Abstract When a phenocryst and its lava matrix have been analysed for both major and trace elements, plots of partition coefficient (mineral/matrix) against ionic radius give a family of sub-parallel curves, one univalent, one divalent, etc. Onuma et al. (1968) demonstrated this with two analyses and concluded, from the shape of these curves, that trace element partition between phenocryst and groundmass is determined primarily by crystal structure of the phenocryst. In this study, over 50 such analyses, taken from the literature, have been plotted on modified Onuma diagrams, in order to analyse the constant and variable factors in the curves. It is demonstrated that these curves can provide important additional information in trace element studies by revealing, for example, the site or sites in a mineral which a given element is occupying, the valency state of the element and even, in some cases, the proportion of different valency states present.