Cacoxenite: Formation, Properties, Types

Cacoxenite is an iron aluminum phosphate mineral with the chemical formula FeAlPO₄(OH)₅·H₂O. It forms feathery or radiating crystal clusters with a characteristic golden-yellow, reddish-brown, or earthy brown hue.

Cacoxenite was first described in 1825 for an occurrence in the Hrbek Mine, Bohemia, Czech Republic. It occurs as a secondary phase in oxidized magnetite and limonite deposits. It also occurs in novaculites and in iron and phosphorus rich sediments.

Often times, it forms as fuzzy brownish yellow, brown, yellow, or gold radiated tufts or strands. It may also appear as reddish orange or greenish yellow. The cacoxenite is occasionally referred to cacoxene or cacoxitite.

The name "Cacoxenite" comes from the Greek words "kakos" meaning "bad" and "xenos" meaning "guest" or "stranger." This name was originally given to the mineral due to its unusual and often unattractive appearance as inclusions within other gemstones. However, over time, the meaning has shifted to reflect the stone's powerful and transformative properties.

Cacoxenite - Mineral Information
Radial Cacoxenite Crystals. La Paloma Mine, Zarza la Mayor, Mancomunidad Rivera de Fresnedosa, Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. Photo: Rewitzer Christian.

Cacoxenite is a mineral that is commonly an inclusion in quartz, especially amethyst. The inclusions in amethyst often detract from the amethyst as the brown acicular needles dampen the pure purple color to a less desirable brownish hue. The inclusions of cacoxenite will certainly ruin any chance for the host stone to become a gemstone. This is not to say that some specimens of cacoxenite included quartz have no value, for indeed some are actually enhanced with interesting surreal landscaping effects.

Cacoxenite Formation

Cacoxenite is a secondary mineral, meaning it forms through the alteration of other minerals. Its primary source is lithiophilite, a lithium-manganese phosphate mineral found within pegmatites.

The transformation involves two key geochemical processes: oxidation and leaching.

Oxidation: Manganese ions (Mn²⁺) within the lithiophilite crystal lattice undergo conversion to manganese ions (Mn³⁺) by losing an electron. This change in oxidation state alters the mineral's chemical structure and ultimately its color.

Leaching: Simultaneously, lithium ions (Li⁺) are mobilized and transported away from the lithiophilite lattice by hydrothermal fluids, leaving behind vacancies within the crystal structure. This leaching process destabilizes the original mineral.


As oxidation and leaching progress, the altered lithiophilite gradually transforms into cacoxenite.

Vacancies created by lithium leaching are occupied by manganese ions (Mn³⁺), leading to the characteristic iron-aluminum phosphate composition of cacoxenite (Fe³⁺Al₂⁴(PO₄)₁⁷O₆(OH)₁₂·17(H₂O)).

This rearrangement alters the mineral's crystal structure, resulting in a loss of the original lithiophilite color and the emergence of the distinctive reddish-orange, greenish-yellow, or earthy brown hues of cacoxenite.


Cacoxenite crystals
Cacoxenite from Rio Monti Nieddu, Sarroch, Cagliari Province, Sardinia, Italy

What are the different types of Cacoxenite?

Fibrous Cacoxenite: The most common form, characterized by fine, elongated crystals arranged in a wispy or thread-like pattern within host minerals like quartz or amethyst.

Radial Cacoxenite: This variety exhibits radiating aggregates of acicular crystals, resembling a sunburst with golden or brown needles extending outwards from a central point.

Acicular Cacoxenite: Composed of slender, needle-like crystals, typically golden or brown, occurring as isolated inclusions or forming radiating clusters.

Super Seven: The most well-known type, featuring Cacoxenite inclusions within amethyst, often accompanied by other minerals like Clear Quartz, Lepidocrocite, Goethite, and Rutile.

Cacoxenite crystals inside a rock
Cacoxenite crystals inside a rock
From Leonie I Mine, Auerbach, Upper Palatinate, Bavaria, Germany

Properties of Cacoxenite

Chemical Composition: Fe³⁺²⁴AlO₆(PO₄)¹⁷(OH)¹² · 75H₂O (Iron(III) aluminum phosphate hydroxide hydrate)

Color: Yellow to brownish yellow, reddish orange, golden yellow, deep orange, green; yellow in transmitted light.

Luster: Vitreous (glassy) to resinous, sometimes silky on cleavage surfaces.

Crystal System: Hexagonal (Dipyramidal class)

Streak: Pale yellow to brownish yellow.

Hardness: 3 - 4 on the Mohs scale.

Cleavage: None distinct.

Crystal Form: Acicular (needle-like), prismatic, radial, stellate, massive.

Density: 2.2 - 2.6 g/cm³

Transparency: Translucent to opaque, depending on the specimen and impurities.

Fracture: Uneven, conchoidal.

Solubility: Insoluble in water and most common acids.

Magnetism: Not magnetic.

Fluorescence: Weak, yellow to orange under longwave ultraviolet light.

Pleochroism: Distinct, with shades of yellow, orange, and brown.

Refractive Index: Uniaxial (+), nω = 1.575 - 1.585, nε = 1.635 - 1.656.

Specific Gravity is approximately 2.3 (below average).

Associated Minerals include quartz, hematite, strengite, beraunite, rockbridgeite and limonite.

Notable Occurrences include Cornwall, England; Sweden; France; Hagendorf, Germany; Antwerp, New York; Pima County, Arizona; Indian Mountain, Alabama and Coon Creek Mine, Polk County, Arkansas, USA.

Best Field Indicators are crystal habit, color, associations, density and streak.

Occurrence: A common accessory mineral in oxidized magnetite and "limonite" iron ores; in Fe,Mn-bearing novaculites; a rare constituent of iron-rich sediments and soils.

Cacoxenite crystals

Cacoxenite is not a widely used gemstone, but it is sometimes collected by mineral enthusiasts. It is also said to have some metaphysical properties, such as the ability to promote spiritual growth and healing.

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