To determine the relationships between the symmetry of the overall pyrophyllite and talc structure and the symmetry of individual layers, the geometry and symmetry of each 2:1 layer of pyrophyllite and talc were analyzed. For each, the previously published, refined unit cell may be rotated clockwise by ∼60° for comparison to a layer unit cell. In pyrophyllite, the layer unit cell is ideal and shown to be orthogonal with C2/m symmetry. The agreement between the refined atomic coordinates and those calculated for the layer with C2/m symmetry confirms that the symmetry of the pyrophyllite layer is C2/m. The obliquity of the pyrophyllite refined cell results from the layer stacking and the choice of unit cell, but the interlayer stacking sequence does not disturb the layer symmetry. In contrast, talc has an oblique layer cell, without a mirror plane. For the most part, the distortion of the talc 2:1 layer is probably caused by an elongation of unshared O–O lateral edges around M1 that creates a slight corrugation of the octahedral sheet surface. Perhaps of lesser importance, the distortion of the talc layer cell may result from Coulombic interactions between cations of adjacent layers, and these cation-to-cation distances are sufficiently large (∼6−7.5 Å) that the weak van der Waals forces that stabilize the stacking are not overcome. Because pyrophyllite has a vacant octahedral site, similar interactions are not present, and this results in a more idealized layer symmetry.
Phyllosilicates consisting of layers with an orthogonal cell and mirror plane (pyrophyllite, kaolinite, sudoite) were shown to have similar stacking faults. In these structures, the 2:1 or 1:1 layers have uniform orientation, and stacking faults occur owing to interstratifications of two alternative interlayer displacements in the same crystal that are related by a mirror plane in the projection on the (001) plane. In talc, stacking faults are associated with layer rotations by ±120°, whereas the lateral displacement between the adjacent tetrahedral sheets across the interlayer region is relatively ordered.