US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74 (2010) 1041–1056.


This paper presents a detailed study of the mineralogical, microscopic, thermal, and spectral characteristics of jarosite and natrojarosite minerals. Systematic mineralogic and chemical examination of a suite of 32 natural stoichiometric jarosite and natrojarosite samples from diverse supergene and hydrothermal environments indicates that there is only limited solid solution between Na and K at low temperatures, which suggests the presence of a solvus in the jarosite-natrojarosite system at temperatures below about 140 °C. The samples examined in this study consist of either end members or coexisting end-member pairs of jarosite and natrojarosite. Quantitative electron-probe microanalysis data for several natural hydrothermal samples show only end-member compositions for individual grains or zones, and no detectable alkali-site deficiencies, which indicates that there is no hydronium substitution within the analytical uncertainty of the method. In addition, there is no evidence of Fe deficiencies in the natural hydrothermal samples. Hydronium-bearing jarosite was detected in only one relatively young supergene sample suggesting that terrestrial hydronium-bearing jarosites generally are unstable over geologic timescales.

Unit-cell parameters of the 20 natural stoichiometric jarosites and 12 natural stoichiometric natrojarosites examined in this study have distinct and narrow ranges in the a- and c-cell dimensions. There is no overlap of these parameters at the 1r level for the two end-member compositions. Several hydrothermal samples consist of fine-scale (2–10 lm) intimate intergrowths of jarosite and natrojarosite, which could have resulted from solid-state diffusion segregation or growth zoning due to variations in the Na/K activity ratio of hydrothermal solutions.