Itacolumite is a naturally occurring porous, yellow sandstone that is flexible when cut into thin strips. It occurs in great numbers at Itacolumi, in the southern portion of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is also found in Jhajjar, India; Georgia; and Stokes and McDowell Counties North Carolina, USA. It is the best and most widely known example of a flexible sandstone and is a source of diamonds found in the Minas Gerais area.
On the split faces of the slabs, scales of greenish mica are visible, but in other respects the rock seems to be remarkably pure. If a piece which is a foot or two long and half an inch thick is supported at its ends it will gradually bend by its own weight. If it is then turned over it will straighten and bend in the opposite direction. Flakes a millimetre or two thick can be bent between the fingers and are said to give out a creaking sound, but specimens showing this property form only a small part of the whole mass of the rock.
Cause of flexibility
Some discussion has taken place regarding the cause of the flexibility. At one time it was ascribed to the presence of thin scales of mica which were believed to permit a certain amount of motion between adjacent grains of quartz. More probably, however, it is due to the porous character of the rock together with the interlocking junctions between the sand grains. The porosity allows interstitial movement, while the hinge-like joints by which the particles are connected hold them together in spite of the displacement. These features are dependent to some extent on weathering, as the rocks contain perishable constituents which are removed and leave open cavities in their place, while at the same time additional silica may have been deposited on the quartz grains fitting their irregular surfaces more perfectly together. Most of the known flexible rocks are also fine-grained; in some cases they are said to lose their flexibility after being dried for some time, probably because of the hardening of some interstitial substance, but many specimens kept in a dry atmosphere for years retain this property in a high degree.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Itacolumite". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Video of flexible itacolumite sandstone. Retrieved 2014-02-04.