Titanite, or sphene , which means wedge, is a calcium titanium nesosilicate mineral, CaTiSiO5. Trace impurities of iron and aluminium are generally gift. Also normally present are rare earth metals which includes cerium and yttrium; calcium can be partly replaced by thorium.Titanite is a unprecedented titanium mineral that happens as an accessory mineral in granitic and calcium-wealthy metamorphic rocks. It is a minor ore of titanium and a minor gemstone called “sphene.”

Physical Properties of Titanite

 Titanite’s diagnostic homes are its crystal addiction, color, and luster. Its monoclinic crystals are regularly wedge-fashioned or tabular-fashioned. Its common shade range is yellow, inexperienced, brown, and black. Pink, orange, and crimson specimens are rare.

Chemical ClassificationCalcium titanium silicate.
ColorCommonly yellow, green, brown, black or gray. Rarely pink, red, or orange.
LusterResinous to adamantine.
DiaphaneityTranslucent to transparent.
CleavageFair to good.
Mohs Hardness5 to 5.5
Specific Gravity3.4 to 3.6
Diagnostic PropertiesLuster, hardness, color, dispersion.
Chemical CompositionCaTiSiO5
Crystal SystemMonoclinic.
UsesMinor ore of titanium. Minor gemstone.

Optical Properties of Titanite

Crystal SystemMonoclinic (2/m)
Crystal HabitWedge-, and elongated rhomb-shaped crystals are common, but rounded and irregular grains are also common. Grains typically are not apparent in hand specimens.
CleavageDistinct prismatic ceavage {110} may control grain orientation. Uneven fracture. Brittle.
TwinningSimple twins may occur on {100}.
Color/PleochroismTan-brown or yellowish color. Nonpleochroic to weakly pleochroic:

 x almost colorless
y pale yellow
z brownish

Optic SignBiaxial (+)
Optic OrientationX /\ a=-6° to -21°
Z /\ c=36-51°
Refractive Indices
alpha =
beta =
gamma =
Max Birefringence0.100-0.192
Elongationcannot be easily determined
ExtinctionBecause of high dispersion, some grains do not extinguish completely.
Dispersion r > v
Distinguishing FeaturesVery High Relief. Extreme birefringence; same brownish color in plane and crossed polars. Diamond/wedge-shaped crystal habit
OccurrenceTitanite is a common accessory in many igneous and metamorphic rocks, of which it can be the dominent Ti-bearing contituent. Titanite also occrs as detrital grains in the heavy mineral fraction of clastic sediments.
EditorsSarah Pistone (’06), Janelle McAtamney (’07), Molly Peek (’18)
SourcesPhilpotts, Anthony R., 1989. Petrogrophy of Igneous and         Metamorphic Rocks. Waveland Press, Inc.: Prospect Heights,        Illinois. 61 p.
Nesse, William D., 2000. Introduction to Mineralogy. Oxford         University Press: New York, NY. 322 p.
MacKenzie W.S., and Guilford C., 1980. Atlas of rock-forming         minerals in thin section. Halsted Press: New York, NY. 97p.

Chemical Composition and Properties

The chemical composition of sphene, or titanite, can be described as calcium titanium silicate. Its chemical formula is CaTiSiO5. The presence of titanium in its composition gives sphene its characteristic properties.

Here are some key properties of sphene:

  1. Hardness: Sphene has a hardness of 5 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale. This places it in the mid-range of hardness, making it relatively durable but still susceptible to scratching and abrasion.
  2. Specific Gravity: The specific gravity of sphene ranges from 3.52 to 3.54. This value indicates that sphene is denser than an average mineral and helps in distinguishing it from other similar minerals.
  3. Crystal System: Sphene crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system. Its crystals typically exhibit a prismatic shape with multiple faces and edges.
  4. Color: Sphene can occur in various colors, including yellow, green, brown, black, and even colorless. The color is primarily due to impurities and trace elements present in the crystal lattice.
  5. Dispersion: Sphene is renowned for its high dispersion, which refers to its ability to split light into its spectral colors. This property gives sphene exceptional fire and brilliance, similar to that of a diamond.
  6. Pleochroism: Sphene exhibits strong pleochroism, meaning it can display different colors when viewed from different angles. This optical phenomenon adds to its visual appeal and makes it quite distinctive.
  7. Refractive Index: Sphene has a relatively high refractive index, typically ranging from 1.885 to 2.050. This value contributes to its excellent brilliance and light-reflecting properties.
  8. Cleavage: Sphene has distinct cleavage along the {100} plane, but it is often imperfect. This means that sphene can fracture along certain planes, but the cleavage is not as perfect as in some other minerals.

