Vivianite is a mineral that is primarily composed of iron, phosphorus, and oxygen. It is known for its striking blue to blue-green color and is often found in association with iron ore deposits, swamps, bogs, and other water-rich environments.


Vivianite is a hydrated iron phosphate mineral with the chemical formula Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O. It is a relatively rare mineral and is often recognized by its deep blue or blue-green color, although it can also appear colorless, white, gray, or yellowish when it weathers or dehydrates. The name “vivianite” is derived from the Latin name for its discoverer, John Henry Vivian, who was a British industrialist and mine owner in the 19th century.

Chemical Composition and Formula: The chemical formula of vivianite is represented as Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O, which indicates its composition. Here’s a breakdown of its components:

  • Fe: Iron (symbol Fe) is the primary metal in vivianite and contributes to its coloration. Iron ions (Fe²⁺) are a crucial component of the mineral’s crystal structure.
  • PO4: The phosphate (PO4³⁻) group is composed of one phosphorus atom and four oxygen atoms. It is responsible for the phosphorus content in vivianite.
  • 8H2O: This part of the formula indicates that vivianite contains eight water molecules (H2O) in its structure. Water is crucial for the formation and stability of vivianite crystals.

The combination of iron and phosphate ions with water molecules in its crystal structure gives vivianite its unique properties, including its color and its tendency to form attractive, well-formed crystals. Vivianite is often found as prismatic or bladed crystals, and its color can vary from deep azure blue to greenish-blue. It is known for its vibrant and attractive appearance, which has made it a sought-after mineral specimen by mineral collectors and enthusiasts.

Formation and Occurrence of Vivianite

Vivianite forms in specific geological processes and conditions, and it is typically found in particular environments. Here’s an overview of how vivianite is formed and where it is commonly found, along with associated minerals and rocks:

Formation and Geological Processes:

  1. Bacterial Action: Vivianite often forms in environments where anaerobic (low-oxygen) conditions prevail, such as in the sediment at the bottom of swamps, bogs, marshes, or other waterlogged areas. Bacteria play a significant role in the formation of vivianite by reducing iron ions (Fe³⁺) to the ferrous state (Fe²⁺), making them available for reaction with phosphate ions.
  2. Phosphorus Availability: The presence of phosphate ions (PO4³⁻) in the surrounding environment is crucial for vivianite formation. These ions can be derived from various sources, including organic matter, decaying plant material, and animal remains.
  3. Iron-Rich Environments: Vivianite forms in iron-rich environments because it requires ferrous iron (Fe²⁺) for its crystal structure. Iron-rich sediments, often associated with iron ore deposits, can provide the necessary iron for vivianite formation.

Locations and Environments: Vivianite is commonly found in the following locations and environments:

  • Swamps and Bogs: Vivianite is frequently associated with swampy and boggy areas due to the anaerobic conditions and ample organic material, providing a source of phosphate ions.
  • Wetlands: Other water-rich environments, such as wetlands and marshes, are also conducive to vivianite formation.
  • Mining Areas: Vivianite can be found in association with iron ore deposits, and it may sometimes be encountered in mining operations.

Associated Minerals and Rocks: Vivianite can be associated with various minerals and rocks, depending on its geological context. Some common associates include:

  • Pyrite: Iron sulfide minerals like pyrite are often found in the same geological settings as vivianite.
  • Goethite: Another iron mineral, goethite, is often present alongside vivianite.
  • Limonite: Limonite, a type of iron ore, may be found together with vivianite in certain locations.
  • Organic Material: Vivianite is commonly associated with organic material, such as plant debris and peat, as these materials provide the necessary phosphate ions for its formation.

It’s important to note that while vivianite is known for its vibrant blue and blue-green crystals, it can also weather and alter over time, losing its color and turning into other iron minerals like goethite or limonite. This alteration is influenced by exposure to oxygen, so vivianite-rich specimens should be handled and stored with care to preserve their appearance.

