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Dolomite and magnesite - Spain
Category Carbonate mineral
Chemical formula CaMg(CO3)2
Color white, gray to pink
Crystal habit tabular crystals, often with curved faces, also columnar, stalactitic, granular, massive.
Crystal system trigonal - rhombohedral, bar3
Twinning common as simple contact twins
Cleavage rhombohedral cleavage (3 planes)
Fracture brittle - conchoidal
Mohs scale hardness 3.5 to 4
Luster vitreous to pearly
Streak white
Specific gravity 2.84–2.86
Optical properties Uniaxial (-)
Refractive index nω = 1.679–1.681 nε = 1.500
Birefringence δ = 0.179–0.181
Solubility Poorly soluble in dilute HCl unless powdered.
Other characteristics May fluoresce white to pink under UV; triboluminescent.
References [1][2][3][4]
Dolomite from Morocco.

Dolomite (pronounced /ˈdɒləmaɪt/) is the name of a sedimentary carbonate rock and a mineral, both composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg(CO3)2 found in crystals.

Dolomite rock (also dolostone) is composed predominantly of the mineral dolomite. Limestone that is partially replaced by dolomite is referred to as dolomitic limestone, or in old U.S. geologic literature as magnesian limestone. Dolomite was first described in 1791 as the rock by the French naturalist and geologist, Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750–1801) for exposures in the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy.



The mineral dolomite crystallizes in the trigonal-rhombohedral system. It forms white, gray to pink, commonly curved crystals, although it is usually massive. It has physical properties similar to those of the mineral calcite, but does not rapidly dissolve or effervesce (fizz) in dilute hydrochloric acid unless it is scratched or in powdered form. The Mohs hardness is 3.5 to 4 and the specific gravity is 2.85. Refractive index values are nω = 1.679 - 1.681 and nε = 1.500. Crystal twinning is common. A solid solution series exists between dolomite and iron rich ankerite. Small amounts of iron in the structure give the crystals a yellow to brown tint. Manganese substitutes in the structure also up to about three percent MnO. A high manganese content gives the crystals a rosy pink color noted in the image above. A series with the manganese rich kutnohorite may exist. Lead and zinc also substitute in the structure for magnesium.


Dolomite bedrock underneath a Bristlecone Pine, White Mountains, California.

Vast deposits are present in the geological record, but the mineral is relatively rare in modern environments. Laboratory synthesis of stoichiometric dolomite has been carried out only at temperatures of greater than 100 degrees Celsius (conditions typical of burial in sedimentary basins), even though much dolomite in the rock record appears to have formed in low-temperature conditions. The high temperature is likely to speed up the movement of calcium and magnesium ions so that they can find their places in the ordered structure within a reasonable amount of time. This suggests that the lack of dolomite that is being formed today is likely due to kinematic factors.

Modern dolomite does occur as a precipitating mineral in specialized environments on the surface of the earth today. In the 1950s and 60s, dolomite was found to be forming in highly saline lakes in the Coorong region of South Australia. Dolomite crystals also occur in deep-sea sediments, where organic matter content is high. This dolomite is termed "organogenic" dolomite.

Recent research has found modern dolomite formation under anaerobic conditions in supersaturated saline lagoons along the Rio de Janeiro coast of Brazil, namely, Lagoa Vermelha and Brejo do Espinho. One interesting reported case was the formation of dolomite in the kidneys of a Dalmatian dog.[citation needed] This was believed to be due to chemical processes triggered by bacteria. Dolomite has been speculated to develop under these conditions with the help of sulfate-reducing bacteria.[citation needed]

The actual role of bacteria in the low-temperature formation of dolomite remains to be demonstrated. The specific mechanism of dolomitization, involving sulfate-reducing bacteria, has not yet been demonstrated.[5]

Dolomite appears to form in many different types of environment and can have varying structural, textural and chemical characteristics. Some researchers have stated "there are dolomites and dolomites", meaning that there may not be one single mechanism by which dolomite can form. Much modern dolomite differs significantly from the bulk of the dolomite found in the rock record, leading researchers to speculate that environments where dolomite formed in the geologic past differ significantly from those where it forms today.

