What is Gabbro?

Gabbro is a coarse-grained, dark-colored, intrusive igneous rock. It is usually black or dark green in color and composed mainly of the minerals plagioclase and augite. It is the most abundant rock in the deep oceanic crust. Gabbro has a variety of uses in the construction industry. It is used for everything from crushed stone base materials at construction sites to polished stone counter tops and floor tiles.

Rock minerals chart

Igneous rock composition chart: A chart that illustrates the generalized mineral composition of igneous rocks. By studying this chart, you can see that gabbros and basalts are composed mainly of plagioclase feldspar, micas, amphiboles, and olivine.


What Minerals are in Gabbro?


Gabbro is composed mainly of calcium-rich plagioclase feldspar (usually labradorite or bytownite) and pyroxenes (usually augite). Minor amounts of olivine might also be present in the rock.
This mineral composition usually gives gabbro a black to very dark green color. A minor amount of light-colored mineral grains may also be present. Unlike many other igneous rocks, gabbro usually contains very little quartz.


Gabbros are equivalent in composition to basalts. The difference between the two rock types is their grain size. Basalts are extrusive igneous rocks that cool quickly and have fine-grained crystals. Gabbros are intrusive igneous rocks that cool slowly and have coarse-grained crystals.

At Divergent boundary: In the oceanic crust, basalt forms near the surface at a divergent boundary, but gabbro forms at depth from slow crystallization.


Gabbro in Oceanic Crust


It is often stated that Earth’s oceanic crust is made up of basalt. The word “basalt” is used because the rocks of the oceanic crust have a “basaltic” composition. However, only a thin surface veneer of oceanic crust is basalt. The deeper rocks of the oceanic crust are generally coarser-grained gabbro. Basalt occurs at the surface of the crust because the rocks there have cooled quickly. At greater depth the cooling rate is slower, and large crystals have time to develop.


Gabbro in Continental Crust


On the continents, gabbro can be found within thick lava flows of basaltic composition, where slow cooling allows large crystals to form. Gabbro will also be present in the deep plutons that form when magma chambers that feed basaltic eruptions crystallize.


Uses of Gabbro


Gabbro can be polished to a brilliant black luster. Brightly polished gabbro is used to make cemetery markers, kitchen counter tops, floor tiles, facing stone, and other dimension stone products. It is a highly desirable rock that stands up to weathering and wear.
In the dimension stone industry, gabbro is sold under the name “black granite.” Gabbro is also used to make a number of rough-cut products such as curbing, ashlars, paving stones, and other products.
The most common use of gabbro is as a crushed stone or aggregate. Crushed gabbro is used as a base material in construction projects, as a crushed stone for road construction, as railroad ballast, and anywhere that a durable crushed stone is needed as fill.

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