Skip to main content Accessibility help

Causes of anomalous mineralogical diversity in the Periodic Table

  • Andrew G. Christy (a1)


When crustal abundance (A, measured in atomic parts per million) of a chemical element is plotted vs. number of mineral species in which that element is an essential constituent (S), a significantly positive correlation is obtained, but with considerable scatter. Repeated exclusion of outliers at the 90% confidence level and re-fitting leads, after the sixth iteration, to a steady state in which 40 of the 70 elements initially considered define a trend with log S = 1.828 + 0.255 log a (r = 0.96), significantly steeper than the original. Three other methods for reducing the effect of outliers independently reproduce this steeper trend. The 'diversity index' D of an element is defined as the ratio of observed mineral species to those predicted from this trend. D separates elements into three groups. More than half of the elements (40 of 70) have D = 0.5–2.0. Apart from these 'typical' elements, a group of 15 elements (Sc, Cr, Ga, Br, Rb, In, Cs, La, Nd, Sm, Gd, Yb, Hf, Re and Th) form few species of their own due to being dispersed as minor solid solution constituents, and a hitherto unrecognized group of 15 elements are essential components in unusually large numbers of minerals. The anomalously diverse group consists of H, S, Cu, As, Se, Pd, Ag, Sb, Te, Pt, Au, Hg, Pb, Bi and U, with Te and Bi by far the most mineralogically diverse elements (D = 22 and 19, respectively). Possible causes and inhibitors of diversity are discussed, with reference to atomic size, electronegativity and Pearson softness, and particularly outer electronic configurations that result in distinctive stereochemistry. The principal factors encouraging mineral diversity are: (1) Particular outer electronic configurations that lead to a preference for unique coordination geometries, enhancing an element's ability to form distinctive chemical compounds and decreasing its ability to participate in solid solutions. This is particularly noteworthy for elements possessing geometrically flexible 'lone-pair cations' with an s2 outer electronic configuration. (2) Siderophilic or chalcophilic geochemical behaviour and intermediate electronegativity, allowing elements to form minerals that are not oxycompounds or halides. (3) Access to a wide range of oxidation states. The most diverse elements can occur as anions, native elements and in more than one cationic valence state.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Ahrens, T.J. (editor)(1995) Global Earth physics: a Handbook of Physical Constants. AGU Reference Shelf, Vol. 1. American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 376 pp.
Atencio, D., Andrade, M.B., Christy, A.G., Gieré, R. and Kartashov, P.M. (2010) The pyrochlore group of minerals: nomenclature. The Canadian Mineralogist 48, 673–698.
Bannister, F.A. and Hey, M.H. (1932) Determination of minerals in platinum concentrates from the Transvaal by X-ray methods. Mineralogical Magazine 28, 188–206.
Biagioni, C., Bonaccorsi, E., Moëlo, Y., Orlandi, P., Bindi, L., D’Orazio, M. and Vezzoni, S. (2014) Mercury-arsenic sulfosalts from the Apuan Alps (Tuscany, Italy). II. Arsiccioite, AgHg2TlAs2S6, a new mineral from the Monte Arsiccio mine: occurrence, crystal structure and crystal chemistry of the routhierite isotypic series. Mineralogical Magazine 78, 101–117.
Bindi, L., Arakcheeva, A. and Chapuis, G. (2009) The role of silver on the stabilization of the incommensurately modulated structure in calaverite, AuTe2. American Mineralogist 94, 728–736.
Bloch, A.N. and Schatteman, G.C. (1981) Quantumdefect orbital radii and the structural chemistry of simple solids. Pp. 49–72. in: Structure and Bonding in Crystals, Vol. I (M. O’Keeffe and A. Navrotsky, editors). Academic Press, New York, 327 pp.
Brodersen, K., Goebel, G. and Liehr, G. (1989) Terlinguaite, Hg4O2Cl2: Ein Mineral mit ungewöhnlichen Hg3 Baueinheiten. Zeitschrift für anorganische und allgemeine Chemie 575, 145–153.
Burdett, J.K., Price, G.D. and Price, S.L. (1981) Factors influencing solid-state structures – an analysis using pseudopotential radii structural maps. Physical Review, B24, 2903–2912.
