1. Education

Peridotite

Pictures of Igneous Rock Types

By

Peridotite is the plutonic rock beneath the Earth's crust, in the upper part of the mantle. It is named for peridot, the gemstone name of olivine. (more below)
Typical of the mantle
Photo (c) 2008 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)
Peridotite (per-RID-a-tite) is very low in silicon and high in iron and magnesium, a combination called ultramafic. It doesn't have enough silicon to make the minerals feldspar or quartz, only mafic minerals like olivine and pyroxene. These dark and heavy minerals make peridotite much denser than most rocks.

Where lithospheric plates pull apart, along the midocean ridges, the release of pressure on the peridotite mantle allows it to partially melt. That melted portion, richer in silicon and aluminum, rises to the surface as basalt.

This peridotite boulder is partially altered to serpentine minerals, but it has visible grains of pyroxene sparkling in it as well as serpentine veins. Most peridotite is metamorphosed into serpentinite during the processes of plate tectonics, but sometimes it survives to appear in subduction-zone rocks like the rocks of Shell Beach, California. See more examples of peridotite in the Peridotite Gallery.

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Geology

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.