Aragonite is a carbonate mineral, one of the three most common naturally occurring crystal forms of calcium carbonate, CaCO3 (the other forms being the minerals calcite and vaterite). It is formed by biological and physical processes, including precipitation from marine and freshwater environments.

The crystal lattice of aragonite differs from that of calcite, resulting in a different crystal shape, an orthorhombic crystal system with acicular crystal. Repeated twinning results in pseudo-hexagonal forms. Aragonite may be columnar or fibrous, occasionally in branching stalactitic forms called flos-ferri ("flowers of iron") from their association with the ores at the Carinthian iron mines.

Aragonite Salsigne France
Aragonite from Salsigne mine, Salsigne, Aude, France - Size: 30x30x20 cm
CategoryCarbonate mineral
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification5.AB.15
Crystal systemOrthorhombic
Crystal classDipyramidal (mmm)
H-M symbol: (2/m 2/m 2/m)
Space groupPmcn
Unit cella = 4.95, b = 7.96
c = 5.74 [Å]; Z = 4
ColorWhite, red, yellow, orange, green, purple, grey, blue and brown
Crystal habitPseudohexagonal, prismatic crystals, acicular, columnar, globular, reniform, pisolitic, coralloidal, stalactitic, internally banded
TwinningPolysynthetic parallel to {100} cyclically on {110}
CleavageDistinct on {010}, imperfect {110} and {011}
Mohs scale hardness3.5-4
LusterVitreous, resinous on fracture surfaces
DiaphaneityTranslucent to transparent
Specific gravity2.95
Optical propertiesBiaxial (-)
Refractive indexnα = 1.529 - 1.530 nβ = 1.680 - 1.682 nγ = 1.685 - 1.686
Birefringenceδ = 0.156
2V angle18°
SolubilityDilute acid
Other characteristicsFluorescence: pale rose, yellow, white or bluish; phosphorescence: greenish or white (LW UV); yellowish (SW UV)


The type location for aragonite is Molina de Aragón in the Province of Guadalajara in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, for which it was named in 1797. The mineral is not (as often assumed) named for the region of Aragon: Molina de Aragón is located in the historic region of Castile, albeit only 25 kilometers away from the border with Aragon.[1] An aragonite cave, the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, is situated in Slovakia. In the US, aragonite in the form of stalactites and "cave flowers" (anthodite) is known from Carlsbad Caverns and other caves. Massive deposits of oolitic aragonite sand are found on the seabed in the Bahamas.

Aragonite is the high pressure polymorph of calcium carbonate. As such, it occurs in high pressure metamorphic rocks such as those formed at subduction zones.

Aragonite forms naturally in almost all mollusk shells, and as the calcareous endoskeleton of warm- and cold-water corals (Scleractinia). Several serpulids have aragonitic tubes. Because the mineral deposition in mollusk shells is strongly biologically controlled, some crystal forms are distinctively different from those of inorganic aragonite. In some mollusks, the entire shell is aragonite; in others, aragonite forms only discrete parts of a bimineralic shell (aragonite plus calcite). The nacreous layer of the aragonite fossil shells of some extinct ammonites forms an iridescent material called ammolite.

Aragonite also forms in the ocean and in caves as inorganic precipitates called marine cements and speleothems, respectively. Aragonite is not uncommon in serpentinites where high Mg in pore solutions apparently inhibits calcite growth and promotes aragonite precipitation.

Aragonite is metastable at the low pressures near the Earth's surface and is thus commonly replaced by calcite in fossils. Aragonite older than the Carboniferous is essentially unknown.[4] It can also be synthesized by adding a calcium chloride solution to a sodium carbonate solution at temperatures above 60 °C (140 °F) or in water-ethanol mixtures at ambient temperatures.[5]

Physical properties

Aragonite is thermodynamically unstable at standard temperature and pressure, and tends to alter to calcite on scales of 107 to 108 years. The mineral vaterite, also known as μ-CaCO3, is another phase of calcium carbonate that is metastable at ambient conditions typical of Earth's surface, and decomposes even more readily than aragonite.


