Calcite and Aragonite

Calcite and Aragonite 7 amazing difference you must know

Calcite and Aragonite are two fascinating minerals that belong to the carbonate mineral group. Gemstones possess distinct chemical and physical properties that have been essential to Earth’s history and geology. In this article, we will delve into the world of Calcite and Aragonite, exploring their unique characteristics, formation processes, and various applications.

What is Calcite?

Calcite (calcium carbonate) is one of the most abundant and widespread minerals on Earth, appearing as part of several rocks such as marble, limestone, and chalk. Calcite can form multiple crystal structures including one called a trigonal system.

What is Calcite?
Figure 01: What is Calcite?

Calcite is distinguished by its vitreous luster and transparency, coming in colors like white, gray, and yellow. Its composition makes it suitable for fracture into planes at angles up to 90 degrees for easy cutting or splitting along parallel planes.

Calcite can form in various geological environments but is most frequently found in hydrothermal, metamorphic, and sedimentary settings. Hydrothermal veins often feature calcite as do marine organisms like corals, mollusks, and foraminiferas containing it as does coral itself.

Calcite displays strong birefringence properties, meaning it has the capacity to split light waves into different wavelengths when passing through it, creating double refraction. This makes calcite suitable for optical and polarizing uses.

Calcite is an extremely useful mineral with multiple industrial uses. Due to its abundance, calcite is highly valued. Cement, lime and fluxes production requires it for their composition while paper production, paint application and plastic molding all use this mineral too. Glass manufacturing and nutritional supplement production use it too as ingredients while in some instances attractive colors make calcite suitable as jewelry gems when having such qualities as attractive transparency or colors.

What is Aragonite?

Aragonite, like calcite, is composed of calcium carbonate. Calcite is another popular crystalline form of this compound mineral. Aragonite’s orthorhombic crystallization differs significantly from calcite’s trigonal system of crystallization.

What is Aragonite?
Figure 02: What is Aragonite?

Aragonite may be less abundant than its cousin calcite in nature but still finds widespread distribution worldwide. It can be found in low temperature hydrothermal veils, volcanic rocks and serpentine cavities as well as marine organisms like corals and mollusks; additionally it plays an integral part in many sedimentary rocks’ formation, evolution and later erosion such as limestone or some types of marmor formation.

Aragonite has an intriguing crystal structure which shapes its physical properties. In comparison to calcite, which exhibits strong birefringence, aragonite has two refractive indexes which lie very closely together and thus has lower birefringence properties than it.

Aragonite is widely revered for its breathtaking crystal formations. Ranging in colors such as white, gray and yellow aragonite can boast intricate and delicate crystal formations which makes them valuable collectable pieces that often serve as decorative accents.

Aragonite is much less common than calcite and has less industrial applications; however, some industries such as concrete production use aragonite while it serves as a gem material. Aragonite also makes an excellent substrate material for marine aquariums since it helps maintain stable water conditions and offers natural environments to some marine organisms.

Aragonite and calcite both belong to the carbonate mineral family; however their chemical and physical properties vary slightly, leading to various uses and natural occurrences.

Differences between Calcite and Aragonite

Calcite and Aragonite, while both composed of calcium carbohydrate (CaCO3) minerals, possess distinct crystal structures and physical characteristics which set them apart.

Calcite has some key differences versus Aragonite that distinguish it:

