Vivianite (Fe(II)
) is a hydrated iron(II) phosphate mineral found in a number of geological environments. Small amounts of manganese Mn2+, magnesium Mg2+, and calcium Ca2+ may substitute for iron Fe2+ in its structure.[5] Pure vivianite is colorless, but the mineral oxidizes very easily, changing the color, and it is usually found as deep blue to deep bluish green prismatic to flattened crystals. Vivianite crystals are often found inside fossil shells, such as those of bivalves and gastropods, or attached to fossil bone. Vivianite can also appear on the iron coffins or on the corpses of humans as a result of a chemical reaction of the decomposing body with the iron enclosure.[6]

Vivianite tabular crystal, transparent, with a deep green color. Crystal size: 82 mm × 38 mm × 11 mm. From Huanuni mine, Dalence Province, Oruro Department, Bolivia
CategoryPhosphate mineral
Vivianite group
(repeating unit)
IMA symbolViv[1]
Strunz classification8.CE.40 (10 ed)
7/C.13-40 (8 ed)
Dana classification40.3.6.1
Crystal systemMonoclinic
Crystal classPrismatic (2/m)
(same H-M symbol)
Space groupC2/m
Unit cella = 10.086 Å, b = 13.441 Å
c = 4.703 Å; β = 104.27°; Z = 2
Formula mass501.61 g/mol
ColorColorless, very pale green, becoming dark blue, dark greenish blue, indigo-blue, then black with oxidation
Crystal habitFlattened, elongated prismatic crystals, may be rounded or corroded; as stellate groups, incrustations, concretionary, earthy or powdery
TwinningTranslation gliding
CleavagePerfect on {010}
TenacityFlexible, sectile
Mohs scale hardness1.5–2
LusterVitreous, pearly on the cleavage, dull when earthy
StreakWhite, altering to dark blue, brown
DiaphaneityTransparent to translucent
Specific gravity2.68
Optical propertiesBiaxial (+); moderate relief
Refractive indexnα = 1.579–1.616, nβ = 1.602–1.656, nγ = 1.629–1.675[2]
Birefringenceδ = 0.050–0.059
PleochroismVisible; X = blue, deep blue, Indigo-blue; Y = pale yellowish green, pale bluish green, yellow-green; Z = pale yellowish green, olive-yellow
2V angleMeasured: 63° to 83.5°, Calculated: 78° to 88°
Dispersionr < v, weak
Ultraviolet fluorescenceNot fluorescent
Melting point1,114 °C (2,037 °F)
SolubilityEasily soluble in acids
Alters toMetavivianite
Vivianite from South Dakota, US
Vivianite and childrenite from the Siglo XX mine (tin mine in Bolivia)
Vivianite from Bavaria (Germany)
Vivianite and albite from Brazil

It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner, the "father of German geology", in 1817, the year of his death, after either John Henry Vivian (1785–1855), a Welsh-Cornish politician, mine owner and mineralogist living in Truro, Cornwall, England, or after Jeffrey G. Vivian, an English mineralogist.[7] Vivianite was discovered at Wheal Kind, in St Agnes, Cornwall.[3]

Vivianite group


Vivianite group minerals have the general formula A3(XO4)2·8H2O, where A is a divalent metal cation and X is either phosphorus or arsenic, and they are monoclinic.[8][9]

Group members are:

Mineral Chemical formula Crystal system
Annabergite Ni3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Arupite Ni3(PO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Baricite (Mg2+,Fe2+)3(PO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Erythrite Co3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Hörnesite Mg3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Köttigite Zn3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Manganohörnesite (Mn2+,Mg)3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Pakhomovskyite Co3(PO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Parasymplesite Fe2+3(AsO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Vivianite Fe2+3(PO4)2·8H2O Monoclinic
Bobierrite: Mg3(PO4)2·8H2O
Symplesite: Fe2+3(AsO4)2·8H2O
Metaköttigite: Zn3(AsO4)2·8H2O
Metavivianite: (Fe2+3−x,Fe3+x)(PO4)2(OH)x·(8-x)H2O.[5]
   Note: Metavivianite, that vivianite readily alters to, is not a member of the vivianite group because it contains trivalent Fe3+ cations.



