A one-inch calcite rhomb that shows the double image refraction property
|Crystal symmetry||Trigonal 32/m|
|Unit cell||a = 4.9896(2) Å, c = 17.0610(11) Å; Z=6|
|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'|
|Mohs scalehardness||3 (defining mineral)|
|Luster||Vitreous to pearly on cleavage surfaces|
|Diaphaneity||Transparent to translucent|
|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|
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.
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 1.9 and 1.5, while the extraordinary refractive index varies between 1.6 and 1.4.
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. Ambient carbon dioxide, due to its acidity, has a slight solubilizing effect on calcite. 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 ofcaves. 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.
Calcite is a common constituent of sedimentary rocks, limestone in particular, much of which is formed from the shells of dead marine organisms. Approximately 10% of sedimentary rock is limestone.
Calcite is the primary mineral in metamorphic marble. It also occurs as a vein mineral in deposits from hot springs, and it occurs in caverns as stalactites andstalagmites.
Lublinite is a fibrous, efflorescent form of calcite.
Calcite may also be found in volcanic or mantle-derived rocks such as carbonatites, kimberlites, or rarely inperidotites.
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, some serpulids, mostbryozoa, 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 forms from a poorly ordered precursor (amorphous calcium carbonate, ACC). The crystallization process occurs in two stages; firstly, the ACC nanoparticles rapidly dehydrate and crystallize to form individual particles of vaterite; secondly, the vaterite transforms to calcite via a dissolution and reprecipitation mechanism with the reaction rate controlled by the surface area of calcite. The second stage of the reaction is approximately 10 times slower than the ﬁrst. However, the crystallization of calcite has been observed to be dependent on the starting pH and presence of Mg in solution. A neutral starting pH during mixing promotes the direct transformation of ACC into calcite. Conversely, when ACC forms in a solution that starts with a basic initial pH, the transformation to calcite occurs via metastable vaterite, which forms via a spherulitic growth mechanism. In a second stage this vaterite transforms to calcite via a surface-controlled dissolution and recrystallization mechanism. Mg has a noteworthy effect on both the stability of ACC and its transformation to crystalline CaCO3, resulting in the formation of calcite directly from ACC, as this ion unstabilizes the structure of vaterite.
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.