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Tetrahedrite - Black Pine mine, Granite Co., Montana, USA.jpg
Tetrahedrite crystal with traces of quartz (in middle) and micro mimetite, specimen size 3.5 × 2.5 × 2.5 cm
CategorySulfosalt mineral
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification2.GB.05
Crystal systemCubic
Crystal classHextetrahedral (43m)
H-M symbol: (4 3m)
Space groupI43m
Unit cella = 10.39(16) Å; Z = 2
ColorSteel gray to iron-gray
Crystal habitGroups of tetrahedral crystals; massive, coarse to fine compact granular
TwinningContact and penetration twins on {111}
FractureUneven to subconchoidal
TenacitySomewhat brittle
Mohs scale hardness3+12 – 4
LusterMetallic, commonly splendent
StreakBlack, brown to dark red
DiaphaneityOpaque, except in very thin fragments
Specific gravity4.97
Optical propertiesIsotropic
Refractive indexn greater than 2.72

Tetrahedrite is a copper antimony sulfosalt mineral with formula: (Cu,Fe)
. It is the antimony endmember of the continuous solid solution series with arsenic-bearing tennantite. Pure endmembers of the series are seldom if ever seen in nature. Of the two, the antimony rich phase is more common. Other elements also substitute in the structure, most notably iron and zinc, along with less common silver, mercury and lead. Bismuth also substitutes for the antimony site and bismuthian tetrahedrite or annivite is a recognized variety. The related, silver dominant, mineral species freibergite, although rare, is notable in that it can contain up to 18% silver.


Tetrahedrite gets its name from the distinctive tetrahedron shaped cubic crystals. The mineral usually occurs in massive form, it is a steel gray to black metallic mineral with Mohs hardness of 3.5 to 4 and specific gravity of 4.6 to 5.2.

Tetrahedrite occurs in low to moderate temperature hydrothermal veins and in some contact metamorphic deposits. It is a minor ore of copper and associated metals. It was first described in 1845 for occurrences in Freiberg, Saxony, Germany. Historically, it was an important ore of copper, the formula Cu3SbS3 corresponding with 57.5% of the metal; it was also worked as an ore of silver, of which element it sometimes contains as much as 30%.[3]


The now-defunct company Alphabet Energy announced plans to offer a thermoelectric device based on tetrahedrite to turn heat into electricity. The company claimed that other thermoelectrics typically produce about 2.5 percent efficiency, while tetrahedrite could achieve 5 to 10 percent.[4]

Other thermoelectrics are either scarce, expensive ($24–146/kg vs $4 for tetrahedrite) and/or toxic. Working with a natural material also reduces manufacturing costs.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  2. ^ "Tetrahedrite: Tetrahedrite mineral information and data". Mindat.org. 2014-07-12. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSpencer, Leonard James (1911). "Tetrahedrite". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 670–671.
  4. ^ a b Jacobs, Suzanne (2014-07-12). "Cheaper Thermoelectric Materials | MIT Technology Review". Technologyreview.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17.

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