In this work, we have studied the relationships between mass concentration and unit formula of amphibole using 114 carefully selected high-quality experimental data, obtained by electron micro-probe (EMP) + single-crystal X-ray structure refinement (SREF) ± secondary-ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) analyses, of natural and synthetic Li-free monoclinic species belonging to the Ca and Na-Ca subgroups, and 75 Li-free and Mn-free C2/m end-members including oxo analogs of Ca amphiboles. Theoretical considerations and crystal-chemical driven regression analysis allowed us to obtain several equations that can be used to: (1) calculate from EMP analyses amphibole unit-formulas consistent with SREF±SIMS data, (2) discard unreliable EMP analyses, and (3) estimate WO2– and Fe3+ contents in Li-free C2/m amphiboles with relatively low Cl contents (≤1 wt%). The AMFORM approach mostly relies on the fact that while the cation mass in Cl-poor amphiboles increases with the content of heavy elements, its anion mass maintains a nearly constant value, i.e., 22O + 2(OH,F,O), resulting in a very well-defined polynomial correlation between the molecular mass and the cation mass per gram (R2 = 0.998).
The precision of estimating the amphibole formula [e.g., TSi ± 0.02, CAl ± 0.02, A(Ca+Na+K) ± 0.04 apfu] is 2–4 times higher than when using methods published following the last IMA recommended scheme (2012). It is worth noting that most methods using IMA1997 recommendations (e.g., PROBE-AMPH) give errors that are about twice those of IMA2012-based methods. A linear relation between WO2– and the sum of C(Ti, Fe3+) and A(Na+K) contents, useful to estimate the iron oxidation state of highly oxidized amphiboles typical of post-magmatic processes, is also proposed. A step by step procedure (Appendix1 1) and a user-friendly spreadsheet (AMFORM.xlsx, provided as supplementary material1) allowing one to calculate amphibole unit-formulas from EMP analyses are presented. This work opens new perspectives on the unit-formula calculation of other minerals containing OH and structural vacancies (e.g., micas).