In aquaria, aragonite is considered essential for the replication of reef conditions. Aragonite provides the materials necessary for much sea life and also keeps the pH of the water close to its natural level, to prevent the dissolution of biogenic calcium carbonate.[6]

Aragonite has been successfully tested for the removal of pollutants like zinc, cobalt and lead from contaminated wastewaters.[7]


Aragonite 2 Enguidanos

Aragonite crystals from Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha, Spain


Cluster of twinned aragonite from Morocco


Remnant biogenic aragonite (thin, rainbow-colored shell) on the ammonite Baculites (Pierre Shale, Late Cretaceous, South Dakota).

Aragonite layers in a blue mussel shell

Scanning electron microscope image of aragonite layers in the nacre of a blue mussel (Mytilus edulis).


Pink Aragonite Crystals

Aragonit - Fluorescence

Fluorescence of Aragonite

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  3. ^ Webmineral data
  4. ^ Runnegar, B. (1987). "Shell microstructures of Cambrian molluscs replicated by phosphate". Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology. 9 (4): 245–257. doi:10.1080/03115518508618971.
  5. ^ Sand, K.K., Rodriguez-Blanco, J.D., Makovicky, E., Benning, L.G. and Stipp, S. (2012) Crystallization of CaCO3 in water-ethanol mixtures: spherulitic growth, polymorph stabilization and morphology change. Crystal Growth and Design, 12, 842-853. doi:10.1021/cg2012342.
  6. ^ Orr, J. C., et al. (2005) Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the 21st century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature 437: 681-686
  7. ^ Köhler, S., Cubillas, et al. (2007) Removal of cadmium from wastewaters by aragonite shells and the influence of other divalent cations. Environmental Science and Technology, 41, 112-118. doi:10.1021/es060756j

External links


Ammolite is an opal-like organic gemstone found primarily along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is made of the fossilized shells of ammonites, which in turn are composed primarily of aragonite, the same mineral contained in nacre, with a microstructure inherited from the shell. It is one of few biogenic gemstones; others include amber and pearl.1 In 1981, ammolite was given official gemstone status by the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), the same year commercial mining of ammolite began. It was designated the official gemstone of the City of Lethbridge, Alberta in 2007.Ammolite is also known as aapoak (Kainah for "small, crawling stone"), gem ammonite, calcentine, and Korite. The latter is a trade name given to the gemstone by the Alberta-based mining company Korite. Marcel Charbonneau and his business partner Mike Berisoff were the first to create commercial doublets of the gem in 1967. They went on to form Ammolite Minerals Ltd.


Anthodites (Greek ἄνθος ánthos, “flower”, -ode, adjectival combining form, -ite adjectival suffix) are speleothems (cave formations) composed of long needle-like crystals situated in clusters which radiate outward from a common base. The "needles" may be quill-like or feathery. Most anthodites are made of the mineral aragonite (a variety of calcium carbonate, CaCO3), although some are composed of gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O).

The term anthodite is first cited in the scientific literature in 1965 by Japanese researcher N. Kashima, who described “flower-like dripstone” composed of “an alternation of calcite and aragonite”.

Aragonite, Utah

Aragonite is a ghost town in Tooele County, Utah, United States. It is located in the western portion of the state. The Utah Test and Training Range lies to the west and the Dugway Proving Grounds lies to the southwest. Interstate 80 exit 56 provides access to Aragonite. The site lies northwest of the Cedar Mountains. The low Grassy Mountains lie to the north.Aragonite lies along the Hastings Cutoff, a historical transmontane route taken by nineteenth-century pioneers. The town was established in the early twentieth century for the mining of aragonite, though all mining operations in the area have ceased. The town site is now uninhabited and almost totally demolished.

Just east of the historical townsite is a large hazardous waste incineration facility. This facility was known as the Aptus Incinerator, and was built there in 1991 after Tooele County established the surrounding lands as the West Desert Hazardous Industries District. The incinerator was, at times, operated by Westinghouse, Rollins, Laidlaw, and Safety-Kleen, and is now operated by Clean Harbors. The facility has been the subject of several penalties administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Belemnoids are an extinct group of marine cephalopod, very similar in many ways to the modern squid and closely related to the modern cuttlefish. Like them, the belemnoids possessed an ink sac, but, unlike the squid, they possessed ten arms of roughly equal length, and no tentacles. The name "belemnoid" comes from the Greek word βέλεμνον, belemnon meaning "a dart or arrow" and the Greek word είδος, eidos meaning "form".Belemnoids include belemnites (which belong to order Belemnitida proper), aulacocerids (order Aulacocerida), phragmoteuthids (order Phragmoteuthida), and diplobelids (order Diplobelida).

