color photo of sphalerite sample

Hardness: 3.5 to 4

Sphalerite is the most important mineral of zinc ore. Pure sphalerite is nearly colorless, but it is commonly brown, yellow, black, or dark red because of impurities. It has a white to dark-brown streak, always lighter than the color of the specimen. As a rule the mineral crystals are shaped like triangular pyramids, with three sides and a base. Because it has good cleavage in six directions, sphalerite will break into 12-sided blocks. It has a brilliant resinous or almost metallic luster, and it can be scratched by a knife.

Read more about sphalerite in Rocks and Minerals of the Ozark Plateau.

small drawing of Kansas map with Cherokee County highlighted in red

The sample pictured above is from Cherokee County, Kansas


Buchanan, Rex C., Tolsted, Laura L., and Swineford, Ada, 1986, Kansas Rocks and Minerals: Kansas Geological Survey, Educational Series 2, 60 p.

Klein, Cornelis, 1993, Manual of Mineralogy (after James D. Dana), 21st Edition: New York, Wiley, 681 p.

Unless noted otherwise, illustrations by Jennifer Sims, Kansas Geological Survey; photographs by John Charlton, Kansas Geological Survey; text by Liz Brosius, Kansas Geological Survey.

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