Cassiterite is a tin oxide mineral, SnO2. It is generally opaque, but is translucent in thin crystals. Its luster and multiple crystal faces produce a desirable gem. Cassiterite is the chief ore of tin today.
Most sources of cassiterite today are found in alluvial or placer deposits containing the resistant weathered grains. The best source of primary cassiterite is the tin mines of Bolivia, where it is found in hydrothermal veins. Cassiterite is a widespread minor constituent of igneous rocks. The Bolivia veins and the old exhausted workings of Cornwall, England, are concentrated in high temperature quartz veins and pegmatites associated with granitic intrusives. The veins commonly contain tourmaline, topaz, fluorite, apatite, wolframite, molybdenite, and arsenopyrite. The current major tin production comes from placer or alluvial deposits in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Russia.
Crystal twinning is common in cassiterite and most aggregate specimens show crystal twins. The typical twin is bent at a near-60-degree angle, forming an “Elbow Twin”. Botryoidal or reniform cassiterite is called wood tin.
Cassiterite is also used as a gemstone and collector specimens when quality crystals can be found.
The name derives from the Greek kassiteros for “tin” – or – from the Phoenician word Cassiterid referring to the islands of Ireland and Britain, the ancient sources of tin.