Physical, Optical and Chemical Properties of Vivianite


Vivianite exhibits various physical, optical, and chemical properties, which are essential for identifying and characterizing this mineral. Here are some of its key properties:

Physical Properties:

  1. Color: Vivianite is most renowned for its deep blue to blue-green color, which can vary in intensity. However, it can also appear colorless, white, gray, or yellowish when it weathers or dehydrates.
  2. Luster: Vivianite has a vitreous to silky luster, depending on the crystal structure and the specific environmental conditions in which it forms.
  3. Transparency: It can range from transparent to translucent, with thinner crystals typically being more transparent.
  4. Crystal System: Vivianite crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system, meaning its crystals have three unequal axes with one of them inclined relative to the other two.
  5. Cleavage: Vivianite exhibits distinct cleavage along prismatic planes. This means that it can be broken or split along specific directions, creating smooth, planar surfaces.
  6. Hardness: Vivianite has a hardness of about 1.5 to 2 on the Mohs scale, making it a relatively soft mineral that can be easily scratched with a fingernail or a copper coin.
  7. Streak: When scratched on an unglazed porcelain streak plate, vivianite typically leaves a bluish-green streak.

Optical Properties:

  1. Refractive Index: The refractive index of vivianite varies depending on its color and composition. Generally, it falls in the range of 1.583 to 1.650.
  2. Birefringence: Vivianite is birefringent, meaning it can split a light beam into two components, each traveling at a different speed. This property is related to its crystal structure and can be observed under a polarizing microscope.
  3. Dispersion: Vivianite has low dispersion, which means that it does not separate light into its spectral colors to a significant extent.

Chemical Properties:

  1. Chemical Formula: The chemical formula of vivianite is Fe3(PO4)2·8H2O, indicating its composition of iron (Fe), phosphate (PO4), and water (H2O).
  2. Specific Gravity: The specific gravity of vivianite is around 2.66 to 2.69, which is slightly higher than that of pure water.
  3. Solubility: Vivianite is soluble in water, and its crystals can deteriorate when exposed to air due to oxidation. This can lead to the loss of its blue color and the formation of iron oxides like goethite or limonite.
  4. Cleavage: Vivianite displays distinct cleavage along prismatic planes, which is a significant chemical property as it relates to its crystal structure.
  5. Weathering: Vivianite is sensitive to environmental conditions and can weather and alter over time, losing its color and structure when exposed to oxygen and moisture.

In summary, vivianite is characterized by its vivid blue to blue-green color, softness, distinct cleavage, and sensitivity to weathering. Its optical properties, including refractive index and birefringence, are also important for its identification. Additionally, its chemical composition, especially its iron and phosphate content, is essential in understanding its formation and behavior.

Historical Significance


Vivianite has some historical significance, primarily in terms of its discovery, naming, and limited historical uses. Here’s a brief overview of its historical aspects:

Discovery and Naming: Vivianite was discovered in the early 19th century and was named after its discoverer, John Henry Vivian, a British industrialist and mine owner. Vivian, who lived from 1785 to 1855, was a prominent figure in the mining and metallurgical industry. He is known for his contributions to the development of the copper and coal mining industries in Cornwall, England. Vivianite was first identified and named in 1817.

The name “vivianite” was derived from Vivian’s surname, in recognition of his contributions to the field of mineralogy and mining. It is common in the world of mineralogy to name newly discovered minerals after notable scientists, explorers, or individuals who have made significant contributions to the field.

