Horse spleen ferritin (HoSF) reconstituted with small iron cores ranging in size from 8 to 500 iron atoms was studied by magnetic susceptibility and pH measurements to determine when the added Fe3+ begins to aggregate and form antiferromagnetically coupled clusters and also to determine the hydrolytic state of the iron at low iron loading. The Evans NMR magnetic susceptibility measurements showed that at iron loadings as low as 8 Fe3+/HoSF, at least half of the added iron atoms were involved in antiferromagnetic exchange interactions and the other half were present as isolated iron atoms with S = 5/2. As the core size increased to about 24 iron atoms, the antiferromagnetic exchange interactions among the iron atoms increased until reaching the limiting value of 3.8 Bohr magnetons per iron atom, the value present in holo HoSF. HoSF containing eight or more Fe3+ to which eight Fe2+ were added showed that the Fe2+ ions were at sites remote from the Fe3+ and that the resulting HoSF consisted of individual, noninteracting Fe2+ and the partially aggregated Fe3+. pH measurements for core reduction showed that Fe(OH)3 was initially present at all iron loadings but that in the absence of iron chelators the reduced iron core is partially hydrolyzed. Proton induced x-ray emission spectroscopy showed that Cl- is transported into the iron core during reduction, forming a stable chlorohydroxy Fe(II) mineral phase.