Abstract

The crystal chemistry of a natural, gem-quality, blue-grey Zn-rich spinel crystal from Jemaa, Kaduna State, Nigeria, was studied using electron microprobe, single-crystal X-ray diffraction, optical absorption and Raman spectroscopies. The composition of the crystal approaches the gahnite endmember (ZnAl2O4), ~94 mol.%, with the remainder being dominated by a hercynite component (FeAl2O4). The unit-cell dimension is 8.0850(3) Å and the tetrahedral and octahedral bond distances are determined as T–O 1.9485(6) Å and M–O 1.9137(3) Å. Crystal chemical analysis resulted in the empirical structural formula T(Zn0.94Fe0.032+Al0.03)M (Al1.96Fe0.032+Fe0.013+)O4, which shows Zn and Al almost fully ordered in the tetrahedrally and octahedrally coordinated T and M sites, respectively. Raman spectra obtained using the excitation of the blue 473.1 nm line of a Nd:YAG laser display three of the five Raman-active modes predicted for the general oxide spinel group of minerals. These are the Eg mode at 420.6 cm−1 and the T2g modes at 510 cm−1 and 661 cm−1, due to vibrations in the AlO6 octahedra. Optical absorption spectra recorded in the UV/VIS-NIR-MIR range 2000–29000 cm−1 show a dominant absorption band at ~5000 cm−1 which is caused by spin-allowed electronic d–d transitions in Fe2+ located at the T sites. The blue-grey hue exhibited by the sample is mainly due to spin-forbidden electronic transitions in TFe2+ and to MFe2+MFe3+ intervalence charge transfer, and the poor saturation of the colour is due to the small concentration of Fe2+ and Fe3+.

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