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Cesanite is the end member of the apatite-wilkeite-ellestadite series that substitutes all of apatite's phosphate ions with sulfate ions and balances the difference in charge by replacing several calcium ions with sodium ions. Currently very few sites bearing cesanite have been found and are limited to a geothermal field in Cesano, Italy from which its name is derived, Măgurici Cave in Romania, and in the San Salvador Island caves in the Bahamas.

CategorySulfate minerals
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification7.BD.20
Crystal systemHexagonal
Crystal classTrigonal dipyramidal (3m)
H-M symbol: (6)
Space groupP6
Unit cella = 9.44 Å, c = 6.9 Å; Z = 1
ColorColorless to white
Crystal habitMassive granular, rarely as striated subhedral prismatic crystals
TwinningOn {1010}
CleavageOn {0001}
Mohs scale hardness2-3
LusterGreasy to silky in aggregates
DiaphaneityTransparent to translucent
Specific gravity2.96-3.02
Optical propertiesUniaxial (-)
Refractive indexnω = 1.570 nε = 1.564
SolubilitySlight in water


Cesanite was first discovered in 1981 while the Italian National Electricity Board was doing exploratory drilling to examine a reservoir of heated brine to determine its potential as a geothermal energy source. When it was first found it was thought to be an apatite until after more thorough examination.[2]


Cesanite was originally determined by Tazzoli (1983) to be isotypic to that of hydroxylapatite. This was determined by refining the original unit cell dimensions and comparing them to the atomic coordinates of Holly Springs hydroxylapatite. From this it was extrapolated that although different elements are substituted for cesanite, the structure and cell parameters are nearly the same with some differences in the bond lengths of the tetrahedras.[7] This similarity was to confirm the space group 63/m previously assigned to cesanite, this changed in 2002 after a reexamination of cesanite by Piotrowski et al. was prompted by its similarities to a synthetically produced analog. After this study it was found that the crystal structure of cesanite to be isostructural to this synthetic analog with the chemical formula Ca2Na3[(OH)(SO4)3]. What can be inferred from this is that while hydroxylapatite remains similar in its chemical formula it is not longer to be considered a structural analog. The new correct space group is 6. It can be inferred that the reason the mistake went unnoticed for so long is that cesanite retains pseudo-symmetry in the array of its tetrahedra that closely mimics 63/m.[3]

Cesanite's crystal structure is made up of tetrahedra of sulfide cations surrounded by oxygen anions distributed along with hydroxide ions around the Ca and Na ions occupying the M1 through four sites.[3] The M1 and M2 cites create distorted pentagonal bipyramids while the M3 and M4 create tricapped trigonal prisms. The M3 and M4 polyhedra share faces when they are next to each other and form columns parallel to [001] while isolated sulfate tetrahedra alternate along the c axis.[3]

Physical propertiesEdit

Cesanite veins are massive in habit and appear white in color with a silky luster. Individual crystals are colorless and transparent to translucent with a greasy luster. These crystals are elongated and begin with a pyramid on {101*0} that is distorted by a flatting that occurs down the length of the crystal which then extends down with two parallel faces until they are cut off by either a pinacoid or another pyramid.[2] According to the newest sources the cells spacings for cesanite are 9.4630 along its a-axises and 6.9088 along its c-axis. In thin section cesanite remains transparent and has moderate birefringence.[2] In addition to is structure at room temperature Cesanite exhibits different crystal structures at different temperatures. Polymorphs occur at 425, 625, and 740 °C. These different forms are cause by expansion along the crystallographic axises as cesanite is heated.[8]

Geologic occurrenceEdit

Cesanite has been found in only three places to date. The original occurrence was observed as part of a fracture sealing process where cesanite crystals grew to fill in the void. It was found growing in a loosely packed vein of small crystals that became intergrown with those of the neighboring görgeyite crystals.[2] Further occurrences have been noticed in several caves. First in 2001 inside of Lighthouse Cave located on San Salvador Island filling in gaps in corroded gypsum and in 2003 inside Măgurici Cave in Romania it was found in close association with hydroxylapatite.[9][10] It has been presumed that in sequence hydroxylapatite is deposited followed by the formation of cesanite when the solution in which the crystals are being formed is rich in sodium and sulfate and depleted of calcium.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mineralienatlas
  2. ^ a b c d e Cavarretta G., Mottana A., Tecce F. (1981) Cesanite, Ca2Na3[(OH)(SO4)3], a sulfate isotypic to apatite, from the Cesano Geothermal-Field (Lathium, Italy). Mineralogical Magazine, 44, 269-273..
  3. ^ a b c d Piotrowski A., Kahlenberg V., Fischer RX., etal. (2002) The crystal structures of cesanite and its synthetic analogue – A comparison. American Mineralogist, 87, 715-720.
  4. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  5. ^
  6. ^ Webmineral data
  7. ^ Tazzoli V., (1983) The Crystal-structure of ceanite, CA1+XNA4-X(SO4)3(OH)X.(1-X)H20, a sulfate isotypic to apatite. Mineralogical Magazine, 47, 59-63.
  8. ^ Deganello S., Artioli G. (1982) Thermal-Expansion of Cesanite between 22-degrees-C 390-degrees-C. Nues jahrbuch Fur Mineralogie-Monatshefte, 12, 565-568.
  9. ^ a b Onac BP, Mylroie JE, White WB. (2001) Mineralogy of cave deposits on San Salvador Island, Bahamas. Carbonates and Evaporites, 16, 8-16.
  10. ^ Onac BP., Verdes DS. (2003) Sequence of secondary phosphates deposition in a karst environment: evidence from Măgurici Cave (Romania). European Journal of Mineralogy, 15, 741-745.

External linksEdit