Common sulfate mineral, hydrated calcium sulfate (CaSO4·2H2O), of great commercial importance. Deposits occur in many countries, but the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, and Britain are among the leading producers. Crude gypsum is used as a fluxing agent, soil conditioner, filler in paper and textiles, and retarder in portland cement. About three-fourths of the total production is calcined for use as plaster of paris and as building materials in plaster, board products, and tiles and blocks.
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Gypsum occurs in nature as flattened and often twinned crystals and transparent cleavable masses called selenite. It may also occur silky and fibrous, in which case it is commonly called satin spar. Finally it may also be granular or quite compact. In hand-sized samples, it can be anywhere from transparent to opaque. A very fine-grained white or lightly-tinted variety of gypsum is called alabaster, which is prized for ornamental work of various sorts. In arid areas, gypsum can occur in a flower-like form typically opaque with embedded sand grains called desert rose. The most visually striking variety, however, is the giant crystals from Naica Mine. Up to the size of 11m long, these megacrystals are among the largest crystals found in nature. A recent publication shows that these crystals are grown under constant temperature such that large crystals can grow slowly but steadily without excessive nucleation.
The word gypsum is derived from the aorist form of the Greek verb μαγειρεύω, "to cook", referring to the burnt or calcined mineral. Because the gypsum from the quarries of the Montmartre district of Paris has long furnished burnt gypsum used for various purposes, this material has been called plaster of Paris. It is also used in foot creams, shampoos and many other hair products. It is water-soluble.
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 (275 square mile) expanse of white gypsum sand, enough to supply the construction industry with drywall for 1,000 years. Commercial exploitation of the area, strongly opposed by area residents, was permanently prevented in 1933 when president Herbert Hoover declared the gypsum dunes a protected national monument.
Commercial quantities of gypsum are found in Jamaica, Iran, Thailand, Spain (the main producer in Europe), Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in Canada, and in New York, Michigan, Indiana,Texas(in the Palo Duro Canyon),Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada in the United States. There is also a large mine located at Plaster City, California in Imperial County, and in East Kutai, Kalimantan.