Phonolite is a rare igneous
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

, volcanic (extrusive) rock
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 of intermediate (between felsic
The word "felsic" is a term used in geology to refer to silicate minerals, magma, and rocks which are enriched in the lighter elements such as silicon, oxygen, aluminium, sodium, and potassium....

 and mafic
Mafic is an adjective describing a silicate mineral or rock that is rich in magnesium and iron; the term is a portmanteau of the words "magnesium" and "ferric". Most mafic minerals are dark in color and the relative density is greater than 3. Common rock-forming mafic minerals include olivine,...

) composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic
Porphyritic is an adjective used in geology, specifically for igneous rocks, for a rock that has a distinct difference in the size of the crystals, with at least one group of crystals obviously larger than another group...


The name phonolite comes from the Greek meaning (more or less) "sounding stone" because of the metallic sound it produces if an unfractured plate is hit, hence the English name clinkstone.


Phonolite is unusual in that it forms from a highly silica undersaturated melt by low degrees of partial melting (less than 10%) of highly aluminous lower crustal rocks such as tonalite
Tonalite is an igneous, plutonic rock, of felsic composition, with phaneritic texture. Feldspar is present as plagioclase with 10% or less alkali feldspar. Quartz is present as more than 20% of the rock. Amphiboles and pyroxenes are common accessory minerals.In older references tonalite is...

, monzonite
Monzonite is an intermediate igneous intrusive rock composed of approximately equal amounts of sodic to intermediate plagioclase and orthoclase feldspars with minor amounts of hornblende, biotite and other minerals...

 and metamorphic rocks. Melting of such rocks to a very low degree promotes the liberation of aluminium, potassium, sodium and calcium via melting of feldspar
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals which make up as much as 60% of the Earth's crust....

, with some involvement of mafic minerals. The melt formed is silica undersaturated (ie; quartz is absent from the melts or solidified rocks), with feldspathoid
The feldspathoids are a group of tectosilicate minerals which resemble feldspars but have a different structure and much lower silica content. They occur in rare and unusual types of igneous rocks....

 species dominating over feldspar
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals which make up as much as 60% of the Earth's crust....

 species in the melt.

Phonolite occurrences are associated with a few geological processes and tectonic events, which can lead to the melting of appropriate precursor lithologies. These include intracontinental hotspot
Hotspot (geology)
The places known as hotspots or hot spots in geology are volcanic regions thought to be fed by underlying mantle that is anomalously hot compared with the mantle elsewhere. They may be on, near to, or far from tectonic plate boundaries. There are two hypotheses to explain them...

 volcanism, such as may form above mantle plume
Mantle plume
A mantle plume is a hypothetical thermal diapir of abnormally hot rock that nucleates at the core-mantle boundary and rises through the Earth's mantle. Such plumes were invoked in 1971 to explain volcanic regions that were not thought to be explicable by the then-new theory of plate tectonics. Some...

s covered by thick continental crust
Continental crust
The continental crust is the layer of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks which form the continents and the areas of shallow seabed close to their shores, known as continental shelves. This layer is sometimes called sial due to more felsic, or granitic, bulk composition, which lies in...

. A-type granites and alkaline igneous provinces are usually associated with phonolites. Phonolites may also be produced by low degree partial melting of underplates of granitic material in collisional orogenic belts
Orogeny refers to forces and events leading to a severe structural deformation of the Earth's crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates. Response to such engagement results in the formation of long tracts of highly deformed rock called orogens or orogenic belts...



Phonolites, as they are products of low degree partial melts, are silica undersaturated, and have feldspathoids in their normative mineralogy
Normative mineralogy
Normative mineralogy is a geochemical calculation of the whole rock geochemistry of a rock sample that estimates the idealised mineralogy of a rock according to the principles of geochemistry....


Mineral assemblages in phonolite occurrences are usually abundant feldspathoid
The feldspathoids are a group of tectosilicate minerals which resemble feldspars but have a different structure and much lower silica content. They occur in rare and unusual types of igneous rocks....

s (nepheline
Nepheline, also called nephelite , is a feldspathoid: a silica-undersaturated aluminosilicate, Na3KAl4Si4O16, that occurs in intrusive and volcanic rocks with low silica, and in their associated pegmatites...

, sodalite
Sodalite is a rich royal blue mineral widely enjoyed as an ornamental gemstone. Although massive sodalite samples are opaque, crystals are usually transparent to translucent...

