as a flux in the production of aluminum. This was the world's only mine exclusively for Cryolite, and has been its only major producer. Upon the synthesizing of Cryolite, mining at this location was no longer economical, and the mine permanently closed in 1987. The town was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Cryolite has also been mined in St. Peters Dome, Cheyenne District, El Paso Co., Colorado; and small amounts have come from the Morefield Mine, Winterham, Amelia Co., Virginia. In Canada, small Cryolite crystals have come from Quebec at the Poudrette Quarry, Mont St. Hilaire; and the Francon Quarry, Montreal.

Siderite, Galena, Quartz, Fluorite, Thomsenolite

cryolite PHOTOS
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