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Goethite Angleterre.jpg
Goethite, Restormel Royal Iron Mine, Cornwall, England.
Category Oxide minerals
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 04.FD.10
Color Yellowish to reddish to dark brown
Crystal system Orthorhombic 2/m2/m2/m
Cleavage Perfect {010}
Fracture Uneven to splintery
Mohs scale hardness 5 - 5.5
Luster Adamantine to dull
Streak Brown, brownish yellow to orange yellow
Specific gravity 3.3 - 4.3
Refractive index Opaque to sub-translucent
Fusibility Fusible at 5 - 5.5
Other characteristics Becomes magnetic in reducing flame
References [1][2][3][4]
Unusual specimen of Goethite replacing a gypsum stalactite; the center is hollow. From Santa Eulalia, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Goethite (FeO(OH)), (/ˈɡɜrtt/ GUR-tite) named after the German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), is an iron bearing oxide mineral found in soil and other low-temperature environments. Goethite has been well known since prehistoric times for its use as a pigment. Evidence has been found of its use in paint pigment samples taken from the caves of Lascaux in France. It was first described in 1806 for occurrences in the Hollertszug Mine, Dermbach, Herdorf, Siegerland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.[3]

In 2003, nanoparticulate authigenic goethite was shown to be the most common diagenetic iron oxyhydroxide in both marine and lake sediments.[5]


It is an iron oxyhydroxide. Goethite's hardness ranges from 5.0 to 5.5 on the Mohs Scale, and its specific gravity varies from 3.3 to 4.3. The mineral forms prismatic needle-like crystals, but is more typically massive.

Feroxyhyte and lepidocrocite are both polymorphs of the iron oxyhydroxide FeO(OH). Although they have the same chemical formula as goethite they each have different crystalline structures making them distinct minerals.


Its main modern use is as an iron ore, being referred to as brown iron ore. It does have some use as a clay earth pigment. Iron rich lateritic soils developed over serpentinite rocks in tropical climates are mined for their iron content as well as other metals.


Goethite often forms through the weathering of other iron-rich minerals, and thus is a common component of soils. The formation of goethite is marked from the state of change of Fe2+ to Fe3+, which allows for goethite to exist at surface conditions. Because of this state change, goethite is a commonly seen as a pseudomorph. As iron-bearing minerals are brought to the zone of oxidation within the soil, the iron turns from iron(II) to iron(III), however, the original shape of the parent mineral is maintained in this process. Examples of common goethite pseudomorphs are: goethite after pyrite, goethite after siderite, and goethite after marcasite, though any iron(II) bearing mineral could become a goethite pseudomorphs if proper conditions are met.It may also be precipitated by groundwater or in other sedimentary conditions, or form as a primary mineral in hydrothermal deposits. Goethite has also been found to be produced by the excreation processes of certain bacteria types.


Goethite is found all over the planet, usually in the form of concretions, stalactitic formations, oolites (a form consisting of tiny round grains cemented together), reniform (kidney shapes) or botryoidal (globular, like bunches of grapes) accumulations. It is also a very common pseudomorph. It is frequently encountered in the swampy areas at the head of spring waters ('bog iron'), on cave floors, and on the bottom of lakes and small creeks. The boxworks or gossan resulting from the oxidation of sulfide ore deposits is formed of goethite along with other iron oxides and quartz.

Significant deposits of goethite are found in England, Australia, Cuba, and Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee in the United States.

Deposits significant in location, if not in abundance, have been found in Gusev by NASA's Spirit rover, providing strong evidence for the presence of liquid water on the planet Mars in an earlier stage of its evolution.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis (1985). Manual of Mineralogy (20th ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0-471-80580-7. 
  2. ^ http://webmineral.com/data/Goethite.shtml Webmineral data
  3. ^ a b http://www.mindat.org/min-1719.html Mindat data with locations
  4. ^ http://www.galleries.com/minerals/oxides/goethite/goethite.htm Mineral galleries
  5. ^ van der Zee, C.; Roberts, D.; Rancourt, D. G.; Slomp, C. P. (2003). "Nanogoethite is the dominant reactive oxyhydroxide phase in lake and marine sediments". Geology 31 (11): 993–996. Bibcode:2003Geo....31..993V. doi:10.1130/G19924.1.