X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a powerful technique for the study of crystalline materials. The technique of Rietveld refinement now enables the amounts of different phases in anhydrous cementitious materials to be determined to a good degree of precision. This paper describes the extension of this technique to a pilot study of the hydration of a typical Portland cement. To validate this XRD-Rietveld analysis technique, its results were compared with independent measures of the same materials by the analysis of backscattered electron images (BSE/IA) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA). In addition, the internal consistency of the measurements was studied by comparing the XRD estimates of the amounts of hydrates formed with the amounts expected to form from the XRD estimates of the amounts of anhydrous materials reacted. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.