Reproducible laboratory syntheses of dolomite (and magnesite) leads first to the initial precipitation of a metastable "precursor" (such as magnesium calcite), to be changed gradually into more and more of the stable phase (such as dolomite or magnesite) during periodical intervals of dissolution and reprecipitation. The general principle governing the course of this irreversible geochemical reaction has been coined Ostwald's step rule.

For a very long time scientists had difficulties synthesizing dolomite. However, in a 1999 study, through a process of dissolution alternating with intervals of precipitation, measurable levels of dolomite were synthesized at low temperatures and pressures.[6]


Coral atolls

Dolomitization of calcite also occurs at certain depths of coral atolls where water is undersaturated in calcium carbonate but saturated in dolomite. Convection created by tides and sea currents enhance this change. Hydrothermal currents created by volcanoes under the atoll may also play an important role.


Dolomite is used as an ornamental stone, a concrete aggregate, a source of magnesium oxide and in the Pidgeon process for the production of magnesium. It is an important petroleum reservoir rock, and serves as the host rock for large strata-bound Mississippi Valley-Type (MVT) ore deposits of base metals (that is, readily oxidized metals) such as lead, zinc, and copper. Where calcite limestone is uncommon or too costly, dolomite is sometime used in its place as a flux (impurity remover) for the smelting of iron and steel. Large quantities of processed dolomite are used in the production of float glass (flat glass)

In horticulture, dolomite and dolomitic limestone are added to soils and soilless potting mixes to lower their acidity ("sweeten" them) and as a magnesium source. Home and container gardening are common examples of this use.

See also


  1. ^ Deer, W. A., R. A. Howie and J. Zussman (1966) An Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals, Longman, pp. 489–493. ISBN 0-582-44210-9.
  2. ^ Handbook of Mineralogy
  3. ^ Webmineral
  4. ^ Mindat data
  5. ^ Role of Sulfate Reducing Bacteria During Microbial Dolomite Precipitation as Deduced from Culture Experiments
  6. ^ Deelman, J.C. (1999): "Low-temperature nucleation of magnesite and dolomite", Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Monatshefte, Jg.1999, pp.289–302.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DOLOMITE, a mineral species consisting of calcium and magnesium carbonate, CaMg (CO 3) 2, and occurring as rhombohedral crystals or large rock-masses. Analyses of most wellcrystallized specimens correspond closely with the above formula, the two carbonates being present in equal molecular proportions (C a C03,54.35; Mg C03,45.65%). Normal dolomite is thus not an isomorphous mixture of calcium and magnesium carbonates, but a double salt; and any variations in composition are to be explained by the isomorphous mixing of this double salt with carbonates of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and rarely of zinc and cobalt.

In crystalline form dolomite is very similar to calcite, belonging to the same group of rhombohedral carbonates; the primitive rhombohedron, r (Ioo), parallel to the faces of which there are perfect cleavages, has interfacial angles of 73° 45', the angle of the cleavage rhombohedron of calcite being 74° 55'. A specially characteristic feature is that this rhombohedron is frequently the only form present on the crystals (in calcite it is rare except in combination with other forms); the faces are also usually curved (fig. I), sometimes to an extraordinary degree giving rise to saddleshaped crystals (fig. 2). Crystals with plane faces are usually twinned, there being an interpenetration of two rhombohedra with the vertical axes parallel. The secondary twin-lamination, parallel to the obtuse rhombohedron e (I io), so common in calcite, does not exist 111 dolomite. In the degree of symmetry possessed by the crystals there is, however, an important difference between calcite and dolomite; the former has the full number of planes and axes of symmetry of a rhombohedral crystal, whilst the latter is hemihedral with FIG. 2. parallel faces, having only an axis of triad symmetry and a centre of symmetry. This lower degree of symmetry, which is the same as that of dioptase and phenacite, is occasionally shown by the presence of an obliquely placed rhombohedron, and also by the want of symmetry in the etching and elasticity figures on the faces of the primitive rhombohedron.