It is important to note that the properties of sphene can vary slightly depending on the specific composition and the presence of impurities. Additionally, gem-quality sphene specimens are valued for their transparency, lack of visible inclusions, and overall visual appeal.

Formation and Occurrence of Sphene

Sphene, also known as titanite, typically forms in a variety of geological settings. Its formation is associated with high-temperature and high-pressure conditions, often found in metamorphic and igneous environments. Here are the primary formation processes and occurrences of sphene:

  1. Metamorphic Rocks: Sphene commonly forms during the metamorphism of pre-existing rocks. Metamorphism occurs when rocks are subjected to intense heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s crust. Sphene can develop in a range of metamorphic rock types, including gneiss, schist, amphibolite, and marble. The presence of sphene in metamorphic rocks indicates the rock’s exposure to specific temperature and pressure conditions during its formation.
  2. Igneous Rocks: Sphene can also be found in various types of igneous rocks. It typically crystallizes from magma or forms during the cooling and solidification of molten rock. Sphene is often associated with silica-rich igneous rocks such as granite and syenite, as well as with pegmatites—coarse-grained igneous rocks that contain exceptionally large crystals. These rocks provide the necessary chemical composition and conditions for sphene to crystallize.
  3. Skarn Deposits: Skarns are hydrothermal metamorphic rocks that form at the contact zone between igneous intrusions and carbonate-rich rocks. Sphene can be found as an accessory mineral in skarn deposits, along with other minerals such as garnet, pyroxene, and calcite. Skarns are commonly associated with ore deposits, and sphene can sometimes be an indicator mineral for mineralization in these systems.
  4. Sedimentary Deposits: Although less common, sphene can occur in sedimentary environments as well. It may be derived from the erosion and weathering of pre-existing rocks containing sphene crystals, which are then transported and deposited in sedimentary basins. However, it is important to note that sphene is relatively rare in sedimentary rocks compared to metamorphic and igneous rocks.

It’s worth mentioning that the specific conditions, chemical compositions, and geological processes vary across different occurrences of sphene. This leads to variations in the size, color, and quality of sphene crystals found in different geological settings.

Uses and Applications

Sphene, or titanite, has several uses and applications across various industries. Here are some of the notable uses of sphene:

  1. Gemstone: Sphene is highly valued as a gemstone due to its exceptional fire, brilliance, and color. Its high dispersion and pleochroism make it a popular choice for jewelry. Sphene gemstones are often faceted and used in rings, earrings, necklaces, and other fine jewelry pieces.
  2. Collector Specimens: Sphene’s unique optical properties and rarity make it highly sought after by mineral collectors. Specimens with large, well-formed crystals and vibrant colors are especially prized.
  3. Industrial Applications: While sphene is primarily valued as a gemstone, it has some industrial applications as well. Its titanium content makes it a minor source of titanium, which has various industrial uses. Titanium is widely used in aerospace, automotive, medical, and chemical industries due to its strength, corrosion resistance, and low density.
  4. Research and Scientific Studies: Sphene crystals have also been used in scientific research and studies. Its crystal structure and properties make it a subject of interest in the fields of crystallography, mineralogy, and geology. Scientists study sphene to gain insights into geological processes and the behavior of minerals under high-temperature and high-pressure conditions.

It’s important to note that sphene’s uses as a gemstone and collector specimen are more prominent and commercially significant than its industrial applications. The rarity and aesthetic appeal of gem-quality sphene contribute to its value in the market.

