1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Galena

GALENA, an important ore of lead, consisting of lead sulphide (PbS). The mineral was mentioned by Pliny under this name, and it is sometimes now known as lead-glance (Ger. Bleiglanz). It crystallizes in the cubic system, and well-developed crystals are of common occurrence; the usual form is the cube or the cubo-octahedron (fig.). An important character, and one by which the mineral may always be recognized, is the perfect cubical cleavage, on which the lustre is brilliant and metallic. The colour of the mineral and of its streak is lead-grey; it is opaque; the hardness is 21/2 and the specific gravity 7.5. Twinned crystals are not common, but the presence of polysynthetic twinning is sometimes shown by fine striations running diagonally or obliquely across the cleavage surfaces. Large masses with a coarse or fine granular structure are of common occurrence; the fractured surfaces of such masses present a spangled appearance owing to the numerous bright cleavages.

The formula PbS corresponds with lead 86.6 and sulphur 13.4%. The mineral nearly always contains a small amount of silver, and sometimes antimony, arsenic, copper, gold, selenium, &c. Argentiferous galena is an important source of silver; this metal is present in amounts rarely exceeding 1%, and often less than 0.03% (equivalent to 103/4 ounces per ton). Since argentite (Ag2S) is isomorphous with galena, it is probable that the silver isomorphously replaces lead, but it is to be noted that native silver has been detected as an enclosure in galena.

Galena is of wide distribution, and occurs usually in metalliferous veins traversing crystalline rocks, clay-slates and limestones, and also as pockets in limestones. It is often associated with blende and pyrites, and with calcite, fluorspar, quartz, barytes, chalybite and pearlspar as gangue minerals; in the upper oxidized parts of the deposits, cerussite and anglesite occur as alteration products. The mineral has occasionally been observed as a recent formation replacing organic matter, such as wood; and it is sometimes found in beds of coal. As small concretionary nodules, it occurs disseminated through sandstone at Kommern in the Eifel. In the lead-mining districts of Derbyshire and the north of England the ore occurs as veins and flats in the Carboniferous Limestone series, whilst in Cornwall the veins traverse clay-slates. In the Upper Mississippi lead region of Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin the ore fills large cavities or chambers in limestone.

Galena is met with at all places where lead is mined; of localities which have yielded finely crystallized specimens the following may be selected for mention: Derbyshire, Alston in Cumberland, Laxey in the Isle of Man (where crystals measuring almost a foot across have been found), Neudorf in the Harz, Rossie in New York and Joplin in Missouri. Good crystals have also been obtained as a furnace product.

Coarsely grained galena is used for glazing pottery, and is then known as “potters’ ore” or alquifoux.

The galena group includes several other cubic minerals, such as argentite (q.v.). Mention may also be made here of clausthalite (lead selenide, PbSe) and altaite (lead telluride, PbTe), which, with their lead-grey colour and perfect cubic cleavage, closely resemble galena in appearance; these species are named after the localities at which they were originally found, namely, Klausthal in the Harz and the Altai mountains in Asiatic Russia. Altaite is of interest as being one of the tellurides found associated with gold.  (L. J. S.)