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Orthoclase (endmember formula KAlSi3O8) 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. The gem known as moonstone (see below) is largely composed of orthoclase.

Formation and subtypes[]

Orthoclase is a common constituent of most granites and other felsic igneous rocks and often forms huge crystals and masses in pegmatite.

Typically, the pure potassium endmember of orthoclase forms a solid solution with albite, the sodium endmember (NaAlSi3O8), of plagioclase. While slowly cooling within the earth, sodium-rich albite lamellae form by exsolution, enriching the remaining orthoclase with potassium. The resulting intergrowth of the two feldspars is called perthite.

The higher-temperature polymorph of orthoclase is sanidine. Sanidine is common in rapidly cooled volcanic rocks such as obsidian and felsic pyroclastic rocks, and is notably found in trachytes of the Drachenfels, Germany. The lower-temperature polymorph of orthoclase is microcline. Adularia is found in low temperature hydrothermal deposits, in the Adula Alps of Switzerland. The largest documented single crystal of orthoclase was found in Ural mountains, Russia. It measured ~10×10×0.4 m3 and weighed ~100 tons.

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