Witherite crystallizes in the orthorhombic system. The crystals are invariably twinned together in groups of three, giving rise to pseudo-hexagonal forms somewhat resembling bipyramidal crystals of quartz, the faces are usually rough and striated horizontally.
The mineral is named after William Withering, who in 1784 recognized it to be chemically distinct from barytes. It occurs in veins of lead ore at Hexham in Northumberland, Alston in Cumbria, Anglezarke, near Chorley in Lancashire and a few other localities. Witherite is readily altered to barium sulfate by the action of water containing calcium sulfate in solution and crystals are therefore frequently encrusted with barytes. It is the chief source of barium salts and is mined in considerable amounts in Northumberland. It is used for the preparation of rat poison, in the manufacture of glass and porcelain, and formerly for refining sugar. It is also used for controlling the chromate to sulfate ratio in chromium electroplating baths.
In the brick, tile, earthenware and pottery industries barium carbonate is added to clays to precipitate soluble salts (calcium and magnesium sulfates) that cause efflorescence.