Small grains of magnetite occur in almost all igneous and metamorphic rocks. Magnetite is black or brownish-black with a metallic luster, has a Mohs hardness of 5–6 and leaves a black streak.
The chemical IUPAC name is iron(II,III) oxide and the common chemical name is ferrous-ferric oxide.
Lodestones were used as an early form of magnetic compass. Magnetite typically carries the dominant magnetic signature in rocks, and so it has been a critical tool in paleomagnetism, a science important in understanding plate tectonics and as historic data for magneto hydrodynamics and other scientific fields. The relationships between magnetite and other iron-rich oxide minerals such asilmenite, hematite, and ulvospinel have been much studied; the reactions between these minerals and oxygen influence how and when magnetite preserves a record of the Earth's magnetic field.
Magnetite has been very important in understanding the conditions under which rocks form. Magnetite reacts with oxygen to produce hematite, and the mineral pair forms a buffer that can control oxygen fugacity. Commonly, igneous rocks contain grains of two solid solutions, one of magnetite and ulvospinel and the other of ilmenite and hematite. Compositions of the mineral pairs are used to calculate how oxidizing was the magma (i.e., the oxygen fugacity of the magma): a range of oxidizing conditions are found in magmas and the oxidation state helps to determine how the magmas might evolve by fractional crystallization.
Magnetite also occurs in many sedimentary rocks, including banded iron formations. In many igneous rocks, magnetite-rich and ilmenite-rich grains occur that precipitated together in magma. Magnetite also is produced from peridotites and dunites byserpentinization.
The Curie temperature of magnetite is 858 K (585 °C; 1,085 °F).
- Magnetite is the first magnetic object in Venture.