For Mineralogy GO 336
Emporia State University
Emporia, Kansas USA
Smithsonite is a very beautiful mineral. It was formerly called calamine. Smithsonite belongs to the calcite group. It is essentially zinc carbonate (ZnCO3), but the zinc is usually partially replaced by other elements. Smithsonite is normally found in the oxidized zone of zinc deposits. Its primary use is as an ornamental stone (Bonamite).
The Name 'Smithsonite'
Smithsonite was named after James Smithson in 1832. James Smithson was an English scientist, often referred to as the best chemist and mineralogist of his year. He was an active member of many scientific organizations that benefited society and advanced scientific research. James published at least 27 papers with topics in chemistry, geology, and mineralogy. In 1802 James Smithson proved that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals, not zinc oxides. This discovery lead to the breakdown of calamine into two separate minerals hemimorphite and smithsonite. After James Smithson's death in 1829 the bulk of his estate was given to his nephew. Since his nephew died without any heirs the Smithson Estate was then given to the United States of America to found the Smithsonian Institution.
|Chemical Formula||ZnCO3 (52.15%Zn, 9.85%C, and 38.28%O)|
|Color||Blue, Green, Yellow, Yellow-Green, Orange-Yellow, Pink, Purple, Gray, Colorless, and Brown|
|Transparency||Translucent To Nearly Opaque|
|Luster||Vitreous or Silky To Pearly (like melted wax under a candle flame)|
|Habit||Botryoidal, Reniform, Earthy|
|Crystal Class||bar 3 2/m|
Origin & Occurrences
Smithsonite is often found with zinc deposits in limestone, associated with azurite, malachite, limonite, sphalerite, calcite, cerussite, hemimorphite, aurichalcite, anglesite, pyromorphite, hydrozincite, and galena. Also, it is often discovered in pseudomorphs after calcite.
It is found in many places around the globe including the Tsumeb, Namibia, and Broken Hill mines in Zambia; the Kelly Mine in Magdalena, New Mexico; Leadville, Colorado; Utah; Idaho; Arizona; Mexico; Laurion, Greece; Bytom, Poland; Moresnet, Belgium; and many other localities.
Varieties & Uses
The different varieties
of smithsonite include bonamite, dry bone ore, turkey fat ore, cadmium
smithsonite, and copper smithsonite. The primary use for smithsonite is as an ornamental stone. When polished for this purpose,
smithsonite may be referred to as 'Bonamite'.
Bonamite is associated with the gem trade, and has a blue to green globular habit with a feathery luster. Dry bone ore is usually in a honeycomb shape, massive, porous, and dull.
Image of Bonamite taken from
Hershel Friedman at
Image of Dry Bone Ore taken
by Jon Vopata
taken from Chris French at
taken from John Veevaert
Amethyst Galleries, Inc. 1998. The Mineral Smithsonite. http://mineral.galleries.com/minerals/carbonat/smithson/smithson.htm 2/26/01.
Barthelmy, David. 1998-2000. Mineralogy Database, Smithsonite. http://webmineral.com/data/Smithsonite.shtml 2/26/01.
French, Chris. 1998. Mineral Occurrences at The Kelly Mine - Source of World-Class Smithsonite Specimens. Millennium, Inc. http://www.mmmgems.com/kelly_mine/index.htm. Photo taken from http://www.mmmgems.com/images/kelly/turkey.jpg 4/4/01.
Friedman, Hershel. 1997-1999. Smithsonite. http://www.minerals.net/mineral/carbonat/smithson/smithson.htm. Photo taken from http://www.minerals.net/mineral/carbonat/smithson/smithso2.htm. 2/26/01.
Klein, C., & Hurlbut, Jr., C.S. 1993. Manual of Mineralogy, revised 21st edition. NY: John Wiley & Sons.
1995-2001. James Smithson's Gift. Smithsonian Institution.
http://www.150.si.edu/smithexb/start.htm. Image taken from http://www.150.si.edu/smithexb/scase.htm. 2/26/01.
Smithsonian Institution Libraries. January 1998. From Smithson to Smithsonian, the Birth of an Institution. http://www.sil.si.edu/Exhibitions/Smithson-to-Smithsonian/index.html. 4/10/01.
The Image. 11/1/96. http://www.theimage.com/. Photo taken from http://www.theimage.com/mineral/smithsonite/smithsonite1.html.
Veevaert, John. 2000. Tsumeb. http://www.tsumeb.com/tsumeb/index.shtml. Photo taken from http://www.tsumeb.com/tsumeb/cadsmith.shtml. 4/4/01.
Keller, Bob. 1995-2001. Bob's Rock Shop. In Association with Rock and Gem Magazine Online. http://www.rockhounds.com/. Photo taken from http://www.rockhounds.com/rockshop/smiths1.html. 4/4/01.
Copyright 2001 © Jon Vopata
and Emporia State University. All rights reserved.
If you have any questions or comments please email me at JVopata@hotmail.com. This page was created April, 2001.
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