  1. Crystal Structure:
    • Calcite: Crystallizes in the trigonal crystal system, forming rhombohedral-shaped crystals with angles close to 90 degrees between its cleavage planes.
    • Aragonite: Crystallizes in the orthorhombic crystal system, forming elongated prismatic crystals.
  2. Birefringence:
    • Calcite: Exhibits strong birefringence, meaning it can split light into two rays, leading to double refraction.
    • Aragonite: Shows weak birefringence, with two refractive indices that are very close to each other, resulting in lower birefringence compared to calcite.
  3. Cleavage:
    • Calcite: Displays perfect rhombohedral cleavage, meaning it can be easily broken along its cleavage planes.
    • Aragonite: Shows distinct orthorhombic cleavage, but it is not as well-developed as the cleavage in calcite.
  4. Occurrence:
    • Calcite: More abundant and widespread in nature. It is a major component of various rocks, including limestone, marble, and chalk. It is also found in hydrothermal veins and the shells of marine organisms.
    • Aragonite: Less common than calcite. It occurs in various geological settings, such as low-temperature hydrothermal veins and in the cavities of volcanic rocks. It is also present in the shells of some marine organisms, especially corals and certain types of mollusks.
  5. Stability:
    • Calcite: Generally stable under normal environmental conditions.
    • Aragonite: Relatively less stable compared to calcite, and it can transform into calcite over geological time scales through a process called “pseudomorphism.”
  6. Industrial Applications:
    • Calcite: Has more industrial applications due to its abundance and properties. It is used in the production of lime, cement, and as a filler in various products.
    • Aragonite: While less commonly used industrially, it is still used in some applications, such as in the production of cement and as a gemstone. Aragonite sand is also used as a substrate in marine aquariums.
  7. Gemstone Value:
    • Calcite: Typically not considered a valuable gemstone due to its common occurrence and low hardness.
    • Aragonite: Certain varieties of aragonite with attractive crystal formations may be sought after by collectors and used as decorative gemstones.

Calcite and Aragonite are both calcium carbonate minerals, but their distinct crystal structures, birefringence, cleavage, occurrence, stability, and industrial applications make them easily distinguishable from each other.

Similarities between Calcite and Aragonite

Calcite and Aragonite, despite their differences, also share several similarities due to their common chemical composition as calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Similarities between Calcite and Aragonite
Figure 03: Similarities between Calcite and Aragonite

Here are some of the key similarities between Calcite and Aragonite:

  1. Chemical Composition: Calcium carbonate and calcium oxide both contain calcium (Ca), oxygen (O), and carbon (C).
  2. Carbonate Minerals: Calcite and Aragonite can both be classified as carbonate minerals due to the presence of carbonate ion (CO3) within their chemical structures.
  3. Calcium Content: Both minerals contain significant quantities of this essential element, making them excellent sources.
  4. Occurrence in Sedimentary Rocks: Calcite and Aragonite can both be found in sedimentary rocks; Calcite makes up most limestones while Aragonite occurs both within those structures as well as marine sediments.
  5. Formation in Marine Environments: Both minerals play an essential part in marine environments. You’ll often find them found within shells or skeletons such as corals, some algae and mollusks.
  6. Formation through Biological Processes: Both minerals can be formed through biomineralization, where living organisms incorporate calcium carbonate into their structures, contributing to the formation of shells, coral reefs, and other calcareous structures.
  7. Polymorphism: Both Calcite and Aragonite are polymorphs, meaning they can exist in more than one crystal structure while having the same chemical composition.
  8. Use in Jewelry: Some forms of both Calcite and Aragonite, particularly those with attractive crystal formations, can be used as gemstones in jewelry.
  9. Vulnerability to Acid: Both minerals are vulnerable to dissolution by weak acids, such as vinegar, due to their calcium carbonate composition.
  10. Use in Aquariums: Both Calcite and Aragonite can be used in marine aquariums as substrates, providing naturalistic environments and aiding in the maintenance of stable water conditions.

Despite their similarities, it’s essential to recognize their distinct properties and applications to understand how they differ and where they are best utilized in various industries and scientific fields.

Uses of Calcite

Calcite has numerous practical applications across various industries due to its abundance and diverse physical properties.

Some of the most common uses of calcite include:

  1. Construction Industry: Calcite is a key component in the production of cement and lime. Heating this mixture causes it to decompose into lime (calcium oxide) and carbon dioxide, both essential components for making cement.
  2. Building Materials: Calcite can be utilized to increase the strength and durability of construction materials such as concrete, mortar and cement.
  3. Agriculture: As a soil conditioner, calcite is utilized to raise the pH of acidic soils, promoting healthier plant growth by providing essential calcium to plants.
  4. Calcium Supplements: Calcite is used in the production of calcium supplements for humans and animals alike, providing an inexpensive source of dietary Calcium.
  5. Glass Industry: Calcite is used as a flux in the production of glass, reducing the melting temperature and improving the transparency and brightness of glass products.
  6. Paints and Coatings: Calcite serves as a filler and extender in paint formulations, enhancing their stability, color, and coverage.
  7. Plastics and Polymers: In the plastics industry, calcite acts as a filler material, reinforcing the polymer matrix and improving the mechanical properties of plastic products.
  8. Paper Industry: Calcite is used as a coating material in the papermaking process, providing smoothness and improving the printability and opacity of paper.
  9. Pharmaceuticals: Calcite is widely utilized within the pharmaceutical industry to treat acid indigestion, calcium deficiency and as an antacid.
  10. Decorative Stones and Gemstones: Certain varieties of calcite with attractive colors and crystal formations are used as decorative stones and gemstones in jewelry and ornamental objects.
  11. Environmental Applications: Calcite is used in water treatment processes to neutralize acidic waters and remove impurities, such as heavy metals, by precipitation.
  12. Optical Applications: Due to its strong birefringence, calcite is utilized in optical devices like polarizing filters and prisms for light manipulation and polarization.
  13. Soil Stabilization: Calcite can be added to soil stabilization agents used in road construction to improve soil properties and increase load-bearing capacity.

Calcite can be utilized for many different applications and industries, from industry and commerce to science. With such versatile uses in industrial settings as well as scientific laboratories worldwide, its abundance makes calcite an extremely versatile mineral resource.

Uses of Aragonite

Aragonite, although less common than calcite, still finds several practical applications in different industries and areas.

Some of the main uses of aragonite include:

  1. Cement Production: Aragonite is utilized as a source of calcium carbonate in the production of cement, similar to calcite. It contributes to the chemical composition necessary for cement formation.
  2. Gemstones and Decorative Objects: Certain forms of aragonite, especially those with attractive crystal formations and colors, are used as gemstones and in decorative objects such as sculptures and ornaments.
  3. Aquarium Substrate: Aragonite sand is widely used as a substrate in marine aquariums. It helps maintain stable water conditions, provides a natural environment for marine organisms, and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  4. Water Treatment: Aragonite is used in some water treatment processes to raise the pH of acidic waters and aid in the removal of impurities like heavy metals through precipitation.
  5. Soil Conditioner: Similar to calcite, aragonite can be used as a soil conditioner to increase soil pH and provide essential calcium to plants, promoting healthier growth.
  6. Jewelry and Accessories: Some varieties of aragonite, especially those with aesthetically pleasing forms, may be used in jewelry and accessories as gemstones.
  7. Construction and Building Materials: While less common than calcite in this application, aragonite can still be used as a filler material in construction and building materials to enhance their properties.
  8. Research and Education: Aragonite is often studied by geologists and mineralogists to understand its crystal structure, formation processes, and occurrence in various geological settings.
  9. Biological and Paleoenvironmental Studies: Aragonite’s presence in the shells and skeletons of marine organisms makes it important in biological and paleoenvironmental research to study past environments and ecosystems.
  10. Ornamental Stones: Onyx marble and some varieties of aragonite can be utilized in interior design, architecture and as ornamental stones.

Aragonite does not boast the wide-ranging applications found with calcite; nevertheless it still plays a crucial role in many fields, from geology and aquarium environments to production of gemstones and cement production and sales.

The Role of Calcite and Aragonite in Earth’s History

Calcite and aragonite played significant roles in Earth history. Both minerals played key roles in geological processes as well as life’s development.

Their key functions included:

  1. Formation of Sedimentary Rocks: Both calcite and aragonite are major components of various sedimentary rocks, especially limestone. Limestone is a widespread rock that forms from the accumulation of calcium carbonate-rich materials, including the shells and skeletons of marine organisms that contain calcite and aragonite. These sedimentary rocks provide valuable information about past environments and the history of life on Earth.
  2. Coral Reef Formation: Coral reefs, some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, are predominantly composed of the mineral aragonite. Coral polyps, tiny marine animals, secrete aragonite to build their intricate calcium carbonate skeletons, forming the foundation of coral reefs. Reefs provide vital habitats to many marine organisms and contribute to maintaining ocean health and biodiversity.
  3. Carbonate Minerals and the Carbon Cycle: Calcite and aragonite both play an integral part in the global carbon cycle. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves into water through various means including weathering processes to form carbonic acid that reacts with calcium-containing minerals such as calcite and aragonite and store its stored CO2.
  4. Indicator Minerals: Calcite and aragonite can act as indicator minerals in geological exploration. Geologists can glean valuable insight from studying mineral composition of various rock formations. By tracking which minerals appear or disappear, geologists gain information on geological history, deposition environments and possible mineral resources in an area.
  5. Fossil Formation: The calcium carbonate-rich shells and skeletons of marine organisms, composed of calcite and aragonite, contribute to the formation of fossils. Over geological time, these remains become buried in sediment and can be preserved as fossils, offering valuable insights into past life forms and ecosystems.
  6. Geological Time Scale: Scientists use the presence of calcite in rock formations to construct geological timescales that help them better comprehend Earth’s evolution over millions of years.
  7. Palaeoenvironmental Studies: By studying stable isotopes present in calcite and aragonite rocks as well as their chemical makeup, scientists can reconstruct past environmental conditions ranging from temperature, salinity levels and ancient ocean composition to atmospheric conditions and climate dynamics.

Calcite and Aragonite have had an enormous influence on Earth’s history for many reasons, acting as tools in geological research as well as playing an essential part in carbon cycling processes. Furthermore, their significance extends well beyond geology to understanding life on this planet.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Calcite and aragonite, being carbonate minerals, can have environmental impacts and contribute to sustainability considerations in various ways:

Environmental Impact:

  1. Ocean Acidification: Calcite and aragonite can both be affected by ocean acidification. This phenomenon happens when too much carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolves in seawater and forms carbonic acid, decreasing pH significantly and leading to decreased levels of marine organisms dependent on shells composed of either calcite or aragonite shells or skeletons for support, such as corals, mollusks or certain forms of plankton; their shell structures weakening has devastating repercussions for food chains as ecosystems collapses ensues.
  2. Coral Reefs Are Vulnerable: Coral reefs comprised primarily of aragonite are vulnerable to changes in their environment, such as temperature increases or ocean acidification. When ocean temperatures increase dramatically, coral bleaching often follows, leading to alga deaths as well as coral mortality. Acidification also hinders coral calcification causing stunted reef growth which threatens their existence and survival.
  3. Carbon Sequestration: Calcite and aragonite play key roles in carbon sequestration by trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into marine sediments as calcium carbonate solids, while emissions increase due to human activities, disrupting this process and leading to decreased sequestration rates.


  1. Sustainable Construction Materials: Use of calcite or aragonite in concrete and cement production can reduce environmental impacts significantly. By incorporating these minerals, there might be a reduction in the need for more energy-intensive materials, leading to more sustainable construction practices.
  2. Soil Improvement: The use of both calcite and aragonite as soil conditioners can aid in agriculture by improving soil pH and providing essential calcium to plants. This promotes better crop yields and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, enhancing agricultural sustainability.
  3. Aquaculture and Marine Conservation: Sustainable practices in aquaculture can help protect marine ecosystems, including coral reefs composed of aragonite. Aquaculture systems managed responsibly can protect marine resources and limit habitat destruction.
  4. Water Treatment: Utilizing calcite and aragonite in water treatment processes can help neutralize acidic waters and remove impurities. Sustainable water treatment practices are essential for maintaining clean and safe water sources for human consumption and supporting healthy aquatic ecosystems.
  5. Conservation of Marine Biodiversity: Marine habitats such as coral reefs and calcium carbonate-rich ecologies must be conserved to safeguard biodiversity while guaranteeing the long-term viability of marine fisheries resources and stocks.

Considering the environmental impact and promoting sustainability regarding calcite and aragonite involve adopting responsible practices in various industries, focusing on marine conservation, and mitigating the effects of climate change to protect these minerals’ crucial roles in Earth’s ecosystems.


Carbonate minerals such as calcite and aragonite play an integral role in Earth’s geology and ecosystems, with calcium carbonate’s (CaCO3) common chemical composition giving way to various properties and applications based on crystal structures that allow use in diverse geological settings.

Calcite’s abundance and versatility makes it a useful material used across several industries, from construction to glass manufacturing and cement production – even consumer products! Carbon cycle processes involving its formation as limestone as well as presence in marine organism shells add insight into our knowledge about Earth’s history and evolution.