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Agate and chalcedony from igneous and sedimentary hosts aged from 13 to 3480 Ma: a cathodoluminescence study

Mineralogical Magazine, October 2006, Vol. 70(5), pp. 485–498


Chalcedony and agates from a variety of world-wide hosts have been examined using cathodoluminescence (CL). Gaussian fitting of the experimental data shows that there are two dominant spectral emissions at ~400 and ~660 nm. A third subordinate peak is also found at ~470, ~560 or ~620 nm. An age-related link is shown between the respective decreasing and increasing relative intensities of the 660 and 620 nm emissions. It is proposed that this change is due to a condensation reaction between neighbouring Si-OH groups eliminating water and forming a strained Si-O-S bond.

Agates from a variety of hosts and regions produced no clear demonstrable CL distinctions. However, a set of Western Australian agates was examined from host rocks that had been subjected to burial metamorphism. Cathodoluminescence produced different spectral emissions in the petrographic fibrous and granular regions of these agates. One agate shows a partial transformation of the petrographic fibrosity into granularity. This conversion is characterized by emission bands at 570 nm and 460 nm. Similar emission-band changes were produced by heating Brazilian agates for 35 days at 300°C. The identification of these changes in agate could serve as an indicator of palaeoheating within the parent rock.

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