Walnut Hill Pegmatite Prospect, Huntington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, U.S. (size: 14.2 × 9.2 × 3.0 cm)
(repeating unit)
lithium aluminium silicate, LiAl(SiO3)2
IMA symbolSpd[1]
Strunz classification9.DA.30
Dana classification65.1.4.1
Crystal systemMonoclinic
Crystal classPrismatic (2/m)
(same H-M symbol)
Space groupC2/c
Unit cella = 9.46 Å, b = 8.39 Å
c = 5.22 Å
β = 110.17°; Z = 4
ColorHighly variable: white, colorless, gray, pink, lilac, violet, yellow and green, may be bicolored; emerald green – hiddenite; lilac – kunzite; yellow – triphane
Crystal habitprismatic, generally flattened and elongated, striated parallel to {100}, commonly massive
TwinningCommon on {100}
CleavagePerfect prismatic, two directions {110} ∧ {110} at 87°
FractureUneven to subconchoidal
Mohs scale hardness6.5–7
LusterVitreous, pearly on cleavage
Specific gravity3.03–3.23
Optical propertiesBiaxial (+)
Refractive indexnα = 1.648–1.661 nβ = 1.655–1.670 nγ = 1.662–1.679
Birefringenceδ = 0.014–0.018
PleochroismStrong in kunzite: α-purple, γ-colorless; hiddenite: α-green, γ-colorless
2V angle54° to 69°
Other characteristicsTenebrescence, chatoyancy

Spodumene is a pyroxene mineral consisting of lithium aluminium inosilicate, LiAl(SiO3)2, and is a commercially important source of lithium. It occurs as colorless to yellowish, purplish, or lilac kunzite (see below), yellowish-green or emerald-green hiddenite, prismatic crystals, often of great size. Single crystals of 14.3 m (47 ft) in size are reported from the Black Hills of South Dakota, United States.[6][7]

The naturally-occurring low-temperature form α-spodumene is in the monoclinic system, and the high-temperature β-spodumene crystallizes in the tetragonal system. α-spodumene converts to β-spodumene at temperatures above 900 °C.[5] Crystals are typically heavily striated parallel to the principal axis. Crystal faces are often etched and pitted with triangular markings.[not verified in body]

Discovery and occurrence

See also: Lithium mining

Spodumene was first described in 1800 for an occurrence in the type locality in Utö, Södermanland, Sweden. It was discovered by Brazilian naturalist Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva. The name is derived from the Greek spodumenos (σποδούμενος), meaning "burnt to ashes", owing to the opaque ash-grey appearance of material refined for use in industry.[2]

Spodumene occurs in lithium-rich granite pegmatites and aplites. Associated minerals include: quartz, albite, petalite, eucryptite, lepidolite and beryl.[3]

Transparent material has long been used as a gemstone with varieties kunzite and hiddenite noted for their strong pleochroism. Source localities include Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar (see mining), Pakistan, Québec in Canada, and North Carolina and California in the U.S.

Since 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been known to have the largest lithium spodumene hard rock deposit in the world, with mining operations occurring in the central DRC territory of Manono, Tanganyika Province.[8] As of 2021, the Australian company AVZ Minerals[9] is developing the Manono Lithium and Tin project and has a resource size of 400 million tonnes of high grade low impurities at 1.65% lithium oxide (Li2O)[10] spodumene hard-rock based on studies and drilling of Roche Dure, one of several pegmatites in the deposit.

Economic importance

Spodumene is an important source of lithium, for use in ceramics, mobile phone and batteries (including for automotive applications), medicine, Pyroceram and as a fluxing agent. As of 2019, around half of lithium is extracted from mineral ores, which mainly consist of spodumene. Lithium is recovered from spodumene by dissolution in acid, or extraction with other reagents, after roasting to convert it to the more reactive β-spodumene. The advantage of spodumene as a lithium source compared to brine sources is the higher lithium concentration, but at a higher extraction cost.[11]

In 2016, the price was forecast to be $500–600/ton for years to come.[12] However, price spiked above $800 in January 2018, and production increased more than consumption, reducing the price to $400 in September 2020.[13][14]

World production of lithium via spodumene was around 80,000 metric tonnes per annum in 2018, primarily from the Greenbushes pegmatite of Western Australia and from some Chinese and Chilean sources. The Talison Minerals mine in Greenbushes, Western Australia (involving Tianqi Lithium, Albemarle Corporation and Global Advanced Metals), is reported to be the world's second largest and to have the highest grade of ore at 2.4% Li2O (2012 figures).[15]

In 2020, Australia expanded spodumene mining to become the leading lithium producing country in the world.[16]

Extraction of lithium from spodumene is challenging due to the tight binding of lithium in the crystal structure. Processing methods rely on roasting at high temperature with various reagents. At temperatures in excess of 800 °C (1,470 °F), the spodumene is converted from the alpha structure to a more open beta structure from which the lithium is more easily extracted by the reagents. Suitable extraction reagents include alkali metal sulfates, such as sodium sulfate; sodium carbonate; chlorine; or hydrofluoric acid.[17]

