The mineral calcite is the major or sole constituent of most commercial
calcium carbonate products. These include natural limestone, marble, and
chalk, plus most precipitated calcium carbonate. Aragonite is a metastable
polymorph of calcite that typically has an acicular crystal shape. Natural
aragonite products are less common, but precipitated varieties are available.
Many calcium carbonate deposits are the remains of the shells and skeletons of ancient sea life. The color, purity, density, and crystal morphology depend upon the influence of waves and water currents before burial, and upon temperature, pressure, and tectonic activity after burial. The most common mineral impurities are quartz and clay. The most common substitutes for calcium are other divalent cations, such as magnesium, strontium, and barium, although the amount of substitution is usually no more than a few percent. The exception is magnesium, which can substantially replace calcium to form the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. Calcium carbonate rocks, a common constituent of the Earth’s surface, range from high-calcium limestones containing >95% calcite to dolostones containing 90% or more dolomite.
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