In pure end member vivianite all the iron is divalent, Fe2+, but there are two distinct sites in the structure that these ions can occupy. In the first site, the Fe2+ is surrounded by four water molecules and two oxygens, making an octahedral group. In the second site, the Fe2+ is surrounded by two water molecules and four oxygens, again making an octahedral group. The oxygens are part of the phosphate groups (PO43−), that are tetrahedral. The vivianite structure has chains of these octahedra and tetrahedra that form sheets perpendicular to the a-crystal axis. The sheets are held together by weak bonds, and that accounts for the perfect cleavage between them.[5]

The crystals are monoclinic, class 2/m, space group C 2/m, with two formula units per unit cell (Z = 2). The approximate values of the unit cell parameters are:

a = 10.1 Å, b = 13.4 Å, c = 4.7 Å and β = 104.3°,

with slightly different values given by different sources:

a = 10.086 Å, b = 13.441 Å, c = 4.703 Å, β = 104.27°[3][5]
a = 10.06 Å, b = 13.41 Å, c = 4.696 Å, β = 104.3°[4]
a = 10.034–10.086 Å, b= 13.434–13.441 Å, c= 4.687–4.714 Å, β = 102.65–104.27°[2]
a = 10.024(6) Å, b = 13.436(3) Å, c = 4.693(4) Å, β = 102.30(5)°[10]



The mineral may occur as crystals, or as masses or concretions.[5] The crystals are usually prismatic parallel to the c-crystal axis, and flattened perpendicular to the b-axis. Equant crystals are rarer.[2][3][5] They may also occur as stellate (star-shaped) groups, or encrustations with a bladed or fibrous structure.[5] Unaltered specimens are colorless to very pale green, but they oxidize on exposure to light (and possibly also in situ) to blue, then darker green, brown, purple and purplish black. The streak is white, altering to dark blue or brown. Crystals are transparent to translucent with a vitreous luster, pearly on the cleavage surface, or dull and earthy.[2][3][4][5]

Optical properties


Vivianite is biaxial (+) with refractive indices approximately:

nα = 1.58, nβ = 1.6, nγ = 1.6, but different sources give somewhat different values
nα = 1.579, nβ = 1.602, nγ = 1.637[5]
nα = 1.579–1.616, nβ = 1.602–1.656, nγ = 1.629–1.675[2][3]
nα = 1.58–1.626, nβ = 1.598–1.662, nγ = 1.627–1.699[4]

Birefringence: δ = 0.050–0.059[3] or 0.0470–0.0730[4]

The refractive indices increase with increasing oxidation, the birefringence decreases, and the pleochroism on {010} becomes stronger.[3][5]

The angle between the optic axes, 2V, has been measured as between 63° and 83.5°; it can also be calculated from the refractive indices, giving a value between 78° and 88°.[3][4] The dispersion of the optic axes is weak, with r<v,[2][3][5] or non-existent.[4] Vivianite is pleochroic with X= blue, deep blue or indigo-blue; Y= pale yellowish green, pale bluish green or yellow-green; Z= pale yellowish green or olive-yellow. X is parallel to the b-crystal axis and Z is inclined to the c-crystal axis at an angle of 28.5°.[2][3][5] It is not fluorescent.[3][4]

Physical properties


Vivianite is a soft mineral, with Mohs hardness only 1+12 to 2, and specific gravity 2.7. It splits easily, with perfect cleavage perpendicular to the b-crystal axis, due to the sheet-like structure of the mineral. It is sectile, with a fibrous fracture, and thin laminae parallel to the cleavage plane are flexible. It is easily soluble in acids.[3][5] It has a melting point of 1,114 °C (2,037 °F),[3] it darkens in color in H2O2,[3] and is not radioactive.[4]

Geological setting


Vivianite is a secondary mineral found in a number of geologic environments: the oxidation zone of metal ore deposits, in granite pegmatites containing phosphate minerals, in clays and glauconitic sediments, and in recent alluvial deposits replacing organic material such as peat, lignite, bog iron ores and forest soils (all). Bones and teeth buried in peat bogs are sometimes replaced by vivianite.[11] Some authors say that it is particularly associated with gossan, but this is disputed by Petrov.[11]

Associated minerals include metavivianite, ludlamite, pyrite, siderite and pyrrhotite.[2][11] Hydrothermal veins produce the best crystal specimens with the classic gemmy green color.[11]

The type locality is Wheal Kind (Wheal Kine), West Wheal Kitty group, St Agnes, St Agnes District, Cornwall, England.[3]



