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(Mg, Fe2+, Fe3+, Mn, Al)5-6[Si2-4Al2-0O10](OH)8

Chlorites are a group of sheet silicates that are important constituents of many low-grade metamorphic rocks and occur as alteration minerals in igneous rocks or in hydrothermal systems. In the field and in thin section, chlorite commonly appears green, hence its name (from the Greek chloros, χλωρός, ‘green’).

Structure and chemistry
The structure of chlorite is related to that of trioctahedral micas, as it consists of a layered structure with ‘sheets’ of (Si,Al)O4 tetrahedrons interconnected as six-sided rings extending infinitely in the 2D plane and trioctahedral ‘brucite’ layers, , characterized by (Mg, Fe, Al) cations surrounded by 3 O2- or OH. The OH ion lies at the center of the rings in the tetrahedral sheets. Each trioctahedral sheet (O) is sandwiched between 2 tetrahedral layers (T), forming T-O-T sandwiches or talc-like layers. The T-O-T layers are separated by an additional octahedral layer (‘brucite’ layer) where Mg, Fe, Al cations are coordinated between (OH) anions. The structure of chlorite lacks the large cation sites (interlayer sites) that occur in micas.

chlorite crystal structure

Sketch of the crystal structure of chlorite, as seen on a section perpendicular to the sheet (or parallel to the c-axis), with a detail of the plain view of the tetrahedral sheets. Based on Deer et al. (1992).

Chlorites are characterized by several cation substitutions that determine an extensive chemical variability. The Tschermak substitution, i.e. the substitution of (Mg,Fe)2+ for Al3+ in the octahedral sites balanced by the substitution of Si4+ for Al3+ in the tetrahedral site, drives the miscibility between the Al-rich amesite end-member [(Mg,Fe)4Al2SiAl2O10(OH)8] and various Al-poor end-members: clinochlore [Mg5AlSi3AlO10(OH)8], daphnite [(Mg,Fe) 5AlSi3AlO10(OH)8] and Al-free chlorite [(Mg,Fe)6Si4O10(OH)8]. Al-free chlorite exists as an end-member in this scheme but actually ‘true’ Al-free chlorites are extremely rare if not totally non-existent. Sudoite is another end-member of chlorite with formula [(Mg,Fe)2Al3Si3AlO10(OH)8] and with only five cations out of six available octahedral sites. The miscibility between the amesite – Al-free chlorite series and sudoite is driven by the di/trioctahedral substitution that replaces (Fe,Mg)2+ by Al3+ and a empty site or vacancy (□) in the octahedral site. This results in a structure with dioctahedral T-O-T layers and trioctahedral O interlayers. Finally, all chlorites are subject to the ferromagnesian substitution (Fe → Mg) and the substitution of Al3+ by Fe3+. Additional cations that commonly enter the structure are Mn2+ and Cr3+.

Note: there is a discrepancy in the nomenclature of chlorites between mineralogists and petrologists (e.g. chlorite group – Mindat). Here, I follow the end-member scheme defined in the works by Vidal et al., Inoue et al., Lanari, Bourdelle and Cathelineau.

Chlorite replacing biotite

Chlorite replacing a biotite crystal in a granite and showing deep Berlin blue interference colors. CPL. Width: 2 mm. Photo Alessandro Da Mommio.

Habit: platy, lamellar
Hardness: 2 – 3
Cleavage: {001} perfect (basal cleavage)
Twinning: {001} twin plane; {001} composition plane – [310] twin axis
Color: mostly green with white, yellow, red, and brown varieties
Luster: vitreous to dull
Streak: pale green to grey
Alteration: clay minerals
In thin section…
α(α^c / α^a): 1.57-1.67
β(//b): 1.57-1.69
γ(γ^a / γ^c): 1.57-1.69
2V: 20°(-) – 60°(+)
Color: colorless to green
Pleochroism: weak to moderate from pale to dark green or yellow (α < β = γ or α = β > γ)
Birefringence (δ): 0.00-0.02 (low to moderate; anomalous interference colors: deep Berlin blue, brown, violet)
Relief: moderate
Optic sign: + or –

chlorite mineral chemistry

The solid-solution of chlorite between the sudoite – amesite – Al-free chlorite end-members. Squares represent vacancies in the lattice. Based on Bourdelle and Cathelineau (2015) and references therein.

Field features

chlorite crystal habit

Sketch of a chlorite crystal. Based on Deer et al. (1992).

