Geological mapping of existing and redundant kaolin workings within the St Austell Granite has identified a suite of granitic rocks which show evidence of complex late-stage magmatic and hydrothermal processes. Coarse porphyritic biotite granites, like those which predominate in southwest England, occur much more widely than previously acknowledged, and are intruded by an apparently cogenetic suite of lithium-mica granites and tourmaline granites. The tourmaline granites characteristically exhibit very variable textures, with coarse quartz grains set within a fine grained, tourmaline-rich matrix. A highly evolved fine-grained tourmaline granite represents the most evolved of this suite. Topaz granites intrude the earlier granite varieties, and all are intruded by rhyolite porphyry dykes (elvans).
Major and trace element chemical data suggest that the biotite granite–lithium-mica granite–tourmaline granite suite represents the product of crystallization of a granitic magma within which B (but not F) became progressively enriched until water saturation was achieved. Water exsolution effectively quenched any remaining granitic melt, resulting in the very variable textures shown by the tourmaline granites. The topaz granites are chemically distinct from their predecessors, showing marked enrichment in F, Li and P2O5 (but not B). Instead of being products of differentiation of biotite granite magma, the topaz granite melts may have been derived separately in a later episode of partial melting of the same source.
Kaolinization is widespread throughout the western part of the St Austell Granite, and deposits worked at present tend to be located in granite varieties other than biotite granite. The geochemical parameters used to distinguish the primary granite types (particularly Nb v. Zr and Ga–Nb–Zr plots) are sufficiently robust to permit the parent granitic rock type to be identified for heavily kaolinized material.