Gadolinite, sometimes also known as Ytterbite, is a silicate mineral that consists principally of the silicates of cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, yttrium, beryllium, and iron with the formula (Ce,La,Nd,Y)2FeBe2Si2O10. It is called gadolinite-(Ce) or gadolinite-(Y) depending on the prominence of the variable element composition (namely, Y if it has more yttrium, and Ce if it has more cerium). It may contain 35.48% yttria sub-group rare earths, 2.17% ceria earths, up to 11.6% BeO and traces of thorium. It is found in Sweden, Norway, and the USA (Texas and Colorado).
Gadolinite is fairly rare and typically occurs as well-formed crystals. It is nearly black in color and has a vitreous luster. Its hardness is between 6.5 and 7, and its specific gravity is between 4.0 and 4.7. It fractures in a conchoidal pattern. The mineral's streak is grayish-green. It is also pyrognomic, which means that it becomes incandescent at a relatively low temperature.
Name and discovery
Gadolinite was named in 1800 for Johan Gadolin, the Finnish mineralogist-chemist who first isolated an oxide of the rare earth element yttrium from the mineral in 1792. The rare earth gadolinium was also named for him. However, gadolinite does not contain more than trace amounts of gadolinium. When Gadolin analyzed this mineral, he missed an opportunity to discover a second element: what he thought was aluminium (alumina) was in fact an element that would not be officially discovered until 1798: beryllium (beryllia).
Gadolinite and euxenite are quite abundant and are future sources of yttrium sub group rare earths. At present, these elements are recovered from monazite concentrates (after recovery of ceria sub-group metals).