Dolomite is both harder (H.=31-4) and denser (sp. gr. 2.85) than calcite. The two minerals may also be readily distinguished by the fact that dolomite is not acted upon by cold, dilute acids (see below, Dolomite Rock). Crystals of dolomite vary from transparent to translucent, and often exhibit a pearly lustre, especially when the faces are curved; the colour is usually white or yellowish.

The crystallized mineral was first examined chemically by P. Woulfe in 1779, and was named compound-spar by R. Kirwan in 1784; other early names are bitter-spar, rhomb-spar and pearl-spar (but these included other rhombohedral carbonates). The name dolomite (dolomie of N. T. de Saussure, 1792) is in honour of the French geologist, D. G. Dolomieu, who in 1791 noted that certain Tyrolese calcareous rocks and Italian marbles effervesce only slightly in contact with acid; this name was for many years applied to the rock only, but was later extended to the crystallized mineral, first in the form dolomite-spar.

In the white crystalline dolomite-rock of the Binnenthal near Brieg in Switzerland beautiful water-clear crystals of dolomite are found; and crystallized masses occur embedded in serpentine, talc-schist and other magnesian silicate rocks. The best crystallized specimens are, however, usually found in metalliferous deposits; for example, in the iron mines of Traversella near Ivrea in Piedmont (as large twinned rhombohedra) and Cleator Moor in Cumberland; in the deposits of lead and zinc ores at Alston in Cumberland, Laxey in the Isle of Man, Joplin in Missouri; and in the silver veins of Schemnitz in Hungary and Guanajuato in Mexico.

Several varieties of dolomite have been distinguished, depending on differences in structure and chemical composition. Miemite is a crystallized or columnar variety, of a pale asparagus-green colour, from Miemo near Volterra in Tuscany; taraspite is a similar variety from Tarasp in Switzerland. Gurhofite, from Gurhof near Aggsbach in Lower Austria, is snow-white, compact and porcellanous. Brossite, from the Brosso valley near Ivrea in Piedmont, and tharandite, from Tharand in Saxony, are crystallized varieties containing iron. Closely related is the species ankerite. (L. J. S.) Dolomite Rock. - The rock dolomite, also known as dolomitic or magnesian limestone, consists principally of the mineral of the same name, but often contains admixture of other substances, such as calcite, quartz, carbonate and oxides of iron, argillaceous material, and chert or chalcedony. Dolomites when very pure and well crystallized may be snowy white (e.g. some examples from the eastern Alps), but are commonly yellow, creamy, brownish or grey from the presence of impurities. They tend to be crystalline, though on a fine scale, and appear under the microscope composed of small sharply angular rhombohedra, with a perfect cleavage and very strong double refraction. They can be often recognized by this, but are most certainly distinguished from similar limestones or marbles by tests with weak acid. Dolomite dissolves only very slowly in dilute hydrochloric acid in the cold, but readily when the acid is warmed; limestones are freely attacked by the acid in either state. Magnesian limestones, which contain both dolomite and calcite, may be etched by exposing polished surfaces for a brief time to cold weak acid; the calcite is removed, leaving small pits or depressions. The distribution of the calcite may be rendered more clear by using ferric chloride solution. This is decomposed, leaving a yellow stain of ferric hydrate where the calcite occurred. Alternatively, a solution of aluminium chloride will serve; this precipitates gelantinous alumina on contact with calcite and the film can be stained with aniline dyes (Lemberg's solution). The dolomite is not affected by these processes.