Burns, P.C. (1999) The crystal chemistry of uranium. Pp. 23–90. in: Uranium: Mineralogy, Geochemistry and the Environment (P.C. Burns and R. Finch, editors). Reviews in Mineralogy, 38. Mineralogical Society of America, Washington DC.
Burns, P.C. and Hawthorne, F.C. (1996) Static and dynamic Jahn-Teller effects in Cu2+ oxysalt minerals. The Canadian Mineralogist 34, 1089–1105.
Burns, P.C., Miller, M.L. and Ewing, R.C. (1996) U6+ minerals and inorganic phases: a comparison and hierarchy of crystal structures. The Canadian Mineralogist 34, 845–880.
Cabri, L.J., Harris, D.C. and Gait, R.I. (1973) Michenerite (PdBiTe) redefined and froodite (PdBi2) confirmed from the Sudbury area. The Canadian Mineralogist 11, 903–912.
Christy, A.G. and Mills, S.J. (2013) Effect of lone-pair stereoactivity on polyhedral volume and structural flexibility: application to TeIVO6 octahedra. Acta Crystallographica, B69, 446–456.
Cordero, B., Gómez, V., Platero-Prats, A., Revés, M., Echeverría, J., Cremades, E., Barragán, F. and Alvarez, S. (2008) Covalent radii revisited. Dalton Transactions 21, 2832–2838.
Craw, J.S., Vincent, M.A., Hillier, J.H. and Wallwork, A.L. (1995) Ab initio quantum chemical calculations on uranyl UO2 2+, plutonyl PuO2 2+ and their nitrates and sulfates. Journal of Physical Chemistry 99, 10181–10185.
Deliens, M. and Piret, P. (1982) Bijvoetite et lepersonnite, carbonates hydratés d’uranyle et de terres rares de Shinkolobwe, Zaı¨re. The Canadian Mineralogist 20, 231–238.
Denning, R.G. (2007) Electronic structure and bonding in actinyl ions and their analogs. Journal of Physical Chemistry A 111, 4125–4143.
Dye, M.D. and Smyth, J.R. (2012) The crystal structure and genesis of krennerite, Au3AgTe8. The Canadian Mineralogist 50, 119–127.
Eby, R.K. and Hawthorne, F.C. (1993) Structural relations in copper oxysalt minerals. I. Structural hierarchy. Acta Crystallographica, B49, 28–56.
Effenberger, H., Culetto, F.J., Topa, D. and Paar, W.H. (2000) The crystal structure of synthetic buckhornite, [Pb2BiS3][AuTe2]. Zeitshcrift für Kristallographie 215, 10–16.
Emsley, J. (2002) Nature’s Building Blocks: an A–Z Guide to the Elements. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK, 538 pp.
Genkin, A.D. and Zvyagintsev, O.E. (1962) Vysotskite, a new sulfide of palladium and nickel. Zapiski Vsesoyuznogo Mineralogicheskogo Obshchestva 91, 718–725. [in Russian].
Glans, P.-A., Learmonth, T., McGuiness, C., Smith, K.E., Guo, J., Walsh, A., Watson, G.W. and Egdell, R.G. (2004) On the involvement of the shallow core 5d level in the bonding of HgO. Chemical Physics Letters 399, 98–101.
Godovikov, A.A. and Hariya, Y. (1987) The connection between the properties of elements and compounds: mineralogical-crystallochemical classification of elements. Journal of the Faculty of Science of Hokkaido University, Series IV 22, 357–385.
Goldschmidt, V.M. (1937) The principles of distribution of chemical elements in minerals and rocks. The seventh Hugo Muller lecture, delivered before the Chemical Society on March 17th, 1937. Journal of the Chemical Society 1937, 655–673.
Greenwood, N.N. and Earnshaw, A. (1997) Chemistry of the Elements. 2nd edition. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK, 1341 pp.
Hatert, F. and Burke, E.A.J. (2008) The IMA-CNMNC dominant-constituent rule revised and extended. The Canadian Mineralogist 46, 717–728.
Hawthorne, F.C. (1992) The role of OH and H2O in oxide and oxysalt minerals. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie 201, 183–206.
Hawthorne, F.C. (2002) The use of end-member chargearrangements in defining new mineral species and heterovalent substitutions in complex minerals. The Canadian Mineralogist 40, 699–710.
Haynes, W.M., Lide, D.R. and Bruno, T.J. (2013) CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 94th edition. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, London, New York.
