AskDefine | Define gypsum

Dictionary Definition

gypsum n : a common white or colorless mineral (hydrated calcium sulphate) used to make cements and plasters (especially plaster of Paris)

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A mineral consisting of the hydrated calcium sulphate. When calcined, it forms plaster of Paris.


  • Czech: sádrovec
  • Estonian: kips
  • Norwegian: gips
  • Persian: (gac)
  • Portuguese: gipsita
  • Spanish: yeso



gypsum (plural gypsi)
  1. gypsum; a plaster figure

Extensive Definition

Gypsum is a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O.

Crystal varieties

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.


Gypsum is a common mineral, with thick and extensive evaporite beds in association with sedimentary rocks. Deposits are known to occur in strata from as early as the Permian age. Gypsum is deposited in lake and sea water, as well as in hot springs, from volcanic vapors, and sulfate solutions in veins. Hydrothermal anhydrite in veins is commonly hydrated to gypsum by groundwater in near surface exposures. It is often associated with the minerals halite and sulfur.
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 sq 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,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. There are commercial quantities in East Kutai, Kalimantan.
Vast crystals of gypsum, up to 10 metres in length have been found in the "Cueva de los Crystales" in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Uses of Gypsum

There are a large number of uses for gypsum throughout prehistory and history. Some of these uses are:
  • Drywall
  • Plaster ingredient.
  • Fertilizer and soil conditioner. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Nova Scotia gypsum, often referred to as plaister, was a highly sought fertilizer for wheat fields in the United States.
  • Plaster of Paris (surgical splints; casting moulds; modeling).
  • 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 construction at locations where wood was previously used.
  • A tofu (soy bean curd) coagulant, making it ultimately a major source of dietary calcium, especially in Asian cultures which traditionally use few dairy products.
  • Adding hardness to water used for homebrewing.
  • Blackboard chalk.
  • A component of Portland cement used to prevent flash setting of concrete.
  • Soil/water potential monitoring (soil moisture tension)
  • A medicinal agent in traditional Chinese medicine called Shi Gao.
gypsum in Arabic: جص
gypsum in Bulgarian: Гипс
gypsum in Catalan: Guix
gypsum in Czech: Sádrovec
gypsum in Danish: Gips
gypsum in German: Gips
gypsum in Estonian: Kips
gypsum in Modern Greek (1453-): Γύψος
gypsum in Spanish: Aljez
gypsum in Esperanto: Gipsoŝtono
gypsum in French: Gypse
gypsum in Korean: 석고
gypsum in Croatian: Gips
gypsum in Italian: Gesso (mineralogia)
gypsum in Hebrew: גבס
gypsum in Latin: Gypsum
gypsum in Latvian: Ģipsis
gypsum in Lithuanian: Gipsas
gypsum in Hungarian: Gipsz
gypsum in Dutch: Gips
gypsum in Norwegian: Gips
gypsum in Japanese: 石膏
gypsum in Polish: Gips
gypsum in Portuguese: Gipsita
gypsum in Romanian: Gips
gypsum in Russian: Гипс
gypsum in Slovak: Sadrovec
gypsum in Slovenian: Sadra
gypsum in Serbian: Гипс
gypsum in Swedish: Gips
gypsum in Thai: ยิปซัม
gypsum in Vietnamese: Thạch cao
gypsum in Contenese: 石膏
gypsum in Chinese: 石膏
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