Dolomites of compact structure have a higher specific gravity than limestones, but they very often have a cavernous or drusy character, the walls of the hollows being lined with small crystals of dolomite with a pearly lustre and rounded faces. They are also slightly harder, and for these and other reasons they last better as building stones and wear better when used for paving or roadmending. Dolomites are rarely fossiliferous, as the process of dolomitization tends to destroy any organic remains originally present. As compared with limestones they are less frequently well bedded, but there are exceptions to this rule. Many III. 13 a FIG. I.

dolomites, particularly those of the north of England, show a very remarkable concretionary structure. The beds look as if made up of rounded balls of all sizes from a foot or two in diameter downwards. Often they are stuck together like piles of shot or bunches of grapes. They are composed of fibrous radiate calcite crystals, which by some kind of concretionary action have segregated from the dolomitic material and grouped themselves together in this way. Other concretions from these beds resemble bunches of corals, tufts of plants, or present various strange imitative forms.

Dolomite, unlike calcite, is not secreted by marine animals to build up the hard parts of their skeletons, and it is generally agreed also that dolomite is only very rarely and under exceptional conditions deposited directly from solution in water. On the other hand, there is much evidence to show that limestones may absorb or be partly replaced by magnesium carbonate, and the double salt dolomite substituted for calcite by one of those processes which are described as "metasomatic." Thus the Carboniferous limestones of various parts of Britain pass into dolomites along lines of joint, fissure or fault, or occasionally along certain bedding planes. At the same time the rock becomes crystalline, its minute structure is altered, its fossils are effaced, and as dolomite has a higher specific gravity than limestone, contraction results and cavities are formed. The prevalence of crystalline, concretionary and drusy structures in dolomite can thus be simply explained. The process may actually be studied in many "magnesian limestones," in which by means of the microscope we may trace the gradual growth of dolomite crystals taking place simultaneously with the destruction of the original features of the limestone. Recent investigations in coral reefs show that these changes are going on at the present day at no considerable depths and in rocks which have not long consolidated.

All this goes to prove that the double carbonate of calcium and magnesium is under certain conditions a more stable salt than either of the simple carbonates, and that these conditions recur in nature with considerable frequency. Experiments have proved that at moderately high temperatures (roo° to 200° C.) solutions of magnesium salts will convert calcite into dolomite in the laboratory, and that aragonite is even more readily affected than calcite. The analogy with dolomitization of limestones is strong but not complete, as the latter process must take place at ordinary temperatures and approximately under atmospheric pressures. No completely satisfactory explanation of the change, from the standpoint of the geologist, has as yet been advanced, though much light has been thrown upon the problem. Many limestones are rich in aragonite, but this in course of time tends to recrystallize as calcite. Magnesium salts are abundant in sea-water, and in the waters of evaporating enclosed coral lagoons and of many bitter lakes. Calcite is more soluble than dolomite in water saturated with carbonic acid and would tend to be slowly removed from a limestone, while the dolomite increased in relative proportion. Dolomite also being denser than calcite may be supposed to replace it more readily when pressure is increased. These and many other factors probably co-operate to effect the transmutation of limestones into dolomites.

Examples of dolomitization may be obtained in practically every geological formation in which limestones occur. The oldest rocks are most generally affected, e.g. the Cambrian limestones of Scotland, but the change occurs, as has already been stated, even in the upraised coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific oceans which are very recent formations. It is very interesting to note that dolomites are very frequent among rocks which indicate that desert or salt-lake conditions prevailed at the time of their deposit. The dolomite or magnesian limestone of the English Permian is an instance of this. The explanation may be found in the fact that the waters of bitter lakes are usually rich in magnesium salts which, percolating through beds of limestone, would convert them into dolomite. Among the most famous dolomites are those of the Dolomite Alps of Tirol. They are of Triassic age and yield remarkably picturesque mountain scenery; it is believed that some were originally coral reefs; they are now highly crystalline and often contain interesting minerals and ores.

The galena limestone of the North American Trenton rocks is mostly a dolomite.

Dolomites furnish excellent building stones, and those of the north-east of England (Mansfield stone, &c.) have long been regarded with great favour on account of their resistance to decomposition. They vary a good deal in quality, and have not all proved equally satisfactory in practice. Part of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster is built of dolomite. (J. S. F.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also dolomite



Dolomite (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Dolomites


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