Geology of Isola Elba

Road map of Isola Elba
Geological map of Isola Elba
Pegmatite vein inside the granodiorite (Grotta d'Oggi area)
The pegmatite veins can be 1-3 cm up to 1 meter in size.

  The structure of Isola Elba is quite complex though the island is not so large (around 210 kmq.) and it can be divided in 5 parts from the geological point of view that in the last millions of years moved for the tectonics so that to be overlapped or tightly connected one with the other.
  The first zone includes the area of Punta Calamita and all the coast up to Porto Azzurro and Terra Nera. This part is greatly composed by metamorphic shist, quartz and carbonatic rocks (such as dolomia).
  The second zone includes only the area of Terra Nera and Rio Marina and the area inbetween the gulf of Portoferraio and Stella gulf (east of Lacona area). This area is mainly formed by various kinds of schists, marbles, quartzites, and carbonatic rocks.
 The third zone is located north-east of Isola Elba and includes the area of Cavo up to Terra Nera. This area is mainly formed by carbonatic rocks, dolomia, schists.
  The fourth zone is the largest and includes all the east and central part of Isola Elba, including the south area of Cala Vita, the area inbetween Portoferraio and Capo Stella and the whole area around Monte Capanne. This area is mainly composed by serpentine, gabbros, basalt (typical pillows), carbonatic rocks and schists.
  The fifth zone is formed by the west and central part of the island, including the area inbetween Portoferraio, Marina di Campo and Monte Capanne.
  These five zones are perfectly and tightly linked one with the others due to the tectonic movements. During these last few millions of years several fractures permitted to fused lavic rocks to reach the surface, creating the oldest granitic rocks of this area, and later to the inner part of Monte Capanne. During the following millions of years erosions and tectonic movements  eliminated the coverage of this granitic parts of the island. This event permitted to unhide the granitic soul of Monte Capanne, exactly what we can see nowadays.
  The granitic part of Monte Capanne is the specific issue of interest of the present CD, mainly of the minerals that these granitic rocks contain. These granitic rocks born more or less in the same period when the Appennini mountains were formed, all along a time interval that is between miocene and pliocene up to quaternario, when the vulcanic activity was real intense. Due to the underground vulcanic activity the granitic soul of Monte Capanne was created. This mountain is located in the central part of Isola Elba and is 1000 meters high. The granitic rock that forms Monte Capanne is called granodiorite, a sort of intermediate product between granite and diorite, due this to a different balance of the main components orthoclase and plagioclase. Other components of this granodiorite are quartz, mica and all the minerals that are usually of interest for the collectors (tourmaline, beryl). Most of the fractures of this granodiorite has been filled by other lavic materials, forming vugs of white color, rich of tourmalines and most of the pegmatite minerals.
  All the area that is around Monte Capanne is composed by various kinds of clays, serpentine, carbonates. When Monte Capanne born the heat of the magmatic material that was reaching the surface induced a lot of metamorphic activity creating new minerals such as diopside, garnets,  vesuviana, dipiro, humite (found in the area of Cavoli), meionite, wollastonite. 
   Monte Capanne is a mountain mostly composed by granodiorite. This rock is now evident and visible thank to the activity of erosion. Pegmatite bodies of vein-like form are located only in the area of Monte Capanne and are mainly composed by quartz, plagioclase, feldspar, and mica biotite, with also the presence of additional minerals such as apatite, zircon, titanite, tourmaline, hilmenite. Other minerals are clorite, calcite and several metamorphic minerals (Poli 1989, Bussy 1993). The most credited theory says that these pegmatite bodies and veins were formed around 6-7 milions years ago when a great amount of magma coming from the inner part of our planet reached the surface passing inside the fractures of the earth croast (Keller & Pialli 1990, Ferrara & Tonarini 1985). The interesting fact is that though these pegmatite veins are very common all around Monte Capanne, only those located in a very defined and restricted area formed cavities and geodes. These last veins are from 1-3 cm to 1-2 m thick and up to 15-20 m long  (Orlandi e Pezzotta, 1996). The area is the one close to the small villages of San Piero and Sant’Ilario .
  The paegmatites of this area are characterized by the presence of the typical minerals of granite such as  quartz, orthoclase (feldspar),  plagioclase and mica (Orlandi & Pezzotta, 1996). Their formation is related to the cooling of the magma poor of the constituents of the granites such as magnesium, calcium, iron and that during the cooling and crystallization produced large amount of water. These kind of magma come from the deepest part of the croast and passing inside the fractures to reach the surface of the croast gave origin to the conditions creating the mineralizations of the pegmatites. At first (1-3 km below the surface) the minerals relatively heavier than the magma (poor of silicates, rich in iron, magnesium, calcium) were organized and crystallized. This permitted the creation of a magma more rich in silicates than what it was at the begining. When temperature decreased, the crystallization process became faster and made the magma became more dense, not permitting any more the separation of minerals according to their weight. The crystals did not separate one from the others, the magmatic fluid became richer of the other elements, and more poor of magnesium, calcium and iron. This magma could move further towards the surface, depositing other crystals up to the moment when it was exausted. From this final crystallizarion all the pegmatite minerals took origin (Orlandi e Pezzotta, 1996). The colors of the tourmalines depend from what elements are present in this magma, the richer it is the colorfull are the tourmalines. The black tourmaline (schorl) is typical of the most poor pegmatite in terms of mineral elements (Jollif 1986, Orlandi e Pezzotta, 1996).
  Specific changes took place when there was the cooling of the magma, especially in the external parts of it where idrothermal events took place. This happened mainly in the area of  San Piero and Sant'Ilario where vugs and pockets were formed due to this, surrounded by the granodiorite. These veins show an external part, formed by a more rough material (aplite) that became better and composed by thinner material in the inner part (pegmatite), especially close to the geodes or pockets. It is in these areas of the pegmatites that most of the elements of the magma gave origin to crystals such as beryl, lepidolite, petalite, polluce, rosterite, tourmaline, apatite, topaz. 

  The granodiorite is relatively corrupted while most of the aplites/pegmatites veins are frequently corrupted. These modifications are due to the idrothermal changes. Most of the tiny zeolites that can be found are related to this phenomenon (chabasite, stilbite). Also the color of tourmaline can depend from this: the black tourmalines formed in a first moment, then the colored tourmalined formed in this second idrothermal phase.
Minerals of the aplitic-pegmatitic phase - These minerals are relatively common in the areas of Fonte del Prete, Speranza, Grotta d'Oggi, associated with quartz, albite and feldspar (orthoclase). The most common are beryl, tourmaline, lepidolite, spessartite garnet, pollucite (or polluce), petalite (previously named castore or castorite), apatite, zircon, topaz, cassiterite, microlite, ambligonite. The most abundant minerals that are the matrix for all the others are quartz and feldspar. Toumaline has been described as appearing with at least 40 different kind of crystal shapes and colors.  A special mention for beryl: the blue one is known as aquamarine, the pink one is called morganite and the rare tabular one (colorless or light blue) is called rosterite.
Minerals of the idrothermal phase - These minerals formed long after the magma cooled, so they crystallized long after the aplitic-pegmatitic phase, or during the last part of the cooling of the magma. The hot fluids that came from the underground acted on the pegmatite rocks and on their minerals. Quartz and tourmalines were not affected or where just little bit hetched. Lepidolite changed its color from pink/red to velvet and then white. The feldspar (orthoclase) was transformed in clay-like material or in zeolites. In fact this is the phase during which all zeolites formed, such as chabasite, heulandite, natrolite, stilbite, epistilbite, dachiardite, laumontite.


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