Blue coral

Blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) is a species of colonial coral. It is the only octocoral known to produce a massive skeleton. This skeleton is formed of aragonite, similar to that of scleractinia. Individual polyps live in tubes within the skeleton and are connected by a thin layer of tissue over the outside of the skeleton.

Calcareous sponge

The calcareous sponges of class Calcarea are members of the animal phylum Porifera, the cellular sponges. They are characterized by spicules made out of calcium carbonate in the form of calcite or aragonite. While the spicules in most species have three points, in some species they have either two or four points.


Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The Mohs scale of mineral hardness, based on scratch hardness comparison, defines value 3 as "calcite".

Other polymorphs of calcium carbonate are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite over timescales of days or less at temperatures exceeding 300 °C, and vaterite is even less stable.

Calcite sea

A calcite sea is one in which low-magnesium calcite is the primary inorganic marine calcium carbonate precipitate. An aragonite sea is the alternate seawater chemistry in which aragonite and high-magnesium calcite are the primary inorganic carbonate precipitates. The Early Paleozoic and the Middle to Late Mesozoic oceans were predominantly calcite seas, whereas the Middle Paleozoic through the Early Mesozoic and the Cenozoic (including today) are characterized by aragonite seas (Wilkinson et al., 1985; Wilkinson and Given, 1986; Morse and Mackenzie, 1990; Hardie 1996; Lowenstein et al., 2001; Palmer and Wilson, 2004).

The most significant geological and biological effects of calcite sea conditions include rapid and widespread formation of carbonate hardgrounds (Palmer, 1982; Palmer et al., 1988; Wilson and Palmer, 1992), calcitic ooids (Sandberg, 1983; Wilkinson et al., 1985), calcite cements (Wilkinson and Given, 1986), and the contemporaneous dissolution of aragonite shells in shallow warm seas (Cherns and Wright, 2000; Palmer and Wilson, 2004). Hardgrounds were very common, for example, in the calcite seas of the Ordovician and Jurassic, but virtually absent from the aragonite seas of the Permian (Palmer, 1982).

Fossils of invertebrate organisms found in calcite sea deposits are usually dominated by either thick calcite shells and skeletons (Wilkinson, 1979; Stanley and Hardie, 1998, 1999; Porter, 2007), were infaunal and/or had thick periostraca (Pojeta, 1971), or had an inner shell of aragonite and an outer shell of calcite (Harper et al., 1997). This was apparently because aragonite dissolved quickly on the seafloor and had to be either avoided or protected as a biomineral (Palmer and Wilson, 2004).

Calcite seas were coincident with times of rapid seafloor spreading and global greenhouse climate conditions (Stanley and Hardie, 1999). Seafloor spreading centers cycle seawater through hydrothermal vents, reducing the ratio of magnesium to calcium in the seawater through metamorphism of calcium-rich minerals in basalt to magnesium-rich clays (Wilkinson and Given, 1986; Lowenstein et al., 2001). This reduction in the Mg/Ca ratio favors the precipitation of calcite over aragonite. Increased seafloor spreading also means increased volcanism and elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. This may also have an effect on which polymorph of calcium carbonate is precipitated (Lowenstein et al., 2001). Further, high calcium concentrations of seawater favor the burial of CaCO3, thereby removing alkalinity from the ocean, lowering seawater pH and reducing its acid/base buffering.

Carbonate compensation depth

Calcite compensation depth (CCD) is the depth in the oceans below which the rate of supply of calcite (calcium carbonate) lags behind the rate of solvation, such that no calcite is preserved. Aragonite compensation depth (hence ACD) describes the same behaviour in reference to aragonitic carbonates. Aragonite is more soluble than calcite, so the aragonite compensation depth is generally shallower than the calcite compensation depth.