, hauyne
Hauyne, haüyne or hauynite was first described in 1807 from samples discovered in Vesuvian lavas in Monte Somma, Italy, and was named in 1807 by Brunn-Neergard for the French crystallographer René Just Haüy . It is a tectosilicate mineral with sulfate, with endmember formula Na3CaO12. As much as...

, leucite
Leucite is a rock-forming mineral composed of potassium and aluminium tectosilicate K[AlSi2O6]. Crystals have the form of cubic icositetrahedra but, as first observed by Sir David Brewster in 1821, they are not optically isotropic, and are therefore pseudo-cubic. Goniometric measurements made by...

 and analcite
Analcime or analcite is a white, grey, or colourless tectosilicate mineral. Analcime consists of hydrated sodium aluminium silicate in cubic crystalline form. Its chemical formula is NaAlSi2O6·H2O. Minor amounts of potassium and calcium substitute for sodium...

) and alkali feldspar
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals which make up as much as 60% of the Earth's crust....

Sanidine is the high temperature form of potassium feldspar 4O8. Sanidine most typically occurs in felsic volcanic rocks such as obsidian, rhyolite and trachyte. Sanidine crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system. Orthoclase is a monoclinic polymorph stable at lower temperatures...

, anorthoclase
The mineral anorthoclase is a crystalline solid solution in the alkali feldspar series, in which the sodium-aluminium silicate member exists in larger proportion. It typically consists of between 10 and 36 percent of KAlSi3O8 and between 64 and 90 percent of NaAlSi3O8....

 or orthoclase
Orthoclase is an important tectosilicate mineral which forms igneous rock. The name is from the Greek for "straight fracture," because its two cleavage planes are at right angles to each other. Alternate names are alkali feldspar and potassium feldspar...

), and rare sodic plagioclase
Plagioclase is an important series of tectosilicate minerals within the feldspar family. Rather than referring to a particular mineral with a specific chemical composition, plagioclase is a solid solution series, more properly known as the plagioclase feldspar series...

. Biotite
Biotite is a common phyllosilicate mineral within the mica group, with the approximate chemical formula . More generally, it refers to the dark mica series, primarily a solid-solution series between the iron-endmember annite, and the magnesium-endmember phlogopite; more aluminous endmembers...

, sodium rich amphibole
Amphibole is the name of an important group of generally dark-colored rock-forming inosilicate minerals, composed of double chain tetrahedra, linked at the vertices and generally containing ions of iron and/or magnesium in their structures.-Mineralogy:...

s and pyroxene
The pyroxenes are a group of important rock-forming inosilicate minerals found in many igneous and metamorphic rocks. They share a common structure consisting of single chains of silica tetrahedra and they crystallize in the monoclinic and orthorhombic systems...

s along with iron rich olivine
The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula 2SiO4. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface....

 are common minor minerals. Accessory phases include titanite
Titanite, or sphene , is a calcium titanium nesosilicate mineral, CaTiSiO5. Trace impurities of iron and aluminium are typically present...

, apatite
Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, usually referring to hydroxylapatite, fluorapatite, chlorapatite and bromapatite, named for high concentrations of OH−, F−, Cl− or Br− ions, respectively, in the crystal...

, corundum
Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide with traces of iron, titanium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is one of the naturally clear transparent materials, but can have different colors when impurities are present. Transparent specimens are used as gems, called ruby if red...

. zircon
Zircon is a mineral belonging to the group of nesosilicates. Its chemical name is zirconium silicate and its corresponding chemical formula is ZrSiO4. A common empirical formula showing some of the range of substitution in zircon is 1–x4x–y...

, magnetite
Magnetite is a ferrimagnetic mineral with chemical formula Fe3O4, one of several iron oxides and a member of the spinel group. The chemical IUPAC name is iron oxide and the common chemical name is ferrous-ferric oxide. The formula for magnetite may also be written as FeO·Fe2O3, which is one part...

 and ilmenite
Ilmenite is a weakly magnetic titanium-iron oxide mineral which is iron-black or steel-gray. It is a crystalline iron titanium oxide . It crystallizes in the trigonal system, and it has the same crystal structure as corundum and hematite....

. Phonolites are silica under-saturated, as illustrated by the position of phonolite in the TAS classification
TAS classification
The TAS classification can be used to assign names to many common types of volcanic rocks based upon the relationships between the combined alkali content and the silica content. These chemical parameters are useful, because the relative proportions of alkalis and silica play an important role in...

 and QAPF diagram
QAPF diagram
A QAPF diagram is a double triangle diagram which is used to classify igneous rocks based on mineralogic composition. The acronym, QAPF, stands for "Quartz, Alkali feldspar, Plagioclase, Feldspathoid ". These are the mineral groups used for classification in QAPF diagram...


