An Fe-rich smectite from Ölberg (Germany) was characterized using X-ray diffraction, infrared spectroscopy and analytical electron microscopy. Progressive reduction of the octahedral charge was performed through the Hofmann & Klemen effect at increasing temperatures. The sample was heterogeneous, consisting of two smectite populations. One population, which comprises a minor portion of the sample, is an ‘Fe3+-montmorillonite’ with little or no tetrahedral charge and Fe3+ as the major octahedral cation. The other population, a major constituent of the sample, contains less Mg and more Al than the first one and exhibits some tetrahedral charge. This fraction may be considered as an inter-grade between nontronite (dominant tetrahedral charge) and Fe3+-montmorillonite (dominant octahedral charge). These two populations may occur as separate particles but also as interstratified layers.