Calcium carbonate is essentially insoluble in sea surface waters today. Shells of dead calcareous plankton sinking to deeper waters are practically unaltered until reaching the lysocline where the solubility increases dramatically. By the time the CCD is reached all calcium carbonate has dissolved according to this equation:

Calcareous plankton and sediment particles can be found in the water column above the CCD. If the sea bed is above the CCD, bottom sediments can consist of calcareous sediments called calcareous ooze, which is essentially a type of limestone or chalk. If the exposed sea bed is below the CCD tiny shells of CaCO3 will dissolve before reaching this level, preventing deposition of carbonate sediment. As the sea floor spreads, thermal subsidence of the plate, which has the effect of increasing depth, may bring the carbonate layer below the CCD; the carbonate layer may be prevented from chemically interacting with the sea water by overlying sediments such as a layer of siliceous ooze or abyssal clay deposited on top of the carbonate layer.

Carbonate rock

Carbonate rocks are a class of sedimentary rocks composed primarily of carbonate minerals. The two major types are limestone, which is composed of calcite or aragonite (different crystal forms of CaCO3) and dolostone, which is composed of the mineral dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2).

Calcite can be either dissolved by groundwater or precipitated by groundwater, depending on several factors including the water temperature, pH, and dissolved ion concentrations. 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.

Karst topography and caves develop in carbonate rocks because of their solubility in dilute acidic groundwater. Cooling groundwater or mixing of different groundwaters will also create conditions suitable for cave formation.

Marble is the metamorphic carbonate rock. Rare igneous carbonate rocks exist as intrusive carbonatites and even rarer volcanic carbonate lava.

Cave popcorn

Cave popcorn, or coralloids, are small nodes of calcite, aragonite or gypsum that form on surfaces in caves, especially limestone caves. They are a common type of speleothem.

Cementation (geology)

Cementation involves ions carried in groundwater chemically precipitating to form new crystalline material between sedimentary grains. The new pore-filling minerals forms

"bridges" between original sediment grains, thereby binding them together. In this way sand becomes "sandstone", and gravel becomes "conglomerate" or "breccia". Cementation occurs as part of the diagenesis or lithification of sediments. Cementation occurs primarily below the water table regardless of sedimentary grain sizes present. Large volumes of pore water must pass through sediment pores for new mineral cements to crystallize and so millions of years are generally required to complete the cementation process. Common mineral cements include calcite, quartz or silica phases like cristobalite, iron oxides, and clay minerals, but other mineral cements also occur.

Cementation is continuous in the groundwater zone, so much so that the term "zone of cementation" is sometimes used interchangeably. Cementation occurs in fissures or other openings of existing rocks and is a dynamic process more or less in equilibrium with a dissolution or dissolving process.

Cement found on the sea floor is commonly aragonite and can take different textural forms. These textural forms include pendant cement, meniscus cement, isopachous cement, needle cement, botryoidal cement, blocky cement, syntaxial rim cement, and coarse mosaic cement. The environment in which each of the cements is found depends on the pore space available. Cements that are found in phreatic zones include: isopachous, blocky, and syntaxial rim cements. As for calcite cementation, which occurs in meteoric realms (freshwater sources), the cement is produced by the dissolution of less stable aragonite and high-Mg calcite. (Boggs, 2011)

Classifying rocks while using the Folk classification depends on the matrix, which is either sparry (prominently composed of cement) or micritic (prominently composed of mud).


Demospongiae is the most diverse class in the phylum Porifera. They include 76.2% of all species of sponges with nearly 8,800 species worldwide (World Porifera Database). They are sponges with a soft body that covers a hard, often massive skeleton made of calcium carbonate, either aragonite or calcite. They are predominantly leuconoid in structure. Their "skeletons" are made of spicules consisting of fibers of the protein spongin, the mineral silica, or both. Where spicules of silica are present, they have a different shape from those in the otherwise similar glass sponges.The many diverse orders in this class include all of the large sponges. Most are marine dwellers, but one order (Spongillida) live in freshwater environments. Some species are brightly colored, with great variety in body shape; the largest species are over 1 m (3.3 ft) across. They reproduce both sexually and asexually. They are the only extant organisms that methylate sterols at the 26-position, a fact used to identify the presence of demosponges before their first known unambiguous fossils.Because of their long life span (500–1,000 years) it is thought that analysis of the aragonite skeletons of these sponges could extend data regarding ocean temperature, salinity, and other variables farther into the past than has been previously possible. Their dense skeletons are deposited in an organized chronological manner, in concentric layers or bands. The layered skeletons look similar to reef corals. Therefore, demosponges are also called coralline sponges.


