magnesium silicate

Bronzite - a variety of Enstatite

Bronzite is a member of the pyroxene group of minerals, belonging with enstatite and hypersthene to the orthorhombic series of the group. Rather than a distinct species, it is really a ferriferous variety of enstatite, which owing to partial alteration has acquired a bronze-like sub-metallic luster on the cleavage surfaces.

Enstatite is magnesium silicate, with the magnesium partly replaced by small amounts (up to about 12%) of iron(II) oxide. In the bronzite variety, the iron(II) oxide ranges from about 12 to 30%, and with still more iron there is a passage to hypersthene. The ferriferous varieties are liable to a particular kind of alteration, known as schillerisation, which results in the separation of the iron as very fine films of oxide and hydroxides along the cleavage cracks of the mineral. The cleavage surfaces therefore exhibit a metallic sheen or schiller, which is even more pronounced in hypersthene than in bronzite. The color of bronzite is green or brown.

Like enstatite, bronzite is a constituent of many mafic to ultramafic igneous rocks, such as, norite, gabbro, and especially peridotite, and of the serpentinites which have been derived from them. It also occurs in some crystalline schist.

felsic and mafic

felsic and mafic–terms for two extremes of silica content of igneous rock.

Felsic rocks tend to be lighter in color and lighter in weight. Granite is a good example of a felsic rock, while basalt is an example example of a heavy, black, mafic rock.

Igneous rocks are those formed directly from the cooling of volcanic magma as opposed to those such as sedimentary and metamorphic rock that would have undergone further changes. 

The two terms were coined in the early 20th century from the predominant components of the two types of igneous rock.  Felsic from feldspar and silicates.  Mafic from magnesium and ferric (that is, iron containing).  


Brahin pallasite meteorite from Gomel District, Belorussia shown in the two lower photos. The meteorite slices show an iron-nickel matrix with floating peridote crystals. The meteorites originated from the core-mantle boundary of a large asteroid where the hot iron-nickel core (like Earth) mixed with the peridote (olivine) crystals of the deep mantle. After cooling and solidifying, the asteroid collided with another body causing fragmentation and exposing the deep core-mantle portion. 

The upper photo shows peridotite crystals in basalt from Earth. Peridote or olivine is a magnesium-iron silicate mineral commonly found in the Earth’s mantle. The photo show “chunks” of green peridote crystals that have broken off from a larger mass and floated into the magma within the Earth’s mantle. This is a similar situation that we see in the meteorites. If Earth’s core solidified and split apart, might we find something similar looking as the meteorite samples?

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Serpentine is a not a single mineral but a group of minerals including chrysotile, antigorite and lizardite. A rock entirely made from serpentine is called serpentinite. Along with chlorite, kaolinite and talc, serpentine is termed a clay. Clay minerals are aluminium and magnesium silicates, and occur as fine particles that form when other minerals are broken down by weathering, water and heat.


Peridotite xenoliths in basalt. Peridote or olivine is a magnesium-iron silicate mineral commonly found in the Earth’s mantle. The photos show “chunks” of green peridote crystals that have broken off from a larger mass and floated into the magma within the Earth’s mantle, before being exposed at the Earth’s surface. Magnesium-iron rich olivine is also commonly found in meteorites. Pallasite meteorites contain olivine crystals mixed with molten iron from the cores of large, diffentiated asteroids. Click here to see extraterrestrial olivine.