Calcite

Calcite is one of the most common and widespread minerals. It is a principal component of most sedimentary carbonate rocks (limestone, chalk, travertine, etc.) but occurs in metamorphic (marble, calcite veins) and igneous rocks (carbonatite) also.

Calcite (CaCO3) usually forms anhedral (without well-developed crystal faces) grains in limestone and marble. In marble, crystals are usually larger but some limestones (grainstones) may be pretty coarse as well and are therefore sometimes erraneously called marble as well (mostly for marketing purposes). Calcite is also cementing mineral in clastic sediments and an important biomineral. Microorganisms with calcareous tests usually prefer aragonite (chemically also calcium carbonate) but as time goes by these aragonitic shells recrystallize to calcite.

Calcite may form as a direct chemical precipitate (travertine) or as a gangue mineral in veins but most of it is somehow connected to life. Calcite mineralization may be directly biologically controlled (growth of shells) but also biologically induced (blooms of drifting marine microorganisms that induce the crystallization of calcite crystals on their surface) which results in whitish tropical water and contributes to the growth of carbonate banks.

Calcite in metamorphic rocks is sometimes associated with calc-silicate minerals. These are silicate minerals that contain lots of calcite and are products of chemical reactions between carbonate rocks and hot silicate (magmatic) liquids. Such rocks are called skarns.

Calcite is not common mineral in igneous rocks but it may occur in alkali-rich (high Na- and K-content) rocks containing feldspathoids like nepheline or sodalite. Carbonatite is a rare and still somewhat mysterious igneous rock that is usually composed mostly of calcite.

Calcite is an important industrial mineral with many uses. It is a principal raw material in cement industry. Intense heating of calcite will drive off carbon dioxide and produce quicklime (CaO). Quicklime and hydrated lime can be used in many ways: as a mortar, flux in metallurgy, filler in paper, soil stabilization, sugar refining, wastewater treatment, and in dietary supplement pills because calcium is a major macromineral (note that the term “mineral” has a different meaning here, chemical element calcium is no mineral in geological sense because it is highly reactive and therefore does not occur alone).

Calcite is typically light-colored and large crystals have well-developed crystal faces. Width of sample is 12 cm.

Calcite crystal demonstrating typical rhombohedral shape. Width of sample is 5 cm.

Calcite crystals with graphite from Namibia. Width of sample is 9 cm.

Limestone is mostly composed of very small anhedral calcite crystals. Green spots are glauconite grains. The width of the glauconite limestone sample from Estonia is 13 cm.

Marble from Fauske, Norway. Width of sample is 7 cm.

A speleothem cut in half and polished to show the growth structures of this calcitic cave formation from Mallorca, Spain. Width of sample is 18 cm.

Calcite veins in a metamorphic rock slate from the Alps. Width of sample is 20 cm.

A metamorphic rock skarn consisting of blue calcite, green pyroxene, and orange garnet from Italy. Width of sample is 6 cm.

An igneous rock carbonatite consisting of white calcite and green apatite from Siilinjärvi, Finland. Width of sample is 11 cm.


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