Hazen, R.M., Grew, E.S., Downs, R.T., Golden, J., Hystad, G. and Sverjensky, D. (2014) Chance and necessity in the mineral evolution of terrestrial planets. Geochemical Society Ingerson Lecture, 2014 GSA Annual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 19–22. October, 2014, Abstract #242965.
Higgins, M.D. and Smith, D.G.W. (2010) A census of mineral species in 2010. Elements 6, 346.
Hume-Rothery, W. and Powell, H.M. (1935) On the theory of super-lattice structures in alloys. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie 91, 23–47.
Jurriaanse, T. (1935) The crystal structure of Au2Bi. Zeitschrift für Kristallographie 90, 322–329.
Kampf, A.R., Mills, S.J., Housley, R.M., Marty, J. and Thorne, B. (2010) Lead-tellurium oxysalts from the Otto Mountain near Baker, California: IV. Markcooperite, Pb(UO2)Te6+O6, the first natural uranyl tellurate. American Mineralogist 95, 1554–1559.
Kaupp, M. and von Schnering, H.G. (1994a) Dominance of linear 2-coordination in mercury chemistry: quasirelativistic and nonrelativistic ab initio pseudopotential study of (HgX2)2 (X = F, Cl, Br, I, H). Inorganic Chemistry 33, 2555–2564.
Kaupp, M. and von Schnering, H.G. (1994b) Origin of the unique stability of condensed-phase Hg2 2+. An ab initio investigation of MI and MII species (M = Zn, Cd, Hg). Inorganic Chemistry 33, 4179–4185.
Krivovichev, S.V. (2013) Structural complexity of minerals: information storage and processing in the mineral world. Mineralogical Magazine 77, 275–326.
Krivovichev, V.G. and Charykova, M.V. (2014) Number of minerals of various chemical elements: statistics 2012 (a new approach to an old problem). Geology of Ore Deposits 56, 553–559.
Krivovichev, S.V., Burns, P.C., Tananaev, I.G. and Myasoedov, B.F. (2007) Nanostructured actinide compounds. Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 444–445. 457–463.
May, I., Copping, R., Cornet, S.M., Talbot-Eeckelears, C.E., Gaunt, A.J., John, G.H., Redmond, M.P., Sharrad, C.A., Sutton, A.D., Collison, D., Fox, O.D., Jones, C.J., Sarsfield, M.J. and Taylor, R.J. (2007) Actinyl chemistry at the Centre for Radiochemistry Research. Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 444–445. 383–386.
Mills, S.J., Hatert, F., Nickel, E.H. and Ferraris, G. (2009) The standardisation of mineral group hierarchies: application to recent nomenclature proposals. European Journal of Mineralogy 21, 1073–1080.
Miyawaki, R. and Nakai, I. (1996) Crystal chemical aspects of rare earth minerals. Pp. 21–40. in: Rare Earth Minerals. Chemistry, Origin and Ore Deposits (Jones, A.P., Wall, F. and Williams, C.T., editors). Mineralogical Society Series, Vol. 7. Chapman and Hall, London.
Moore, P.B. (1970) Mineralogy and chemistry of Långban-type deposits in Bergslagen, Sweden. Mineralogical Record 1, 154–172.
Mooser, E. and Pearson, W.B. (1959) On the crystal chemistry of normal valence compounds. Acta Crystallographica, A12, 1015–1022.
National Physical Laboratory (2005) Kaye and Laby Tables of Physical and Chemical Constants.
Nickel, E.H. (1995) The definition of a mineral. The Canadian Mineralogist 33, 689–690.
Nickel, E.H. and Grice, J.D. (1998) The IMA Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names: procedures and guidelines on mineral nomenclature, 1998. The Canadian Mineralogist 36, 913–926.
Nyholm, R.S. (1961) Electron configuration and structure of transition-metal complexes. Tilden Lecture. Proceedings of the Chemical Society 1961, 273–298.
O’Keeffe, M. (1989) The prediction and interpretation of bond lengths in crystals. Structure and Bonding 71, 161–198.
O’Keeffe, M. and Brese, N.E. (1991) Atom sizes and bond lengths in molecules and crystals. Journal of the American Chemical Society 113, 3226–3229.
Orgel, L.E. (1958) Stereochemistry of metals of the B sub-groups. Part I. Ions with filled d-electron shells. Journal of the Chemical Society 1958, 4186–4190.
