calcite [key], very widely distributed mineral, commonly white or colorless, but appearing in a great variety of colors owing to impurities. Chemically it is calcium carbonate, CaCO3, but it frequently contains manganese, iron, or magnesium in place of the calcium. It crystallizes in the hexagonal system, its crystals being characterized by highly perfect cleavage. Calcite also occurs in a number of massive forms, in which it may be coarsely to finely granular (as in marble), compact (as in limestone), powdery (as in chalk), or fibrous. One crystalline form, called dogtooth spar because of its dogtooth appearance, exhibits faces of perfect scalene triangles. Another form, satin spar, is finely fibrous and has a satin luster. Iceland spar is clear, transparent calcite. Other important forms of the mineral are limestone, marble, chalk, marl, stalactite and stalagmite formations, travertine, and Oriental alabaster. Millions of tons of calcite, in the form of limestone and marble, are mined annually. Besides its use as a building stone, it is the raw material for quicklime and cement, and is used extensively as a flux in smelting and as a soil conditioner.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Mineralogy and Crystallography