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Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the

chemical formula CaSO42H2O.[3] It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer, a

nd as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and wallbo
ard. A massive fine-grained white or lightly tinted variety of gypsum, called al
abaster, has been used for sculpture by many cultures including Ancient Egypt, M
esopotamia, Ancient Rome, Byzantine empire and the Nottingham alabasters of Medi
eval England. Mohs scale of mineral hardness, based on scratch Hardness comparis
on, defines hardness value 2 as gypsum. It forms as an evaporite mineral and as
a hydration product of anhydrite.
Etymology and history[edit]
The word gypsum is derived from the Greek word ????? (gypsos), "plaster".[4] Bec
ause the quarries of the Montmartre district of Paris have long furnished burnt
gypsum (calcined gypsum) used for various purposes, this dehydrated gypsum becam
e known as plaster of Paris. Upon addition of water, after a few tens of minutes
plaster of Paris becomes regular gypsum (dihydrate) again, causing the material
to harden or "set" in ways that are useful for casting and construction.
Gypsum was known in Old English as sprstan, "spear stone", referring to its cryst
alline projections. (Thus, the word spar in mineralogy is by way of comparison t
o gypsum, referring to any non-ore mineral or crystal that forms in spearlike pr
ojections). Gypsum may act as a source of sulfur for plant growth, which was dis
covered by J. M. Mayer, and in the early 19th century, it was regarded as an alm
ost miraculous fertilizer. American farmers were so anxious to acquire it that a
lively smuggling trade with Nova Scotia evolved, resulting in the so-called "Pl
aster War" of 1820.[5] In the 19th century, it was also known as lime sulfate or
sulfate of lime.
Physical properties[edit]
Gypsum is moderately water-soluble (~2.0 2.5 g/l at 25 C)[6] and, in contrast to mo
st other salts, it exhibits retrograde solubility, becoming less soluble at high
er temperatures. When gypsum is heated in air it loses water and converts first
to calcium sulfate hemihydrate, (bassanite, often simply called "plaster") and,
if heated further, to anhydrous calcium sulfate (anhydrite). As for anhydrite, i
ts solubility in saline solutions and in brines is also strongly dependent on Na
Cl concentration.[6]
Gypsum crystals are found to contain anion water and hydrogen bonding.[7]
Crystal varieties[edit]
Main article: Selenite (mineral)
Gypsum occurs in nature as flattened and often twinned crystals, and transparent
, cleavable masses called selenite. Selenite contains no significant selenium; r
ather, both substances were named for the ancient Greek word for the Moon.
Selenite may also occur in a silky, fibrous form, in which case it is commonly c
alled "satin spar". Finally, it may also be granular or quite compact. In hand-s
ized samples, it can be anywhere from transparent to opaque. A very fine-grained
white or lightly tinted variety of gypsum, called alabaster, is prized for orna
mental work of various sorts. In arid areas, gypsum can occur in a flower-like f
orm, typically opaque, with embedded sand grains called desert rose. It also for
ms some of the largest crystals found in nature, up to 12 m (39 ft) long, in the
form of selenite.[8]
Gypsum is a common mineral, with thick and extensive evaporite beds in associati
on with sedimentary rocks. Deposits are known to occur in strata from as far bac
k as the Archaean eon.[9] Gypsum is deposited from lake and sea water, as well a
s in hot springs, from volcanic vapors, and sulfate solutions in veins. Hydrothe
rmal anhydrite in veins is commonly hydrated to gypsum by groundwater in near-su
rface exposures. It is often associated with the minerals halite and sulfur. Gyp
sum is the commonest sulfate mineral.[10] Pure gypsum is white, but other substa
nces found as impurities may give a wide range of colors to local deposits.
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 (270 sq mi) expanse of white g
ypsum sand, enough to supply the construction industry with drywall for 1,000 ye
ars.[11] Commercial exploitation of the area, strongly opposed by area residents
, was permanently prevented in 1933 when president Herbert Hoover declared the g
ypsum dunes a protected national monument.
Gypsum is also formed as a by-product of sulfide oxidation, amongst others by py
rite oxidation, when the sulfuric acid generated reacts with calcium carbonate.
Its presence indicates oxidizing conditions. Under reducing conditions, the sulf
ates it contains can be reduced back to sulfide by sulfate-reducing bacteria. El
ectric power stations burning coal with flue gas desulfurization produce large q
uantities of gypsum as a byproduct from the scrubbers.
Orbital pictures from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have indicated the e
xistence of gypsum dunes in the northern polar region of Mars,[12] which were la
ter confirmed at ground level by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity.[1

Gypsum crystals in the Cave of the Crystals in Mexico. Note person for scale

Veins of gypsum in the silts/marls of the Tea Green and Grey Marls, Blue Anchor,
Somerset, UK

