The study presents analysis from members of the tennantite–tetrahedrite solid-solution series (`fahlore') from 78 locations in the Schwarzwald ore district of SW Germany. Electron microprobe analysis is used to correlate the compositional variations of the fahlores with mineral association, host rock, tectonic history and precipitation mechanisms. Results indicate that most fahlores from gneiss-hosted veins do not have distinctive geochemical characteristics and range from tetrahedrite to tennantite end-member composition with variable trace-element content. However, diagenetically formed fahlore has a near-end-member tennantite composition with very small trace-element content. Red-bed-hosted fahlore formed by fluid mixing is tennantite enriched in Hg that probably has its source in the red-bed sediments. Fahlore formed from granite-related late-magmatic fluids, or from mixing of fluids of which one has equilibrated with granitic basement rocks, is typically As- and Bi-rich (up to 22.2 wt.% Bi). Gneiss-hosted fahlore formed by fluid cooling is Ag-rich near-end-member tetrahedrite. Some fahlores reflect their paragenetic association, e.g. a large Ag content in association with Ag-bearing minerals or a large Co and Ni in association with Co- and Ni-arsenides.
Although they have similar compositions, gneiss-hosted fahlores show systematic variations in Ag contents and Fe/Zn ratios between the Central and the Southern Schwarzwald with Fe-rich fahlore in higher stratigraphic levels (North) and Zn- and Ag-rich fahlore in lower stratigraphic levels (South). We show that fahlore composition varies with precipitation mechanism (cooling vs. mixing vs. diagenesis), depth of formation, paragenetic association and host rock. Comparison with fahlores from other European occurrences indicates that these conclusions are consistent with fahlore systematics found elsewhere, and could be used to infer details of ore-forming processes.