Chlorite, like other phyllosilicates, forms platy crystals and flakes with a characteristic basal cleavage, commonly appearing greenish in color (although yellow, grey, or red chlorites do exist). It is less shiny than micas and tends to show a vitreous to dull luster. Its hardness is low (2 – 3) and can be scratched by hand and split in small scales. It is rare to find chlorite grains that are visible with the unaided eye in the field, as its common occurrence are fine-grained metamorphic rocks like phyllites or metabasites. In this case, the presence of chlorite may be suspected because of green hues in the color of the rock (warning: many other minerals are green, especially in metabasalts).

chlorite in quartzite

Veins filled by green chlorite in a quartzite. Praticciolo, Calamita, Elba, Italy.

chlorite in quartzite

Masses of chlorite in a metasomatized quartzite. Praticciolo, Calamita, Elba, Italy.

chlorite in quartzite

Patinas of chlorite within cracks in a quartzite. Note the greenish color and moderate reflectivity. The high reflectivity grains consist of muscovite. Calamita, Island of Elba, Italy.

Chlorite in thin section
Chlorites show very distinctive features in thin section. At PPL they appear colorless to green with a typical weak to moderate pleochroism on green hues. Iron-rich varieties generally show deeper colors. Very commonly, chlorite shows anomalous deep Berlin blue colors at CPL and, less commonly, brown to violet or grey interference colors, lower than those displayed by micas. In addition, chlorite shows typical platy crystals or flaky aggregates with perfect basal cleavage.


Lamellar aggregates of chlorite (deep Berlin blue colors at CPL) in a vein, in association with biotite (brownish) and quartz (first-order grey at CPL). Width: 1 mm. Norsi, Island of Elba, Italy.


Vein filled by radial aggregates of chlorite, showing the typical deep Berlin blue colors at CPL. Width: 1 mm. Norsi, Island of Elba, Italy.


Flaky aggregates of chlorite (deep Berlin blue to dark grey at CPL) included in a twinned calcite crystal. Also note the light green color at PPL. Width: 1 mm. Norsi, Island of Elba, Italy.


Chlorite and white mica are commonly associated in low-grade metamorphic rocks. The high colors of white mica may mask chlorite at CPL, but its presence can be revealed by the greenish colors at PPL. Width: 1 mm. Monte Brugiana, Apuane, Italy.


Biotite grain (brownish), substituted by chlorite in a schist. Brownish relics of biotite are visible, almost entirely replaced by greenish chlorite. Width: 1 mm. Posada Valley, Sardinia, Italy.


Chlorite crystals showing a platy habit, perfect basal cleavage and anomalous deep Berlin blue interference colors. CPL. Width: 1 mm. Posada Valley, Sardinia, Italy.

Chlorite is a typical metamorphic mineral that is stable in diagenetic environment up to the low-grade. In this range, it is typically found in metasediments (metasandstones and metapelites) and metabasic rocks. Chlorites form from the replacement of Fe,Mg,Al-bearing clays and igneous minerals and, as such, it can also be found in sedimentary rocks both as a detrital or authigenic mineral. Chlorite is common in the zeolite- and prehnite-pumpellyite facies, together with zeolites, prehnite, pumpellyite, epidote, and albite. Chlorite is stable at greenschist-facies in association with mica, amphiboles, epidote, and feldspars. In metasedimentary rocks with increasing metamorphic grade, chlorite reacts with muscovite producing biotite and other minerals (e.g. kyanite/andalusite, cordierite, garnet). In metabasic rocks, the formation of Al-rich amphiboles at amphibolite-facies (e.g. hornblende) generally coincides with the elimination of chlorite from the mineral assemblage. Chlorite also occurs in blueschist-facies rocks together with epidote, lawsonite and sodic amphibole but it is replaced by garnet and omphacite at eclogite-facies. During the metamorphism of ultramafic rocks, chlorite appears at low- to medium-grade from the destabilization of serpentine and may survive as a stable mineral up to high-grade conditions, where it coexists with pyroxenes and olivine.
Chlorite represents a common alteration phase of many igneous and metamorphic minerals. Typical examples are chlorite pseudomorphs after biotite and garnet. Chlorite is also a product of low-temperature hydrothermal circulation and can be found as veins, Airedales, and in hydrothermally-altered rocks.

Cathelineau, M. (1988). Cation site occupancy in chlorites and illites as a function of temperature. Clay minerals23(4), 471-485.
Eggleton, R. A., & Banfield, J. F. (1985). The alteration of granitic biotite to chlorite. American Mineralogist70(9-10), 902-910.
Vidal, O., & Parra, T. (2000). Exhumation paths of high‐pressure metapelites obtained from local equilibria for chlorite–phengite assemblages. Geological Journal35(3‐4), 139-161.
Walshe, J. L. (1986). A six-component chlorite solid solution model and the conditions of chlorite formation in hydrothermal and geothermal systems. Economic Geology81(3), 681-703.
Wiewióra, A., & Weiss, Z. (1990). Crystallochemical classifications of phyllosilicates based on the unified system of projection of chemical composition: II. The chlorite group. Clay Minerals25(1), 83-92.


See also – Muscovite – Mica

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Mineral Properties


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