Veins of gypsum in Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas

Estimated production of Gypsum in 2015
(thousand metric tons)[14]
Country Production Reserves
China 132,000 N/A
Iran 22,000 1,600
Thailand 12,500 N/A
USA 11,500 700,000
Turkey 10,000 N/A
Spain 6,400 N/A
Mexico 5,300 N/A
Japan 5,000 N/A
Russia 4,500 N/A
Italy 4,100 N/A
India 3,500 39,000
Australia 3,500 N/A
Oman 3,500 N/A
Brazil 3,300 290,000
France 3,300 N/A
Canada 2,700 450,000
Saudi Arabia 2,400 N/A
Algeria 2,200 N/A
Germany 1,800 450,000
Argentina 1,400 N/A
Pakistan 1,300 N/A
United Kingdom 1,200 55,000
Other countries 15,000 N/A
World total 258,000 N/A
Commercial quantities of gypsum are found in the cities of Araripina and Graja in
Brazil; in Pakistan, Jamaica, Iran (world's second largest producer), Thailand,
Spain (the main producer in Europe), Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, Canada[1
5] and the United States. Large open pit quarries are located in many places inc
luding Plaster City, California, United States, and East Kutai, Kalimantan, Indo
nesia. Several small mines also exist in places such as Kalannie in Western Aust
ralia, where gypsum is sold to private buyers for additions of calcium and sulfu
r as well as reduction of aluminum toxicities on soil for agricultural purposes.
Crystals of gypsum up to 11 m (36 ft) long have been found in the caves of the N
aica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico. The crystals thrived in the cave's extremely rar
e and stable natural environment. Temperatures stayed at 58 C (136 F), and the cav
e was filled with mineral-rich water that drove the crystals' growth. The larges
t of those crystals weighs 55 tons and is around 500,000 years old.[16]

Golden gypsum crystals from Winnipeg

Gypsum sand from White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Synthetic gypsum is recovered via flue-gas desulfurization at some coal-fired po
wer plants. It can be used interchangeably with natural gypsum in some applicati
Gypsum also precipitates onto brackish water membranes, a phenomenon known as mi
neral salt scaling, such as during brackish water desalination of water with hig
h concentrations of calcium and sulfate. Scaling decreases membrane life and pro
ductivity. This is one of the main obstacles in brackish water membrane desalina
tion processes, such as reverse osmosis or nanofiltration. Other forms of scalin
g, such as calcite scaling, depending on the water source, can also be important
considerations in distillation, as well as in heat exchangers, where either the
salt solubility or concentration can change rapidly.
A new study has suggested that the formation of gypsum starts as tiny crystals o
f a mineral called bassanite (CaSO40.5H2O).[17] This process occurs via a three-s
tage pathway: (1) homogeneous nucleation of nanocrystalline bassanite; (2) self-
assembly of bassanite into aggregates, and (3) transformation of bassanite into
Occupational safety[edit]
People can be exposed to gypsum in the workplace by breathing it in, skin contac
t, and eye contact.
United States[edit]
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit
(permissible exposure limit) for gypsum exposure in the workplace as TWA 15 mg/
m3 for total exposure and TWA 5 mg/m3 for respiratory exposure over an 8-hour wo
rkday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set
a recommended exposure limit (REL) of TWA 10 mg/m3 for total exposure and TWA 5
mg/m3 for respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday.[18]
Gypsum is used in a wide variety of applications:
Gypsum board[19] is primarily used as a finish for walls and ceilings, and is kn
own in construction as drywall, wallboard, sheetrock or plasterboard.
Gypsum blocks are used like concrete blocks in building construction.
Gypsum mortar is an ancient mortar used in building construction.
Plaster ingredients are used in surgical splints, casting moulds and modeling.
Fertilizer and soil conditioner: In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Nova
Scotia gypsum, often referred to as plaster, was a highly sought fertilizer for
wheat fields in the United States. It is also used in ameliorating high-sodium
A binder in fast-dry tennis court clay
As alabaster, a material for sculpture, it was used especially in the ancient wo
rld before steel was developed, when its relative softness made it much easier t
o carve.
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 construct
ion at locations where wood was previously used.[21]
A tofu (soy bean curd) coagulant, making it ultimately a major source of dietary
calcium, especially in Asian cultures which traditionally use few dairy product
Adding hardness to water used for brewing[22]
Used in baking as a dough conditioner, reducing stickiness, and as a baked-goods
source of dietary calcium.[23] The primary component of mineral yeast food.[24]
A component of Portland cement used to prevent flash setting of concrete
Soil/water potential monitoring (soil moisture)
A common ingredient in making mead
In the medieval period, scribes and illuminators mixed it with lead carbonate (p
owdered white lead) to make gesso, which was applied to illuminated letters and
gilded with gold in illuminated manuscripts.
In foot creams, shampoos and many other hair products
A medicinal agent in traditional Chinese medicine called shi gao
Impression plasters in dentistry
Used in mushroom cultivation to stop grains from clumping together
Tests have shown that gypsum can be used to remove pollutants such as lead[25] o
r arsenic[26][27] from contaminated waters.