Lamprophyres (Greek Lampros, "bright", and the terminal part of the word "porphyry", meaning "rocks containing bright porphyritic crystals") are a group of rocks containing phenocrysts, usually of biotite and hornblende (with bright cleavage surfaces), often also of olivine and augite, but not of feldspar. They are thus distinguished from the porphyries and porphyrites in which the feldspar has crystallized in two generations. They are essentially dike rocks, occurring as dikes and thin sills, and are also found as marginal facies of plutonic intrusions.
They furnish a good example of the correlation that often exists between petrographical types and their mode of occurrence, showing the importance of physical conditions in determining the mineralogical and structural characteristics of rocks. They are usually dark in color, owing to the abundance of ferro-magnesian silicates, of relatively high specific gravity and liable to decomposition. For these reasons they have been defined as a melanocrate series (rich in the dark minerals); and they are often accompanied by a complementary leucocrate series (rich in the white minerals feldspar and quartz) such as aplites, porphyries and felsites. Both have been produced by differentiation of a parent magma, and if the two complementary sets of rocks could be mixed in the right proportions, it is presumed that a mass of similar chemical composition to the parent magma would be produced.
Both in the hand specimens and in microscopic slides of lamprophyric rocks biotite and hornblende are usually conspicuous. Though black by reflected light they are brown by transmitted light and highly pleochroic. In some cases they are yellow-brown, in other cases chestnut-brown and reddish brown; in the same rock the two minerals have strikingly similar color and pleochroism. Augite, when it occurs, is sometimes green, at other times purple. Feldspar is restricted to the ground mass; quartz occurs sometimes but is scarce. Although porphyritic structure is almost universal, it is sometimes not very marked. The large biotites and hornblendes are not sharply distinct from those of intermediate size, which in turn graduate into the small crystals of the same minerals in the ground mass. As a rule all the ingredients have rather perfect crystalline forms (except quartz), hence these rocks have been called panidiomorphic. In many lamprophyres the pale quartz and felspathic ingredients tend to occur in rounded spots, or ocelli, in which there has been progressive crystallization from the margins towards the center. These spots may consist of radiate or brush-like feldspars (with some mica and hornblende) or of quartz and feldspar. A central area of quartz or of analcite probably represents an original miarolitic cavity infilled at a later period.
There are two great groups of lamprophyres differing in composition while retaining the general features of the class. One of these accompanies intrusions of granite and diorite and includes the minettes, kersantites, vogesites and spessartites. The other is found in association with nepheline syenites, essexites and teschenites, and is exemplified by camptonites, monchiquites and alnoites. The complementary facies of the first group is the aplites, porphyrites and felsites; that of the second group includes bostonites, tinguaites and other rocks.
The granito-dioritic-lamprophyres (the first of these two groups) are found in many districts where granites and diorites occur, e.g. the Scottish Highlands and Southern Uplands, the Lake district, Ireland, the Vosges, Black Forest, Harz, etc. As a rule they do not proceed directly from the granite, but form separate dikes which may be later than, and consequently may cut, the granites and diorites. In other districts where granites are abundant no rocks of this class are known. It is rare to find only one member of the group present, but minettes, vogesites, kersantites, etc., all appear and there are usually transitional forms. For this reason these rock species must not be regarded as sharply distinct from one another. The group as a whole is a well-characterized one and shows few transitions to porphyries, porphyrites and other dike types; its subdivisions, however, tend to merge into one another and especially when they are weathered are hard to differentiate.