Pauling, L. (1960) The Nature of the Chemical Bond: An Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry. 3rd edition. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA, 664 pp.
Pauly, H. (1969) White cast iron with cohenite, schreibersite, and sulphides from Tertiary basalts on Disko, Greenland. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark 19, 8–26.
Pearson, R.G. (1963) Hard and soft acids and bases. Journal of the American Chemical Society 85, 3533–3539.
Phillips, J.C. (1970) Ionicity of the chemical bond in crystals. Reviews of Modern Physics 42, 317–356.
Pyykkö, P. (2012) Relativistic effects in chemistry: more common than you thought. Annual Review of Physical Chemistry 63, 45–64.
Rasmussen, B., Fletcher, I.R., Gregory, C.J., Muhling, J.R. and Suvorova, A.A. (2012) Tranquillityite: the last lunar mineral comes down to earth. Geology 40, 83–86.
Sarp, H., Pushcharovsky, D.Y., MacLean, J.E., Teat, S.J. and Zubova, V.N. (2003) Tillmannsite , (Ag3Hg)(V,As)O4, a new mineral: its description and crystal structure. European Journal of Mineralogy 15, 177–180.
Schindler, M. and Hawthorne, F.C. (2001) A bondvalence approach to the structure, chemistry and paragenesis of hydroxy-hydrated oxysalt minerals. I. Theory. The Canadian Mineralogist 39, 1225–1242.
Sen, P.K. (1968) Estimates of the regression coefficient based on Kendall’s tau. Journal of the American Statistical Association 63, 1379–1389.
Shannon, R.D. (1976) Revised effective ionic radii and systematic studies of interatomic distances in halides and chalcogenides. Acta Crystallographica, A32, 751–767.
Taylor, M. and Ewing, R.C. (1978) The crystal structures of the ThSiO4 polymorphs: huttonite and thorite. Acta Crystallographica, B34, 1074–1079.
Taylor, S.R. and McLennan, S.M. (1985) The Continental Crust: its Composition and Evolution. Blackwell Scientific Publishing, Oxford, UK, 330 pp.
Theil, H. (1950) A rank-invariant method of linear and polynomial regression analysis I. II and III. Nederlandsche Akademie van Wetenschappen, Proceedings 53, 386–392. 512–525. and 1397–1412.
Walsh, A., Payne, D.J., Egdell, R.G. and Watson, G.W. (2011) Stereochemistry of post-transition metal oxides: revision of the classical lone pair model. Chemical Society Reviews 40, 4455–4463.
Wa¨nke, H., Dreibus, G. and Jagoutz, E. (1984) Mantle chemistry and accretion history of the Earth. pp. 1–24. in: Archaean Geochemistry (Kröner, A., Hanson, G.N. and Goodwin, A.M., editors). Springer- Verlag, Berlin.
Weaver, B.L. and Tarney, J. (1984) Major and trace element composition of the continental lithosphere. Pp. 39–68. in: Physics and Chemistry of the Earth (H.N. Pollack and V.R. Murthy, editors) 15. Pergamon, Oxford, UK.
Wedepohl, K.H. (1995) The composition of the continental crust. Ingerson Lecture. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 59, 1217–1232.
Wenk, H.-R. and Bulakh, A. (2004) Minerals: their Constitution and Origin. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 646 pp.
Yaroshevsky, A.A. (2006) Abundances of chemical elements in the Earth’s crust. Geochemistry International 44, 48–55.
Yaroshevsky, A.A. and Bulakh, A.G. (1994) The mineral composition of the Earth’s crust, mantle, meteorites, moon and planets. Pp. 27–36. in: Advanced Mineralogy, Volume 1: Composition, Structure, and Properties of Mineral Matter: Concepts, Results and Problems (A.S. Marfunin, editor). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Zolensky, M.E. (1985) New data on sincosite. American Mineralogist 70, 409–410.
Zunger, A. (1981) A pseudopotential viewpoint of the electronic and structural properties of crystals. Pp. 73–135. in: Structure and Bonding in Crystals, Vol. I (M. O’Keeffe and A. Navrotsky, editors). Academic Press, New York, 327 pp.


Causes of anomalous mineralogical diversity in the Periodic Table

  • Andrew G. Christy (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed