Phenakite crystals
Category Nesosilicate
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 9.AA.05
Crystal system Trigonal
Crystal class Rhombohedral (3)
H-M symbol: (3)
Space group R3
Unit cell a = 12.438 Å, c = 8.231 Å; Z = 18
Color Colorless, yellow, pink, brown
Crystal habit Tabular, prismatic to acicular crystals often as columnar aggregates, as spherulites and granular
Twinning Penetration twins around {0001}
Cleavage Distinct on {1120}, imperfect on {1011}
Fracture Conchoidal
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness 7.5 – 8
Luster Vitreous
Diaphaneity Transparent to translucent
Specific gravity 2.93 – 3.00
Optical properties Uniaxial (+)
Refractive index nω = 1.650 - 1.656 nε = 1.667 - 1.670
Birefringence δ = 0.017
Other characteristics Bright blue cathodoluminescence
References [1][2][3]

Phenakite or phenacite is a fairly rare nesosilicate mineral consisting of beryllium orthosilicate, Be2SiO4. Occasionally used as a gemstone, phenakite occurs as isolated crystals, which are rhombohedral with parallel-faced hemihedrism, and are either lenticular or prismatic in habit: the lenticular habit is determined by the development of faces of several obtuse rhombohedra and the absence of prism faces. There is no cleavage, and the fracture is conchoidal. The Mohs hardness is high, being 7.5 - 8; the specific gravity is 2.96. The crystals are sometimes perfectly colorless and transparent, but more often they are greyish or yellowish and only translucent; occasionally they are pale rose-red. In general appearance the mineral is not unlike quartz, for which indeed it has been mistaken. It is used a gemstone. Its name comes from the Greek phenakos, meaning "deceiver" due to its close visual similarity to quartz. [4]


Phenakite crystal from Mount Ikaka, Madagascar (size: 3.1 x 1 x 0.7 cm)
Crystal structure of Phenakite viewed along the c axis

Phenakite is found in high-temperature pegmatite veins and in mica-schists associated with quartz, chrysoberyl, apatite and topaz. It has long been known from the emerald and chrysoberyl mine on the Takovaya stream, near Yekaterinburg in the Urals of Russia, where large crystals occur in mica-schist. It is also found with topaz and amazon-stone in the granite of the Ilmen Mountains in the southern Urals and of the Pikes Peak region in Colorado (US). Large crystals of prismatic habit have been found in a feldspar quarry at Kragero in Norway. Framont near Schirmeck in Alsace is another well-known locality. Still larger crystals, measuring 1 to 2 in. in diameter and weighing 28 lb (13 kg). have been found at Greenwood in Maine, but these are pseudomorphs of quartz after phenakite.

For gem purposes the stone is cut in the brilliant form, of which there are two fine examples, weighing 34 and 43 carats (6.8 and 8.6 g), in the British Museum. The indices of refraction are higher than those of quartz, beryl or topaz; a faceted phenakite is consequently rather brilliant and may sometimes be mistaken for diamond.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Phenakite.
  1. Handbook of Mineralogy
  3. Webmineral data
  4. Firefly Guide to Gems By Cally Oldershaw p.94
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