Gabbro: Uses & Facts

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  • 0:01 What Is Gabbro?
  • 0:48 Gabbro Formation
  • 1:27 Gabbro Uses
  • 2:17 More Facts About Gabbro
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

Learn about gabbro, a dark colored, mafic igneous rock that is the intrusive equivalent to extrusive basalt. It has uses as a building and art material.

What Is Gabbro?

Have you ever seen shiny black stone countertops or a black gravestone? Most people, including some manufacturers, will incorrectly label this black rock as being granite, when it is, in fact, gabbro. Gabbro actually has many uses, including building materials and as a source of metal, such as chromium and nickel.

Gabbro is an intrusive igneous rock that forms from the result of slow cooling of magma inside of a volcano. It is very similar to the fast cooling, extrusive basalt, as they both are formed from mafic magmas that contain dark colored minerals such as pyroxene, plagioclase, amphibole and olivine. We'll go over what exactly all this means in more detail now.

Gabbro Formation

Gabbro forms in an intrusive setting, from the cooling and crystallization of magma underneath Earth's surface. Because it has a long time to cool, its crystals grow much larger than the crystals in its extrusive equivalent, basalt, do. Gabbros are commonly found underground in the vicinity of volcanoes, as well as in oceanic crust near mid-ocean ridge spreading centers. It contains a variety of dark colored minerals that are classified by geologists as being mafic. These minerals include pyroxene, plagioclase, amphibole, and olivine. They can also contain small amounts of iron-titanium oxides.

Gabbro Uses

Much like basalt, gabbro has many uses due to its durability. The rock commonly referred to as black granite in the building trades is actually almost always gabbro. It is frequently used for countertop and flooring materials, gravestones, and exterior and interior wall materials. It has also seen some use as a garden paving stone. Because of its resistance to most weathering, gabbro can be used as a material for lake and ocean break walls, or the retaining walls used to help prevent coastal erosion and flooding.

Lastly, gabbros are often mined for their metallic minerals, including chromium, nickel, and copper sulfides, as well as occasionally cobalt, gold, silver and platinum. The amount of these minerals is globally variable depending on the individual minerals that formed each gabbro deposit.

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