Hurlbut, Cornelius S., Jr. Department of Geological Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Moore, Paul B. Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
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A mineral, β-ZnS, also called blende. It is the low-temperature form and more common polymorph of ZnS. Pure β-ZnS on heating inverts to wurtzite, α-ZnS, at 1020°C (1868°F), but this temperature can be lowered substantially by impurity-atom solid solution (especially Cd2+ and Fe2+) and sulfur fugacity. Sphalerite crystallizes in the hextetrahedral class of the isometric system with a structure similar to that of diamond. The space group is F3m, and the cubic unit cell has an edge a = 0.543 nanometer, which contains four ZnS molecules. Zinc atoms occupy the positions of half the carbon atoms of diamond, and sulfur atoms occupy the other half. Each zinc atom is bonded to four sulfur atoms, and each sulfur atom is bonded to four zinc atoms. The common crystal forms of sphalerite are the tetrahedron, dodecahedron, and cube, but crystals are frequently complex and twinned (see illustration). The mineral is most commonly in coarse to fine, granular, cleavable masses. The luster is resinous to submetallic; the color is white when pure, but is commonly yellow, brown, or black, darkening with increased percentage of iron. It has been shown that excess sulfur can also contribute to the darkening of the color. There is perfect dodecahedral cleavage; the hardness is 3½ on Mohs scale; specific gravity is 4.1 for pure sphalerite but decreases with increasing iron content.
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