Identification and Evaluation of Sphene

Identifying and evaluating sphene, or titanite, involves considering various factors related to its physical and optical properties. Here are the key aspects to consider when identifying and evaluating sphene:

  1. Color: Sphene occurs in a range of colors, including yellow, green, brown, black, and colorless. The color can be influenced by impurities and trace elements present in the crystal lattice. Evaluating the intensity, saturation, and hue of the color can provide information about the quality and desirability of the sphene specimen.
  2. Dispersion: Sphene is renowned for its high dispersion, which refers to its ability to split white light into spectral colors. This property gives sphene exceptional fire and brilliance. Evaluating the dispersion can be done by observing the play of colors exhibited by the gemstone under different lighting conditions.
  3. Pleochroism: Sphene exhibits strong pleochroism, meaning it can display different colors when viewed from different angles. Evaluating pleochroism involves observing the stone from various directions to identify the range of colors it exhibits.
  4. Transparency and Clarity: Gem-quality sphene specimens are valued for their transparency and lack of visible inclusions. A high-quality specimen will have excellent clarity with minimal or no visible flaws, which can affect the stone’s overall appearance and value.
  5. Cut and Shape: Evaluating the cut and shape of sphene is important in determining its beauty and value. Well-cut specimens with symmetrical faceting can enhance the stone’s brilliance and maximize its optical properties.
  6. Size and Carat Weight: The size and carat weight of sphene can also influence its value. Larger specimens are generally rarer and command higher prices, especially when accompanied by good color and clarity.
  7. Refractive Index: Sphene has a relatively high refractive index, which affects its brilliance and light-reflecting properties. Measuring and comparing the refractive index can help in confirming the identification of sphene and differentiating it from other gemstones.
  8. Hardness and Durability: Sphene has a hardness of 5 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale, indicating its moderate durability. While it can withstand everyday wear, care should be taken to avoid scratching or damaging the gemstone.

To accurately identify and evaluate sphene, it is recommended to consult a gemologist or a certified professional who specializes in gemstone identification and appraisal. Their expertise and equipment can provide a more precise assessment of the sphene specimen’s quality and value.


What is titanite?

Titanite, also known as sphene, is a mineral that belongs to the silicate group. It is named after its titanium content, which is one of its distinguishing features.

What is the chemical formula of titanite?

The chemical formula of titanite is CaTiSiO5. It consists of calcium (Ca), titanium (Ti), silicon (Si), and oxygen (O) atoms.

How does titanite form?

Titanite typically forms in metamorphic and igneous rocks. It crystallizes under high-temperature and high-pressure conditions during geological processes such as metamorphism and magma cooling.

What are the distinguishing physical properties of titanite?

Titanite has a hardness of 5 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale, a specific gravity of 3.52 to 3.54, and a monoclinic crystal system. It exhibits strong pleochroism and high dispersion, giving it exceptional fire and brilliance.

What colors can titanite be?

Titanite can occur in various colors, including yellow, green, brown, black, and colorless. The color is primarily influenced by impurities and trace elements within the crystal lattice.

What are the main uses of titanite?

Titanite is primarily valued as a gemstone due to its exceptional fire and brilliance. It is used in jewelry, particularly in rings, earrings, necklaces, and other fine pieces. It also has minor industrial applications as a source of titanium.

Where is titanite found?

Titanite is commonly found in metamorphic rocks such as gneiss, schist, amphibolite, and marble. It can also occur in certain types of igneous rocks and occasionally in sedimentary deposits.

Is titanite a rare mineral?

While titanite is not as common as some other minerals, it is not considered extremely rare. However, gem-quality specimens with desirable color, clarity, and size can be relatively rare and command higher prices.

How is titanite identified?

Titanite can be identified by its crystal habit, colors, pleochroism, high dispersion, and refractive index. Advanced analytical techniques such as X-ray diffraction and chemical analysis can provide definitive identification.

Can titanite be confused with any other minerals?

Titanite can resemble other minerals such as peridot, tourmaline, and demantoid garnet due to similar colors and gemstone characteristics. However, its distinct properties like high dispersion and pleochroism help in differentiating it from other minerals.

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