Crystalline to amorphous transition and subsequent microstructural evolution in silicon induced by Ar+-ion implantation over a wide range of ion fluences (6×1013–1×1017 cm-2) have been investigated by spectroscopic ellipsometry. In the evaluation of the optical and microstructural properties of the damaged layer, the contribution of the surface overlayer to the measured dielectric spectra was separated by fitting a multilayer model with an effective medium approximation. The best fit to the dielectric spectra for disordered silicon could be obtained by taking our highest-fluence implanted (fluence=1×1017 ions/cm2) amorphous silicon (a-Si) data as reference data instead of a-Si data available in the handbook. The derivative spectra as a function of fluence show a distinct and sharp transition from the crystalline to amorphous phase. The threshold fluence for this transition is derived from fitting. Evaluation of standard sum rules and optical moments for imaginary part of the pseudodielectric function reveals no substantial change in various physical parameters below the transition indicating their insensitivity to point defects, while it shows a large change with fluence above the threshold for amorphization. The disorder induced changes in the effective dielectric constant, number of valence electrons per atom participating in optical transition, Penn gap energy, average bond length, coordination number, effective dispersion oscillator energy, an average strength of the interband optical transition with fluence is discussed on the basis of microstructural evolution and corresponding band structure modification. It is also shown that the dielectric functions of damaged silicon are well represented by a sum of six classical - Lorentz oscillators. With increasing fluences, each of the oscillator amplitude decreases and linewidth increases except for the 3.3 eV transition which shows increasing amplitude with fluence. These results are discussed in the context of short-range order/disorder and effective band gap reduction along with flattening of the bands with increasing fluence above the amorphization threshold. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.