We examined cathodoluminescence (CL) colors of quartz by using red (590-780 nm), green (515-590 nm), and blue (380-515 nm) optical filters interfaced with a cathodoluminescence (CL) detector attached to a scanning electron microscope (SEM). SEM/CL images taken through these filters were captured digitally and transferred to a computer. Luminescence intensities (luminosities) of the images were measured by using available commercial software. Measured luminosities of these CL images are directly related to relative intensities of red, green, and blue CL emissions. Luminosity data were then used to construct plots that display relative luminosities of the CL images acquired through the red, green, and blue filters. An unfiltered CL image of each quartz grain, generated by photons with wavelengths ranging from ∼ 200-700 nm, was also acquired. By subtracting the numerical luminosity values of the images acquired through the red, green, and blue filters from the luminosity value of the unfiltered image, the contribution to total luminosity provided by CL emission in the near ultraviolet (UV) was calculated.
The CL colors of quartz from a variety of volcanic, plutonic, and metamorphic rocks and hydrothermal deposits were examined. Volcanic quartz phenocrysts have the most restricted CL color range, with strongest emission intensity in the blue wavelength band. CL colors of plutonic quartz overlap those of volcanic phenocrysts but extend over a broader range to include quartz that displays higher intensity of red emission. CL emission in hydrothermal (vein) quartz is similar to that in plutonic quartz, although some hydrothermal quartz exhibits stronger green-CL emission than does plutonic quartz. The CL colors of metamorphic quartz exhibit the widest variation, overlapping the color fields of both volcanic and plutonic quartz and extending further into the red. CL emission in the near UV makes a significant contribution (∼ 5-85 percent) to the total luminosity of SEM/CL images, particularly images of plutonic quartz.
Because of overlap in the CL color ranges of volcanic, plutonic, metamorphic, and hydrothermal quartz, unambiguous identification of quartz provenance on the basis of CL color alone is problematic. It is difficult to distinguish between volcanic and some plutonic quartz, and between some plutonic and hydrothermal quartz, or to distinguish magmatic quartz from metamorphic quartz that exhibits blue CL color. Only metamorphic quartz that exhibits moderately strong red emission appears distinguishable (on the basis of color) from quartz of other origins. Our work thus suggests that CL color is not a reliable indicator of quartz provenance.