|Crystal system||Cubic with a tetragonal supercell|
|Crystal class||Gyroidal (432) |
(same H-M symbol)
|Space group||P4132, P4332|
|Unit cell||a = 8.33 Å; Z = 8 or a = 8.35 Å c = 24.99 Å; Z = 8 for tetragonal supercell|
|Color||Brown, bluish black; brown to yellow in transmitted light; white to bluish gray in reflected light.|
|Crystal habit||Rarely as minute octahedral crystals, or acicular overgrowths; commonly as coatings on or replacements of magnetite; massive.|
|Mohs scale hardness||5|
|Diaphaneity||Opaque, transparent in thin fragments|
|Specific gravity||4.860 (calculated)|
|Other characteristics||Strongly magnetic|
Maghemite can be considered as an Fe(II)-deficient magnetite with formula  where represents a vacancy, A indicates tetrahedral and B octahedral positioning.
Maghemite (spelt downunder as maghaemite) forms by weathering or low-temperature oxidation of spinels containing iron(II) such as magnetite or titanomagnetite. Maghemite can also form through dehydration and transformation of certain iron oxyhydroxide minerals, such as lepidocrocite and ferrihydrite. It occurs as widespread brown or yellow pigment in terrestrial sediments and soils. It is associated with magnetite, ilmenite, anatase, pyrite, marcasite, lepidocrocite and goethite. It is known to also form in areas that have been subjected to bushfires (particularly in the Leonora area of Western Australia) magnetising iron minerals.
Maghemite was named in 1927 for an occurrence at the Iron Mountain mine, northwest of Redding, Shasta County, California. The name alludes to somewhat intermediate character between MAGnetite and HEMatite. It can appear blue with a grey shade, white, or brown. It has isometric crystals. Maghemite is formed by the topotactic oxidation of magnetite.
There is experimental and theoretical evidence that Fe(III) cations and vacancies tend to be ordered in the octahedral sites, in a way that maximizes the homogeneity of the distribution and therefore minimizes the electrostatic energy of the crystal.
Maghemite exhibits ferrimagnetic ordering with a high Néel temperature (~950 K), which together with its low cost and chemical stability led to its wide application as a magnetic pigment in electronic recording media since the 1940s.