U − Pb geochronology of epidote by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) as a tool for dating hydrothermal-vein formation

Peverelli, Veronica; Ewing, Tanya; Rubatto, Daniela; Wille, Martin; Berger, Alfons; Villa, Igor Maria; Lanari, Pierre; Pettke, Thomas; Herwegh, Marco (2021). U − Pb geochronology of epidote by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) as a tool for dating hydrothermal-vein formation. Geochronology, 3(1), pp. 123-147. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/gchron-3-123-2021

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Epidote – here defined as minerals belonging to the epidote–clinozoisite solid solution – is a low-μ (μ=238U/204Pb) mineral occurring in a variety of geological environments and participating in many metamorphic reactions that is stable throughout a wide range of pressure–temperature conditions. Despite containing fair amounts of U, its use as a U−Pb geochronometer has been hindered by the commonly high contents of initial Pb, with isotopic compositions that cannot be assumed a priori. We present a U−Pb geochronology of hydrothermal-vein epidote spanning a wide range of Pb (3.9–190 µg g−1), Th (0.01–38 µg g−1), and U (2.6–530 µg g−1) contents and with μ values between 7 and 510 from the Albula area (eastern Swiss Alps), from the Grimsel area (central Swiss Alps), and from the Heyuan fault (Guangdong Province, China). The investigated epidote samples show appreciable fractions of initial Pb contents (f206=0.7–1.0) – i.e., relative to radiogenic Pb – that vary to different extents. A protocol has been developed for in situ U−Pb dating of epidote by spot-analysis laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) with a magmatic allanite as the primary reference material. The suitability of the protocol and the reliability of the measured isotopic ratios have been ascertained by independent measurements of 238U/206Pb and 207Pb/206Pb ratios, respectively, with quadrupole and multicollector ICP-MS applied to epidote micro-separates digested and diluted in acids. For age calculation, we used the Tera–Wasserburg (207Pb/206Pb versus 238U/206Pb) diagram, which does not require corrections for initial Pb and provides the initial 207Pb/206Pb ratio. Petrographic and microstructural data indicate that the calculated ages date the crystallization of vein epidote from a hydrothermal fluid and that the U−Pb system was not reset to younger ages by later events. Vein epidote from the Albula area formed in the Paleocene (62.7±3.0 Ma) and is related to Alpine greenschist-facies metamorphism. The Miocene (19.2±4.3 and 16.9±3.7 Ma) epidote veins from the Grimsel area formed during the Handegg deformation phase (22–17 Ma) of the Alpine evolution of the Aar Massif. Identical initial 207Pb/206Pb ratios reveal homogeneity in Pb isotopic compositions of the fluid across ca. 100 m. Vein epidote from the Heyuan fault is Cretaceous in age ( 107.2±8.9 Ma) and formed during the early movements of the fault. In situ U−Pb analyses of epidote returned reliable ages of otherwise undatable epidote–quartz veins. The Tera–Wasserburg approach has proven pivotal for in situ U−Pb dating of epidote, and the decisive aspect for low age uncertainties is the variability in intra-sample initial Pb fractions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Other Institutions > Emeriti, Faculty of Science
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Tectonics

UniBE Contributor:

Peverelli, Veronica, Ewing, Tanya, Rubatto, Daniela, Wille, Martin Hermann, Berger, Alfons, Villa, Igor Maria, Lanari, Pierre, Pettke, Thomas, Herwegh, Marco


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Copernicus Publications




Alfons Berger

Date Deposited:

01 Apr 2021 12:23

Last Modified:

06 May 2023 16:53

Publisher DOI:






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