Historical Uses and Applications: Vivianite has had limited historical uses and applications, and its significance in this regard is relatively minor compared to other minerals. Some of its historical uses include:

  1. Pigment: Vivianite’s beautiful blue and blue-green color made it attractive as a pigment for artists and craftsmen. It was used as a blue pigment in the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the production of watercolor paints. However, its use as a pigment declined over time due to its sensitivity to light and air, which could cause the color to fade or change.
  2. Phosphate Source: Vivianite contains phosphate, and in some cases, it may have been a source of phosphorus in agriculture. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth, and in the past, some farmers might have used vivianite-containing materials as a fertilizer, although more common sources of phosphorus, like phosphate rock, were preferred.
  3. Collector’s Specimen: Vivianite’s vibrant color and crystal formations have made it a sought-after mineral specimen among collectors and mineral enthusiasts. Specimens of vivianite are often appreciated for their aesthetic value and are commonly displayed in mineral collections.

While vivianite’s historical uses were limited compared to other minerals, its striking appearance and unique properties have ensured its continued presence in the world of mineralogy and collectors’ circles. Today, it remains valued for its beauty and scientific interest.

Applications and Uses Areas

Vivianite; Perfect quality, vivianite crystals with pyrite at a base, from Huanuni mine, Huanuni, Dalence Province, Oruro Department, Bolivia; Size 68 х 26 х 20 mm;

Vivianite does not have widespread commercial or industrial applications due to its limited abundance, softness, and sensitivity to environmental factors. However, there are a few niche areas where vivianite may find specialized applications or uses:

  1. Mineral Collecting: Vivianite is highly prized by mineral collectors and enthusiasts for its striking blue to blue-green crystals and its unique formation conditions. Collectors value well-formed vivianite specimens as attractive additions to their mineral collections.
  2. Art and Pigments: Historically, vivianite has been used as a blue pigment in art and painting, especially in watercolor paints. Its vibrant color made it appealing to artists. However, its use in this context has diminished over time due to its sensitivity to light and air, which can cause color fading and alteration.
  3. Historical Research and Geology: Vivianite is of interest to geologists and researchers studying historical mining and mineral deposits. It can provide insights into the environmental conditions, geology, and mining practices of the past.
  4. Phosphate Source in Agriculture: While not a primary source of phosphate, vivianite contains phosphorus, an essential nutrient for plant growth. In some regions, vivianite-containing materials have been used as a minor source of phosphorus in agriculture, although more common sources like phosphate rock are preferred for their reliability and accessibility.

It’s important to note that vivianite is a relatively rare mineral, and its use in the above-mentioned areas is limited and often overshadowed by other minerals and synthetic alternatives. Additionally, vivianite is sensitive to oxidation and environmental factors, which can lead to deterioration over time, making it less practical for widespread industrial applications.

Overall, vivianite is primarily valued for its aesthetic qualities and its role in geological and historical research rather than for its practical applications in contemporary industries.

Vivianite’s Mining and Locations


Vivianite is typically found in regions with specific geological conditions, primarily in wetland environments, swamps, bogs, and areas with iron-rich sediments. The mineral is often associated with iron ore deposits, and it forms under anaerobic (low-oxygen) conditions. While not a widely mined mineral, there are some locations where vivianite has been discovered, although it is still considered relatively rare. Here are a few places where vivianite has been found:

  1. Bolivia: Vivianite has been found in various regions of Bolivia, including the Huanuni mine. Bolivian vivianite is known for its deep blue to blue-green crystals.
  2. Germany: Vivianite has been discovered in several locations in Germany, such as the Hesse region, where it is associated with iron ore deposits.
  3. Russia: In Russia, vivianite has been reported from places like the Urals and Siberia. The mineral often occurs in wetland and marshy areas.
  4. United States: Vivianite can be found in the United States, particularly in states with iron-rich geology. Some reports mention vivianite in areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  5. England: Historical reports indicate the presence of vivianite in certain mining regions of England, such as Cornwall.

It’s important to note that the exact locations and abundance of vivianite may vary over time, and not all of these locations are active mining sites for vivianite. Furthermore, the mineral is often associated with other iron minerals and is typically collected as mineral specimens by enthusiasts rather than being extracted on a commercial scale. If you are interested in the specific locations of vivianite deposits, it may be helpful to consult geological surveys, academic publications, or mineral collecting resources for the most up-to-date information.