The Mineral Apatite

apatite picture

apatite picture

Apatite is a common complex calcium phosphate mineral, generally referring to Bromapatite, Chlorapatite, Fluorapatite and Hydroxylapatite (a major component of bone mineral and tooth enamel). Apatite is the generic name used for many phosphates as well as the name of a phosphate mineral group. As a source of phosphorous, the primary use of Apatite is in the manufacture of fertilizers. Many agricultural crops in the USA depend on the Apatite enriched fertilizers for its nutritional supplement qualities.

Chemical Formula

Ca5 (PO4) 3 (F, OH, Cl) Calcium Phosphate with Fluorine

apatite picture

Derivation of Name

Apatite derives its name from the Greek, meaning “misleading” or “to deceive”. Apatite is easily confused with Beryl and Milarite minerals.


Common occurrences of the mineral Apatite are in hydrothermal veins, Pegmatites or ore enriched Alluvium.


Only occasionally is Apatite used for gemstones. The crystals of Apatite are hexagonal, short to long transparent prisms, with an imperfect scaly columnar structure, conchoidal fracture and indistinct cleavage. Apatite material is brittle yet soft, highly sensitive to heat and will fade when exposed to Ultra Violet light. The broad range of Apatite colors is due to natural irradiation. Because of its wide range of colors, Apatite is easily mistaken for Topaz and many other gemstones. Transparent Apatite stones with clean color are faceted and cabochon cut. Different names owing to the characteristic of the Apatite gems are Cat’s-eye from the chatoyant specimens, Asparagus Stone from the transparent green stones and Moroxite from the blue stones. The average size of the Apatite gemstone is 4.76 carats.


apatite picture

apatite picture

The main sources for Apatite gems are Brazil, Burma and Mexico. Additional sources include the United States, Canada, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, South Africa, India, Norway, Mozambique, and Madagascar.


The non-radioactive property of Apatite makes it a preferable mineral ore compared to other more traditional rare earth ores in separating the fractions of an ore in mine tailing (material residue left over following the separation of the useful, valuable fraction from the unprofitable fraction in an ore) and it poses no environmental hazard. Some phosphate producing Apatite used for tobacco crops in Florida, USA, does contain radon, lead 210, uranium, polonium 210 and radium. Apatite can lay claim to lofty lunar status. The Apollo program astronauts brought back moon rocks from their lunar mission that contained trace amounts of Apatite.


Colorless, Blue, Brown, Brownish Green, Green, Orange, Pale to Light Blue, Pink, Purple, Violet, Violet Blue, Yellow and Yellow Green

Density 3.1 - 3.2 g/cm3

Hardness 5

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