Infobox mineral
name = Gypsum
category = Mineral
boxwidth =
boxbgcolor =

caption = Desert rose, 10 cm long
formula = Calcium Sulfate CaSO4·2H2O
molweight =
color = White to grey, pinkish-red
habit = Massive, flat. Elongated and generally prismatic crystals
system = Monoclinic 2/m
twinning = common {110}
cleavage = good (66° and 114°)
fracture = Conchoidal, sometimes fibrous
mohs = 1.5-2
luster = Vitreous to silky, pearly, or waxy
refractive = α=1.520, β=1.523, γ=1.530
opticalprop = 2V = 58° +
birefringence =
pleochroism = None
streak = White
gravity = 2.31 - 2.33
melt =
fusibility = 3
diagnostic =
solubility = hot, dilute HCl
diaphaneity = transparent to translucent
other =
var1 = Satin Spar | var1text = Pearly, fibrous masses
var2 = Selenite | var2text = Transparent and bladed crystals
var3 = Alabaster | var3text = Fine-grained, slightly colored

Gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. [Cornelis Klein and Cornelius S. Hurlbut, Jr., 1985, "Manual of Mineralogy", John Wiley, 20th ed., pp. 352-353, ISBN 0-471-80580-7]

Crystal varieties

Gypsum occurs in nature as flattened and often twinned crystals and transparent cleavable masses called selenite. It may also occur silky and fibrous, in which case it is commonly called "satin spar". Finally it may also be granular or quite compact. In hand-sized samples, it can be anywhere from transparent to opaque. A very fine-grained white or lightly-tinted variety of gypsum is called alabaster, which is prized for ornamental work of various sorts. In arid areas, gypsum can occur in a flower-like form typically opaque with embedded sand grains called desert rose. The most visually striking variety, however, is the giant crystals from Naica Mine. Up to the size of 11m long, these megacrystals are among the largest crystals found in nature. A recent publication shows that these crystals are grown under constant temperature such that large crystals can grow slowly but steadily without excessive nucleation. [cite journal |author=Juan Manuel García-Ruiz, Roberto Villasuso, Carlos Ayora, Angels Canals, and Fermín Otálora |title=Formation of natural gypsum megacrystals in Naica, Mexico |journal=Geology |volume=35 |issue=4 |pages=327–330 |year=2007 |doi=10.1130/G23393A.1]


Gypsum is a common mineral, with thick and extensive evaporite beds in association with sedimentary rocks. Deposits are known to occur in strata from as early as the Permian age. [Barry F. Beck, Felicity M. Pearson, P.E. LaMoreaux & Associates, National Groundwater Association (U.S.), "Karst Geohazards: Engineering and Environmental Problems in Karst Terrane", 1995, Taylor & Francis, 581 pages ISBN:9054105356] Gypsum is deposited in lake and sea water, as well as in hot springs, from volcanic vapors, and sulfate solutions in veins. Hydrothermal anhydrite in veins is commonly hydrated to gypsum by groundwater in near surface exposures. It is often associated with the minerals halite and sulfur.

The word gypsum is derived from the aorist form of the Greek verb "μαγειρεύω", "to cook", referring to the burnt or calcined mineral. Because the gypsum from the quarries of the Montmartre district of Paris has long furnished burnt gypsum used for various purposes, this material has been called plaster of Paris. It is also used in foot creams, shampoos and many other hair products. It is water-soluble.

Because gypsum dissolves over time in water, gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand. However, the unique conditions of the White Sands National Monument in the US state of New Mexico have created a 710 km² (275 square mile) expanse of white gypsum sand, enough to supply the construction industry with drywall for 1,000 years.cite news | last = Abarr | first = James | title = Sea of Sand | pages = | publisher = The Albuquerque Journal | date = 1999-02-07 | url = | accessdate = 2007-01-27 ] Commercial exploitation of the area, strongly opposed by area residents, was permanently prevented in 1933 when president Herbert Hoover declared the gypsum dunes a protected national monument.