Phonolite is a fine-grained equivalent of nepheline syenite
Nepheline syenite
Nephelene syenite is a holocrystalline plutonic rock that consists largely of nepheline and alkali feldspar. The rocks are mostly pale colored, grey or pink, and in general appearance they are not unlike granites, but dark green varieties are also known...

, and the genesis of such magmas is discussed in the treatment of that rock type.


Nepheline syenites and phonolites occur widely distributed throughout the world in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, the Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

, the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

,the Transvaal
Transvaal Province
Transvaal Province was a province of the Union of South Africa from 1910 to 1961, and of its successor, the Republic of South Africa, from 1961 until the end of apartheid in 1994 when a new constitution subdivided it.-History:...

 region, and Magnet Cove igneous complex
Magnet Cove igneous complex
The Magnet Cove igneous complex is a small alkalic ring complex lying to the west of the town of Magnet Cove in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. It and the adjacent town are so named due to the existence of magnetite and the terrain being a cove, a basin-shaped valley.The complex is of Mesozoic age,...

 of Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, as well as on oceanic islands (eg; Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...


Nepheline-normative rocks occur in close association with the Bushveld Igneous Complex
Bushveld igneous complex
The Bushveld Igneous Complex is a large layered igneous intrusion within the Earth's crust which has been tilted and eroded and now outcrops around what appears to be the edge of a great geological basin, the Transvaal Basin. Located in South Africa, the BIC contains some of the richest ore...

, possibly formed from partial melting of the wall rocks adjacent to that large ultramafic layered intrusion.


  • Devil's Tower
    Devils Tower National Monument
    Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion or laccolith located in the Black Hills near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River...

    , a striking example of columnar jointed phonolite.
  • Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Hoodoo Mountain
    Hoodoo Mountain
    Hoodoo Mountain is a potentially active flat-topped stratovolcano in the Stikine Country of northwestern British Columbia, Canada, located northeast of Wrangell, Alaska on the north side of the lower Iskut River and east of its junction with the Stikine River...

    , northwestern British Columbia
    British Columbia
    British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

    , Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

  • Jebel Nefusa, Libya
    Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

  • Teide
    Mount Teide , is a volcano on Tenerife, Canary Islands. Its summit is the highest point in Spain, the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic, and it is the third highest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor, after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea located in...

    , a stratovolcano
    A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions...

     on the island of Tenerife
    Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands, it is also the most populated island of Spain, with a land area of 2,034.38 km² and 906,854 inhabitants, 43% of the total population of the Canary Islands. About five million tourists visit Tenerife each year, the...

  • Mont Gerbier de Jonc
    Mont Gerbier de Jonc
    Mont Gerbier de Jonc is a mountain located in the Massif Central in France. It rises to an altitude of 1,551 m , and at its base contains three springs that are the source of the Loire, France's longest river. It is the second most-visited site in the département of Ardèche, after the Ardèche Gorges....

     South East France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Economic importance

Phonolites can be of interest as dimension stone
Dimension stone
Dimension stone is natural stone or rock that has been selected and fabricated to specific sizes or shapes. Color, texture and pattern, and surface finish of the stone are also normal requirements...

 or as aggregate for gravels.

Rarely, economically mineralised phonolite-nepheline syenite alkaline complexes can be associated with rare earth
Rare earth element
As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium...

 mineralisation, uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 mineralisation and phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

s, such as at Phalaborwa, South Africa.

Phonolite tuff
Tuff is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered...

 was used as a source of flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 for adze heads and such by prehistoric man from Hohentwiel
Hohentwiel is an extinct volcano in the Hegau region of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. About 20 miles from Lake Constance, it lies in the German city of Singen....

 and Hegau
The Hegau is a formerly volcanic landscape in southern Germany extending around the industrial city of Singen , between Lake Constance in the east, the Rhine River in the south, the Danube River in the north and the Randen—as the southwestern mountains of the Swabian Alb are called—in the west.The...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...


See also

  • Normative mineralogy
    Normative mineralogy
    Normative mineralogy is a geochemical calculation of the whole rock geochemistry of a rock sample that estimates the idealised mineralogy of a rock according to the principles of geochemistry....

  • Fractional crystallisation
    Fractional crystallization (geology)
    Fractional crystallization is one of the most important geochemical and physical processes operating within the Earth's crust and mantle. Fractional crystallization is the removal and segregation from a melt of mineral precipitates; except in special cases, removal of the crystals changes the...

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