A one-inch Calcite Rhomb that shows the Double image refraction property.
General Category Carbonate mineral Chemical formula CaCO3 Strunz classification 05.AB.05 Crystal symmetry Trigonal 32/m Unit cell a = 4.9896(2) Å, c = 17.061(11) Å; Z=6 Identification Color Colorless or white, also gray, yellow, green, Crystal habit Crystalline, granular, stalactitic, concretionary, massive, rhombohedral. Crystal system Trigonal hexagonal scalenohedral (32/m), Space Group (R3 2/c) Twinning Common by four twin laws Cleavage Perfect on  three directions with angle of 74° 55'  Fracture Conchoidal Tenacity Brittle Mohs scale hardness 3 (defining mineral) Luster Vitreous to pearly on cleavage surfaces Streak White Diaphaneity Transparent to translucent Specific gravity 2.71 Optical properties Uniaxial (-) Refractive index nω = 1.640 – 1.660 nε = 1.486 Birefringence δ = 0.154 – 0.174 Solubility Soluble in dilute acids Other characteristics May fluoresce red, blue, yellow, and other colors under either SW and LW UV; phosphorescent References 
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.
Calcite crystals are trigonal-rhombohedral, though actual calcite rhombohedra are rare as natural crystals. However, they show a remarkable variety of habits including acute to obtuse rhombohedra, tabular forms, prisms, or various scalenohedra. Calcite exhibits several twinning types adding to the variety of observed forms. It may occur as fibrous, granular, lamellar, or compact. Cleavage is usually in three directions parallel to the rhombohedron form. Its fracture is conchoidal, but difficult to obtain.
It has a defining Mohs hardness of 3, a specific gravity of 2.71, and its luster is vitreous in crystallized varieties. Color is white or none, though shades of gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, or even black can occur when the mineral is charged with impurities.
Calcite is transparent to opaque and may occasionally show phosphorescence or fluorescence. A transparent variety called Iceland spar is used for optical purposes. Acute scalenohedral crystals are sometimes referred to as "dogtooth spar" while the rhombohedral form is sometimes referred to as "nailhead spar".
Single calcite crystals display an optical property called birefringence (double refraction). This strong birefringence causes objects viewed through a clear piece of calcite to appear doubled. The birefringent effect (using calcite) was first described by the Danish scientist Rasmus Bartholin in 1669. At a wavelength of ~590 nm calcite has ordinary and extraordinary refractive indices of 1.658 and 1.486, respectively. Between 190 and 1700 nm, the ordinary refractive index varies roughly between 1.6 and 1.4, while the extraordinary refractive index varies between 1.9 and 1.5.
Calcite, like most carbonates, will dissolve with most forms of acid. Calcite can be either dissolved by groundwater or precipitated by groundwater, depending on several factors including the water temperature, pH, and dissolved ion concentrations. Although calcite is fairly insoluble in cold water, acidity can cause dissolution of calcite and release of carbon dioxide gas. Calcite exhibits an unusual characteristic called retrograde solubility in which it becomes less soluble in water as the temperature increases. When conditions are right for precipitation, calcite forms mineral coatings that cement the existing rock grains together or it can fill fractures. When conditions are right for dissolution, the removal of calcite can dramatically increase the porosity and permeability of the rock, and if it continues for a long period of time may result in the formation of caves. On a landscape scale, continued dissolution of calcium carbonate-rich rocks can lead to the expansion and eventual collapse of cave systems, resulting in various forms of karst topography.
Use and applications
High-grade optical calcite was used in World War II for gun sights, specifically in bomb sights and anti-aircraft weaponry.
Calcite is often the primary constituent of the shells of marine organisms, e.g., plankton (such as coccoliths and planktic foraminifera), the hard parts of red algae, some sponges, brachiopods, echinoderms, most bryozoa, and parts of the shells of some bivalves (such as oysters and rudists). Calcite is found in spectacular form in the Snowy River Cave of New Mexico as mentioned above, where microorganisms are credited with natural formations. Trilobites, which are now extinct, had unique compound eyes. They used clear calcite crystals to form the lenses of their eyes.
Calcite in Earth history
Calcite seas existed in Earth history when the primary inorganic precipitate of calcium carbonate in marine waters was low-magnesium calcite (lmc), as opposed to the aragonite and high-magnesium calcite (hmc) precipitated today. Calcite seas alternated with aragonite seas over the Phanerozoic, being most prominent in the Ordovician and Jurassic. Lineages evolved to use whichever morph of calcium carbonate was favourable in the ocean at the time they became mineralised, and retained this mineralogy for the remainder of their evolutionary history. Petrographic evidence for these calcite sea conditions consists of calcitic ooids, lmc cements, hardgrounds, and rapid early seafloor aragonite dissolution. The evolution of marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells may have been affected by the calcite and aragonite sea cycle.
Thin section view of calcite crystals inside a recrystallized bivalve shell in a biopelsparite.
Reddish rhombohedral calcite crystals from China. Its red color is due to the presence of iron.