The presence or absence of the four dominant minerals, orthoclase, plagioclase, biotite and hornblende, determines the species. Minettes contain biotite and orthoclase; kersantites, biotite and plagioclase. Vogesites contain hornblende and orthoclase; spessartites, hornblende and plagioclase. Each variety of lamprophyre may and often does contain all four minerals but is named according to the two which preponderate. These rocks contain also iron oxides (usually titaniferous), apatite, sometimes sphene, augite, and olivine. The hornblende and biotite are brown or greenish-brown, and as a rule their crystals even when small are very perfect and give the micro-sections an easily recognizable character. Green hornblende occurs in some of these rocks. The augite builds eumorphic crystals of pale green color, often zonal and readily weathering. Olivine in the fresh state is rare; it forms rounded, corroded grains; in many cases it is decomposed to green or colorless hornblende in radiating nests (pilite). The plagioclase occurs as small rectangular crystals; orthoclase may have similar shapes or may be fibrous and grouped in sheaf-like aggregates that are narrow in the middle and spread out towards both ends. If quartz is present, it is the last product of crystallization and the only mineral devoid of idiomorphism; it fills up the spaces between the other ingredients of the rock. As all lamprophyres are prone to alteration by weathering a great abundance of secondary minerals is usually found in them; the principal are calcite and other carbonates, limonite, chlorite, quartz and kaolin.
Ocellar structure is common; the ocelli consist mainly of orthoclase and quartz, and may be a quarter-of-an-inch in diameter. Another feature of these rocks is the presence of large foreign crystals, or xenocrysts, of feldspar and of quartz. Their forms are rounded, indicating partial resorption by the solvent action of the lamprophyric magma; and the quartz may be surrounded by corrosion borders of minerals such as augite and hornblende produced where the magma is attacking the crystal. These crystals are of doubtful origin; they are often of considerable size and may be conspicuous in hand specimens of the rocks. It is supposed that they did not crystallize in the lamprophyre dike but in some way were caught up by it. Other enclosures, more certainly of foreign origin, are often seen, such as quartzite, schists, garnetiferous rocks, granite, etc. These may be baked and altered or in other cases partly dissolved. Cordierite may be formed either in the enclosure or in the lamprophyre. where it takes the shape of hexagonal prisms which in polarized light break up into six sectors, triangular in shape, diverging from the center of the crystal.
The second group of lamprophyric dike rocks (the camptonite, monchiquite, alnoite series) is much less common than those above described. As a rule they occur together, and there are transitions between the different sub-groups as in the granito-dioritic lamprophyres. In Sweden, Brazil, Portugal, Norway, the north of Scotland, Bohemia, Arkansas (US) and other places this assemblage of rock-types has been met with, always presenting nearly identical features. In most cases, though not in all, they have a close association with nepheline or leucite syenites and similar rocks rich in alkalies. This indicates a genetic affinity like that which exists between the granites and the minettes, etc., and further proof of this connection is furnished by the occasional occurrence in those lamprophyres of leucite, hauyne and other feldspathoid minerals.
The camptonites (called after Campton, New Hampshire) are dark brown, nearly black rocks often with large hornblende phenocrysts. Their essential minerals in thin section are hornblende of a strong reddish-brown color; augite purple, pleochroic and rich in titanium, olivine and plagioclase feldspar. They have the porphyritic and panidiomorphic structures described in the rocks of the previous group, and like them also have an ocellar character, often very conspicuous under the microscope. The accessory minerals are biotite, apatite, iron oxides and analcite. They decompose readily and arc then filled with carbonates. Many of these rocks prove on analysis to be exceedingly rich in titanium; they may contain 4 or 5% of titanium dioxide.
The monchiquites (called after the Serra de Monchique, Portugal) are fine-grained and devoid of feldspar. Their essential constituents are olivine and purplish augite. Brown hornblende, like that of the camptonites, occurs in many of them. An interstitial substance is present, which may sometimes be a brown glass, but at other times is colorless and is believed by some petrographers to be primary crystalline analcite. They would define the monchiquites as rocks consisting of olivine, augite and analcite; others regard the analcite as secondary, and consider the base as essentially glassy. Some monchiquites contain hauyne; while in others small leucites are found. Ocellar structure is occasionally present, though less marked than in the camptonites. A special group of monchiquites rich in deep brown biotite has been called fourchites (after the Fourche Mountains in Arkansas).
The alnoites (called after the island of Aln in Norway) are rare rocks found in Norway, Montreal and other parts of North America and in the north of Scotland. They contain olivine, augite, brown biotite and melilite. They are free from feldspar, and contain very low percentages of silica.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.