In geology, frostwork is a type of speleothem (cave formation) with acicular ("needle-like") growths almost always composed of aragonite (a polymorph of calcite) or calcite replaced aragonite. It is a variety of anthodite. In some caves frostwork may grow on top of cave popcorn or boxwork.

In architecture frost-work or frostwork refers to a style of rustication carved with a vertically-oriented pattern evoking hanging pond-weed or algae, or icicles. It is mainly found in garden architecture, where water is to flow over or near the surface. Other decorative arts may use the term for other decorative patterns imitating frost or ice.


Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolostone, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In fact, in old USGS publications, dolostone was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolostones or magnesium-rich limestones.

About 10% of sedimentary rocks are limestones. The solubility of limestone in water and weak acid solutions leads to karst landscapes, in which water erodes the limestone over thousands to millions of years. Most cave systems are through limestone bedrock.

Limestone has numerous uses: as a building material, an essential component of concrete (Portland cement), as aggregate for the base of roads, as white pigment or filler in products such as toothpaste or paints, as a chemical feedstock for the production of lime, as a soil conditioner, or as a popular decorative addition to rock gardens.

Mollusc shell

The mollusc (or mollusk) shell is typically a calcareous exoskeleton which encloses, supports and protects the soft parts of an animal in the phylum Mollusca, which includes snails, clams, tusk shells, and several other classes. Not all shelled molluscs live in the sea; many live on the land and in freshwater.

The ancestral mollusc is thought to have had a shell, but this has subsequently been lost or reduced on some families, such as the squid, octopus, and some smaller groups such as the caudofoveata and solenogastres, and the highly derived Xenoturbella. Today, over 100,000 living species bear a shell; there is some dispute as to whether these shell-bearing molluscs form a monophyletic group (conchifera) or whether shell-less molluscs are interleaved into their family tree.Malacology, the scientific study of molluscs as living organisms, has a branch devoted to the study of shells, and this is called conchology—although these terms used to be, and to a minor extent still are, used interchangeably, even by scientists (this is more common in Europe).

Within some species of molluscs, there is often a wide degree of variation in the exact shape, pattern, ornamentation, and color of the shell.

Ochtinská Aragonite Cave

Ochtinská Aragonite Cave (Slovak: Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa, Hungarian: Martonházi-aragonitbarlang) is a unique aragonite cave situated in southern Slovakia, near Rožňava. Although only 300 m long, it is famous for its rare aragonite filling.

Teplice nad Bečvou

Teplice nad Bečvou, until 1959 Zbrašov, is a village and municipality (obec) in Přerov District in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic.

The municipality covers an area of 3.75 square kilometres (1.45 sq mi), and has a population of 354 (as at 3 July 2006).

Teplice nad Bečvou lies approximately 23 kilometres (14 mi) east of Přerov, 36 km (22 mi) east of Olomouc, and 247 km (153 mi) east of Prague.


Vaterite is a mineral, a polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). It was named after the German mineralogist Heinrich Vater. It is also known as mu-calcium carbonate (μ-CaCO3) and has a JCPDS number of 13-192. Vaterite belongs to the hexagonal crystal system, whereas calcite is trigonal and aragonite is orthorhombic.

Vaterite, like aragonite, is a metastable phase of calcium carbonate at ambient conditions at the surface of the earth. As it is less stable than either calcite or aragonite, vaterite has a higher solubility than either of these phases. Therefore, once vaterite is exposed to water, it converts to calcite (at low temperature) or aragonite (at high temperature: ~60 °C). At 37 °C for example a solution-mediated transition from vaterite to calcite occurs, where the latter one dissolves and subsequently precipitates as calcite assisted by an Ostwald ripening process.However, vaterite does occur naturally in mineral springs, organic tissue, gallstones, urinary calculi and plants. In those circumstances, some impurities (metal ions or organic matter) may stabilize the vaterite and prevent its transformation into calcite or aragonite. Vaterite is usually colorless, its shape is spherical, and its diameter is small, ranging from 0.05 to 5 μm.

Vaterite can be produced as the first mineral deposits repairing natural or experimentally-induced shell damage in some aragonite-shelled mollusks (e.g. gastropods). Subsequent shell deposition occurs as aragonite. In 2018, vaterite was identified as a constituent of a deposit formed on the leaves of Saxifraga at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

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