Amorphous hydroxides of Al, Fe, Mn, Mg, Zn, Co, Ni, etc., are capable of coprecipitating SiO2 even from very dilute (weathering) solutions. Silica minerals form only in those precipitates from solutions undersaturated with respect to amorphous silica (100 ppm SiO2 at 20°C). With higher SiO2 concentrations the precipitates remain amorphous. The size of the cations should allow 6-fold coordination and giving a brucite-like layer. Most suitably sized octahedral ions are Mg, Zn, Ni, Co and Fe2+ (size 0·78–0·82 Å), and chemically pure three- and two-layer clay minerals with these ions are easily synthesized. With a relatively high content of silica in solution (60 ppm SiO2 with 1–2·5 ppm metal) several smectite minerals could be synthesized. With a low content of silica in solution (5–20 ppm SiO2 and ca. 2 ppm metal) the serpentine minerals, could be synthesized.
It is possible to crystallize the difficult to form Al-clay minerals in a solid solution with these more easily synthesized clay minerals.
Clay minerals with the heavy metal ions of Ni, Co, Zn, and with Cu, Cr, etc., can be found in the weathering zone of Gossan and in the lateritic weathering crust of ultrabasic rocks.