- Iceland Spar
- Ikaite, CaCO3·6H2O
- List of minerals
- Manganoan Calcite, (Ca,Mn)CO3
- Monohydrocalcite, CaCO3·H2O
- Ocean acidification
- Ulexite aka "TV rock", another mineral with an optical property often illustrated in the same way.
- Yule Marble
- ^ Klein, Cornelis and Cornelius S. Hurlbut, Jr., Manual of Mineralogy, Wiley, 20th, 1985, p. 329 ISBN 0-471-80580-7
- ^ Mineral Data Publishers
- ^ Calciate at Mindat
- ^ Calcite at Webmineral
- ^ S.Yoshioka and Y.Ktiano. "Transformation of aragonite to calcite through heating". DTA -TG study. Geochemical Journal Vol.19. http://www.terrapub.co.jp/journals/GJ/pdf/1904/19040245.PDF. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- ^ Elert, Glenn. "Refraction". The Physics Hypertextbook. http://hypertextbook.com/physics/waves/refraction/.
- ^ Thompson, D.W. et al. (1998). "Determination of optical anisotropy in calcite from ultraviolet to mid-infrared by generalized ellipsometry". Thin Solid Films 313–314 (1-2): 341–346. Bibcode 1998TSF...313..341T. doi:10.1016/S0040-6090(97)00843-2.
- ^ "Borrego's calcite mine trail holds desert wonders". http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/dec/05/borregos-calcite-mine-trail-holds-desert-wonders/. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- ^ P. C. Rickwood (1981). "The largest crystals". American Mineralogist 66: 885–907. http://www.minsocam.org/ammin/AM66/AM66_885.pdf.
- ^ "The giant crystal project site". http://giantcrystals.strahlen.org/europe/helgustadir.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- ^ Lublinite at Mindat
- ^ Porter, S. M. (2007). "Seawater Chemistry and Early Carbonate Biomineralization". Science 316 (5829): 1302. Bibcode 2007Sci...316.1302P. doi:10.1126/science.1137284. PMID 17540895.
- ^ Palmer, Timothy; Wilson, Mark (2004). "Calcite precipitation and dissolution of biogenic aragonite in shallow Ordovician calcite seas". Lethaia 37 (4): 417. doi:10.1080/00241160410002135.
- ^ Harper, E.M.; Palmer, T.J.; Alphey, J.R. (1997). "Evolutionary response by bivalves to changing Phanerozoic sea-water chemistry". Geological Magazine 134: 403–407. doi:10.1017/S0016756897007061.
- Schmittner Karl-Erich and Giresse Pierre, 1999. "Micro-environmental controls on biomineralization: superficial processes of apatite and calcite precipitation in Quaternary soils", Roussillon, France. Sedimentology 46/3: 463–476.
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calcite — [ kalsit ] n. f. • 1867; all. Calcit (1845) ♦ Minér. Carbonate naturel de calcium, cristallisé (CaCO3). ⇒ calcaire, spath (d Islande). ● calcite nom féminin (allemand Calcit, du latin calx, calcis, chaux) Carbonate naturel de calcium cristallisé … Encyclopédie Universelle
Calcite — Cal cite (k[a^]l s[imac]t), n. [L. calx, calcis, lime.] (Min.) Calcium carbonate, or carbonate of lime. It is rhombohedral in its crystallization, and thus distinguished from aragonite. It includes common limestone, chalk, and marble. Called also … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
calcite — (n.) crystalling calcium carbonate, 1849, from Ger. Calcit, coined by Austrian mineralogist Wilhelm Karl von Hardinger (1795 1871), from L. calx (gen. calcis) lime + mineral suffix ITE (Cf. ite) (2) (Ger. it) … Etymology dictionary
calcite — s. f. [Química] Espécie de calcário ou carboneto natural. ♦ Grafia no Brasil: calcita … Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa
calcite — ► NOUN ▪ a white or colourless mineral consisting of calcium carbonate. ORIGIN German Calcit … English terms dictionary
calcite — [kal′sīt΄] n. [< L calx (see CALCIUM) + ITE1] a soft, rhombohedral form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, found in marble, limestone, and chalk: see MOHS SCALE … English World dictionary
Calcite — Pour les articles homonymes, voir CaCO3. calcite Catégorie V : carbonates et nitrates … Wikipédia en Français
calcite — calcitic /kal sit ik/, adj. /kal suyt/, n. one of the commonest minerals, calcium carbonate, CaCO3, found in a great variety of crystalline forms: a major constituent of limestone, marble, and chalk; calc spar. [1840 50; CALC + ITE1] * * * Most… … Universalium
calcite — 1. The commoner, more stable, mineral form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3. It is the dominant component of all limestones and, due to its dissolution and reprecipitation by natural waters at normal temperatures, it is also the dominant mineral of … Lexicon of Cave and Karst Terminology
calcite — /ˈkælsaɪt / (say kalsuyt) noun one of the commonest minerals, calcium carbonate, CaCO3, occurring in a great variety of crystalline forms; calcspar. Limestone, marble, and chalk consist largely of calcite, and seashells are largely composed of it … Australian English dictionary