Geodes (Greek γεώδης - ge-ōdēs, "earthlike") are geological secondary structures which occur in certain sedimentary and volcanic rocks. They are themselves of sedimentary origin formed by chemical precipitation. Geodes are essentially hollow, vaguely spheroid to oblate masses of mineral matter that may have formed via either of two different processes:
- by the filling of vesicles (gas bubbles) in volcanic to sub-volcanic rocks by minerals deposited from hydrothermal fluids or
- by the dissolution of sedimentary nodules or concretions (that were deposited syngenetically within the rock formations in which they are found) and partial filling by the same or other minerals precipitated from diagenetic water, groundwater or hydrothermal fluids.
Geodes differ from vugs in that the former were formed as early, rounded, structures within the surrounding rock and are often removed intact, whereas vugs are irregularly shaped pockets, voids or cavities within a formation, often along a vein or in breccia. Geodes also differ from "nodules" in that a nodule is a mass of mineral matter that has accreted around the nodule nucleus. Both structures had the minerals contained within, deposited from groundwater or hydrothermal processes. Geodes commonly have a chalcedony (cryptocrystalline quartz) shell lined internally by various minerals, often as crystals, particularly calcite, pyrite, kaolinite, sphalerite, millerite, barite, celestite, dolomite, limonite, smithsonite, opal, chalcedony and macrocrystalline quartz, which is by far the most common and abundant mineral found in geodes. Geodes are found mostly in basaltic lavas and limestones. The Warsaw Formation in the Keokuk region near the area where Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois join contains abundant geodes.
Geodes can form in any cavity, but the term is usually reserved for more or less rounded formations in igneous and sedimentary rocks. They can form in gas bubbles in igneous rocks, such as vesicles in basaltic lavas, or as in the American Midwest, rounded cavities in sedimentary formations. After rock around the cavity hardens, dissolved silicates and/or carbonates are deposited on the inside surface. Over time, this slow feed of mineral constituents from groundwater or hydrothermal solutions allows crystals to form inside the hollow chamber. Bedrock containing geodes eventually weathers and decomposes, leaving them present at the surface if they are composed of resistant material such as quartz.
When dissected in half, visible bands corresponding to varied stages of precipitation may at times show patterns that reveal point/s of fluid entry into the cavity and/or varied colors corresponding to changes in chemistry.
Geode banding and coloration is the result of variable impurities. Iron oxides will impart rust hues to siliceous solutions. Most geodes contain clear quartz crystals, while others have purple amethyst crystals. Still others can have agate, chalcedony, or jasper banding or crystals such as calcite, dolomite, celestite, etc. There is no easy way of telling what the inside of a geode holds until it is cut open or broken apart. However, geodes from any one locality usually have a more restricted variety of interior mineralization.
Geodes and geode slices are sometimes dyed with artificial colors. Samples of geodes with unusual colors or highly unlikely formations have usually been synthetically altered.
In 2000 a team of geologists found a cave filled with giant gypsum crystals in an abandoned silver mine near Almería, Spain. The cavity, which measures 1.8 × 1.7 meters and is 8 meters in length, would be the largest geode ever found. The entrance of the cave has been blocked by five tons of rocks, and is under police protection (to prevent looters from entering). According to geological models, the cave was formed during the Messinian salinity crisis 6 million years ago, when the Mediterranean sea evaporated and left thick layers of salt sediments (evaporites). The cave is currently not accessible to tourists.
- Amos, Jonathan (12 June 2000). "Giant Crystal Cave Discovered". BBC. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- Rocks and Minerals, written by Fredrick H. Pough, ISBN 0-395-91096-X
- Gerard V. Middleton: Encyclopedia of Sediments and Sedimentary Rocks. Springer 2003, ISBN 978-1-4020-0872-6, p. 221 (restricted online copy, p. 221, at Google Books)
- Walter David Keller: The common rocks and minerals of Missouri. University of Missouri Press 1961, ISBN 978-0-8262-0585-8, S. 67 (restricted online copy, p. 67, at Google Books)
- Brian J. Witzke: Geodes: A Look at Iowa's State Rock Iowa Geological Survey
- Geodes Kentucky Geological Survey (University of Kentucky)
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