Oxidation of vivianite is an internal process; no oxygen or water enters or leaves the mineral from the outside. A visible light photon knocks a proton out of a water molecule, leaving a hydroxide ion (OH). In turn, a divalent iron Fe2+ loses an electron to become Fe3+, i.e., it is oxidized and balances the charge. This process starts when visible light falls on the vivianite, and it can occur within a few minutes, drastically changing the color of the mineral. Eventually, the vivianite changes to a new species, metavivianite Fe2+2Fe3+(PO4)2(OH)·7H2O, which usually occurs as paramorphs after vivianite.[12]



Vivianite was known as a pigment since Roman times, but its use in oil painting was rather limited.[13] It has been found in Vermeer's The Procuress in the blue-grey parts of the carpet in the foreground.[14]

Johannes Vermeer, The Procuress, 1656



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 c d e f g h i John W. Anthony; Richard A. Bideaux; Kenneth W. Bladh & Monte C. Nichols (2005). "Handbook of Mineralogy" (PDF). Chantilly, VA, USA: Mineralogical Society of America.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Vivianite (
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Webmineral data
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Gaines et al (1997) Dana's New Mineralogy Eighth Edition. Wiley
  6. ^ The Vivid Blue Mineral That Grows on Buried Bodies and Confuses Archaeologists
  7. ^ Although claims "J. G. Vivian" is a typo for "J. H. Vivian", there is at least one reference that gives a full first name. The original description of Vivianite in Abraham Gottlob Werner, Letztes Mineral-System, Freiberg/Wien, 1817, p. 42 reads „Der Name ist vom Hrn. B. R. Werner zu Ehren des Hrn. J. Vivian aus Truro in Cornwall, dem Er die Kentnis des Fossils verdankt, gebildet.“ [“The name is formed by Mr. B. R. Werner in honour of Mr. J. Vivian from Truro in Cornwall, to whom he owes the memory of the fossil.”] It is ambiguous (and puzzling in its reference to B. R. Werner). As for Jeffrey G. Vivian, no other trace of him can be found in Google Books.
  8. ^ Journal of the Russell Society (2006) 9:3
  9. ^ Back, Malcolm E. (2014). Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species (11 ed.). Tucson AZ: Mineralogical Record Inc. p. 434.
  10. ^ a b Banno Yasuyuki; Bunno Michiaki; Haruna Makoto & Kono Masahide (1999). "Vivianite from Nagasawa, Iwama-machi, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. New finding from meta-pelitic rocks". Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Japan (in Japanese). 50 (2): 117–121. ISSN 0016-7665. Archived from the original on 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
  11. ^ a b c d e Petrov, Alfredo (1 January 2008). "Alfredo Petrov – A Scientific Study of the Absorption of Evil by Vivianite". Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  12. ^ Alfredo Petrov, 2006 on Mindat
  13. ^ Vivianite at ColourLex
  14. ^ H. Stege, C. Tilenschi und A. Unger. Bekanntes und Unbekanntes – neue Untersuchungen zur Palette Vermeers auf dem Gemälde „Bei der Kupplerin“. In: Uta Neidhardt und Marlies Giebe (Ed.), Johannes Vermeer – Bei der Kupplerin, Ausstellungskatalog Dresden 2004, pp. 76–82.
  15. ^ The Mineralogical Record (2004) 35-2:156
  16. ^ The Mineralogical Record (2004) 35-3:252
  17. ^ The Mineralogical Record (2006) 37-2:156
  18. ^ The Mineralogical Record (2007) 38-4:290
  19. ^ a b Handbook of mineralogy. 4: Arsenates, Phosphates, vanadates. Tucson, Ariz: Mineral Data Publ. 2000. p. 632. ISBN 978-0-9622097-3-4.
  20. ^ Calvo, Miguel (2015). Minerales y Minas de España. Fosfatos, Arseniatos y Vanadatos. Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Minas de Madrid. Fundación Gómez Pardo. Madrid, Spain. p. 297. ISBN 978-84-95063-96-0.
  21. ^ a b Білецький, Володимир; Суярко, Василь; Іщенко, Лілія (2018). Мінералого-петрографічний словник. Книга перша. Мінералогічний словник [Mineralogy dictionary]. Харків: НТУ «ХПІ». pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-617-7565-14-6.
  22. ^ The Mineralogical Record (2010) 41-4:366
  23. ^ Cochran, U., Goff, J., Hannah, M., and Hull, A. (1999) Relative stability on a tectonically active coast: paleoenvironment during the last 7000 years at Lake Kohangapiripiri, Wellington, New Zealand, Quaternary International, 56, 53–63