An important economic concentrate of spodumene, known as spodumene concentrate 6 or SC6, is a high-purity lithium ore with approximately 6 percent lithium content being produced as a raw material for the subsequent production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.[18][19]

Gemstone varieties

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Hiddenite is a pale, emerald-green gem variety first reported from Alexander County, North Carolina, U.S.[20] It was named in honor of William Earl Hidden (16 February 1853 – 12 June 1918), mining engineer, mineral collector, and mineral dealer.[21][additional citation(s) needed]

This emerald-green variety of spodumene is colored by chromium, just as for emeralds. Not all green spodumene is colored with chromium, which tend to have a lighter color, and therefore are not true hiddenite.[clarification needed]


Kunzite is a purple-colored gemstone, a variety of spodumene, with the color coming from minor to trace amounts of manganese. Exposure to sunlight can fade its color.[21]

Kunzite was discovered in 1902, and was named after George Frederick Kunz, Tiffany & Co's chief jeweler at the time, and a noted mineralogist.[21] It has been found in Brazil, the U.S., Canada, CIS, Mexico, Sweden, Western Australia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.[21][22]


Triphane is the name used for yellowish varieties of spodumene.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Warr, L.N. (2021). "IMA–CNMNC approved mineral symbols". Mineralogical Magazine. 85 (3): 291–320. Bibcode:2021MinM...85..291W. doi:10.1180/mgm.2021.43. S2CID 235729616.
  2. ^ a b Spodumene, Mindat.org
  3. ^ a b Anthony, John W., Bideaux, Richard A., Bladh, Kenneth W., and Nichols, Monte C. (1990). Handbook of Mineralogy. Mineral Data Publishing, Tucson, Arizona
  4. ^ Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., ISBN 0-471-80580-7
  5. ^ a b Deer, Howie and Zussman, Rock Forming Minerals, v. 2 Chain Silicates, Wiley, 1963 pp. 92–98
  6. ^ Schwartz, G. (1928). "The Black Hills Mineral Region". American Mineralogist. 13: 56–63.
  7. ^ Robert Louis Bonewitz, 2005, Rock and Gem, London, Dorling Kindersley
  8. ^ "This Congo project could supply the world with lithium". MiningDotCom. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  9. ^ "AVZ Minerals Limited". AVZ Minerals. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  10. ^ "AVZ Minerals Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS – April 2020)". AVZ Minerals.
  11. ^ Rioyo, Javier; Tuset, Sergio; Grau, Ramón (12 August 2020). "Lithium Extraction from Spodumene by the Traditional Sulfuric Acid Process: A Review". Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review. 43: 97–106. doi:10.1080/08827508.2020.1798234. ISSN 0882-7508. S2CID 225417879.
  12. ^ "Spodumene concentrate forecasted price 2020". Statista. 21 July 2016. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020.
  13. ^ Shi, Carrie; Ouerghi, Dalila (5 October 2020). "Demand pick-up halts spodumene price fall". www.metalbulletin.com. Archived from the original on 11 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Lithium Resources and Energy Quarterly" (PDF). December 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Greenbushes Lithium Mine". Golden Dragon Capital. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  16. ^ Jaskula, Brian W. (January 2020). "Mineral Commodity Summaries 2020" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  17. ^ Choubey, Pankaj K.; Kim, Min-seuk; Srivastava, Rajiv R.; Lee, Jae-chun; Lee, Jin-Young (April 2016). "Advance review on the exploitation of the prominent energy-storage element: Lithium. Part I: From mineral and brine resources". Minerals Engineering. 89: 119–137. Bibcode:2016MiEng..89..119C. doi:10.1016/j.mineng.2016.01.010.
  18. ^ Jamasmie, Cecilia (28 September 2020). "Piedmont Lithium stock soars on confirmed Tesla deal". mining.com. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  19. ^ Piedmont Lithium Signs Sales Agreement with Tesla, 28 September 2020, retrieved 14 March 2021.
  20. ^ Smith, John Lawrence. "Hiddenite, an emerald-green variety of spodumene." American Journal of Science 3.122 (1881): 128–130.
  21. ^ a b c d Cook, Robert B. (1 September 1997). "Connoisseur's Choice: Spodumene var. Kunzite, Nuristan, Afghanistan". Rocks & Minerals. 72 (5): 340–343. Bibcode:1997RoMin..72..340C. doi:10.1080/00357529709605063. ISSN 0035-7529.
  22. ^ "Kunzite Gemstone | Kunzite Stone – GIA". www.gia.edu. Retrieved 2023-03-01.
  23. ^ Brooks, Kent (2020). "Lithium minerals". Geology Today. 36 (5): 192–197. Bibcode:2020GeolT..36..192B. doi:10.1111/gto.12326. ISSN 1365-2451. S2CID 243253247.