Commercial quantities of gypsum are found in Jamaica, Iran, Thailand, Spain (the main producer in Europe), Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in Canada,cite web|url= |title=Mines, Mills and Concentrators in Canada |accessdate=2007-01-27 |date=2005-10-24 |publisher=Natural Resources Canada ] and in New York, Michigan, Indianacite web|url= ] ,Texas(in the Palo Duro Canyon),Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada in the United States. There is also a large mine located at Plaster City, California in Imperial County, and in East Kutai, Kalimantan.

Vast crystals of gypsum, up to 10 metres in length have been found in the "Cueva de los Crystales" in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. [ [ NAICA, Cueva de los Cristales, Cave of the Crystals, in the Naica-Peñoles mine, cave of largest selenite (gypsum) crystals in Naica | La Venta Exploring Team ] ]

Uses of Gypsum

There are a large number of uses for gypsum throughout prehistory and history. Some of these uses are:
*Plaster ingredient.
*Fertilizer and soil conditioner. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Nova Scotia gypsum, often referred to as plaister, was a highly sought fertilizer for wheat fields in the United States.
*A Binder in Fast-Dry tennis court clay.
*Plaster of Paris (surgical splints; casting moulds; modeling).
*A wood substitute in the ancient world; for example, when wood became scarce due to deforestation on Bronze Age Crete, gypsum was employed in building construction at locations where wood was previously used. [ [ C. Michael Hogan, "Knossos fieldnotes", Modern Antiquarian (2007)] ]
*A tofu (soy bean curd) coagulant, making it ultimately a major source of dietary calcium, especially in Asian cultures which traditionally use few dairy products.
*Adding hardness to water used for homebrewing.
*Blackboard chalk.
*A component of Portland cement used to prevent flash setting of concrete.
*Soil/water potential monitoring (soil moisture tension)
*A medicinal agent in traditional Chinese medicine called Shi Gao.


External links

* [ WebMineral data]
* [ Mineral Data from Mindat]
* [ Mineral Galleries- Gypsum]
* [ U.S. and National Gypsum Co. mines, Shoals, Martin Co., Indiana, USA]

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  • Gypsum — Gyp sum (j[i^]p s[u^]m), n. [L. gypsum, Gr. gy psos; cf. Ar. jibs plaster, mortar, Per. jabs[imac]n lime.] (Min.) A mineral consisting of the hydrous sulphate of lime (calcium). When calcined, it forms plaster of Paris. {Selenite} is a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • GYPSUM — Graec. γυψος, quasi γῆ ἑψηθεῖσα, terra cocta, cognata calci res est, Plin. l. 36. c. 24. Plura eius genera, nam et e lapide coquitur, ut in Syria ac Thuriis: et e terra foditur, ut in Cypro ac Perrhpebis: e summa tellure et Tymphaicum est. Qui… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • gypsum — substance (hydrated calcium sulphate) used in making plaster, late 14c., from L. gypsum, from Gk. gypsos chalk, according to Klein, perhaps of Semitic origin (Cf. Arabic jibs, Hebrew gephes plaster ) …   Etymology dictionary

  • gypsum — [jip′səm] n. [ME < L < Gr gypsos, chalk, gypsum < Sem] a very soft, monoclinic mineral, CaSO4·2H2O, commonly found with other evaporites in sedimentary rock and used to make plaster of Paris and cement; hydrous calcium sulfate: see MOHS… …   English World dictionary

  • gypsum — ► NOUN ▪ a soft white or grey mineral used to make plaster of Paris and in the building industry. ORIGIN Latin, from Greek gupsos chalk …   English terms dictionary

  • gypsum — /jip seuhm/, n. a very common mineral, hydrated calcium sulfate, CaSO4·2H2O, occurring in crystals and in masses, soft enough to be scratched by the fingernail: used to make plaster of Paris, as an ornamental material, as a fertilizer, etc. [1640 …   Universalium

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