What is the Difference Between Calcite and Dolomite

Carbonate minerals are compounds composed of carbon, oxygen, and another metal element. Among these, calcite and dolomite hold significant importance in various industries. While sharing similarities, they also exhibit differences stemming from their distinct chemical compositions. This article provides insights into their chemical nature and presents a comparison between calcite and dolomite.

What is the difference between calcite and dolomite? Calcite is composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), while dolomite is a calcium magnesium carbonate (CaMg(CO3)2).

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Calcite 
      – Definition, Features
2. What is Dolomite
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Calcite and Dolomite
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Calcite and Dolomite
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Calcite and Dolomite
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Calcite, Carbonate, Dolomite, Mineral

Difference Between Calcite and Dolomite - Comparison Summary

What is Calcite

Calcite is an abundant mineral that belongs to the carbonate group. Its chemical composition is calcium carbonate (CaCO3), making it a primary component in limestone, marble, and chalk. Known for its distinct rhombohedral crystal structure, calcite exhibits remarkable optical properties, such as double refraction, which causes objects viewed through it to appear doubled.

This mineral forms in a variety of environments, from sedimentary settings to hydrothermal veins. Its presence is indicative of geological processes, and large deposits often signify past marine environments. Calcite plays a crucial role in the carbon cycle, acting as a reservoir for carbon dioxide. Through processes like weathering, it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and water, influencing both geological and environmental dynamics.


One of calcite’s remarkable characteristics is its sensitivity to environmental conditions. Under ultraviolet light, some varieties fluoresce, displaying vibrant colors. Additionally, calcite can exhibit phosphorescence, continuing to emit light after the removal of the energy source.

Beyond its geological significance, calcite has practical applications. It is a key ingredient in cement production, as well as a polishing agent for items like optical lenses and mirrors. In folklore, calcite is associated with grounding and cleansing properties and is believed to enhance mental clarity and emotional balance.

What is Dolomite

Dolomite is a mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate, with the chemical formula CaMg(CO3)2. This double carbonate structure distinguishes it from similar minerals like calcite, which contains only calcium carbonate. Named after the French geologist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, dolomite often forms in sedimentary environments through the replacement of calcium in limestone by magnesium-rich fluids.

The crystal structure of dolomite consists of layers of carbonate ions arranged in a hexagonal pattern, alternating with layers of magnesium and calcium ions. This unique structure contributes to its distinct physical properties, such as its rhombohedral cleavage and characteristic pink, white, or gray coloration.


In terms of its chemistry, dolomite reacts with dilute acids, producing bubbles of carbon dioxide due to the liberation of carbonic acid. This effervescence is a key diagnostic test for distinguishing dolomite from minerals like calcite, which react more vigorously with acids.

Dolomite plays a crucial role in various industries. In agriculture, it is utilized as a soil conditioner, providing essential magnesium to promote plant growth. Additionally, it is a valuable source of magnesium in the production of refractory materials and magnesium metal.

Similarities Between Calcite and Dolomite

  1. Calcite and dolomite are both carbonate minerals composed primarily of calcium, carbon, and oxygen.
  2. They are commonly found minerals in sedimentary rocks, particularly in limestone formations.

Difference Between Calcite and Dolomite


  • Calcite is a mineral composed of calcium carbonate, while dolomite is a double carbonate consisting of calcium magnesium carbonate.


  • While calcite contains only calcium, dolomite contains both calcium and magnesium, with a significant portion being magnesium.


  • Calcite readily reacts with acid, producing bubbles of carbon dioxide, while dolomite reacts more slowly with acid, and the reaction is less vigorous due to the presence of magnesium.


Calcite and dolomite are two carbonate minerals having different chemical compositions. The primary difference between calcite and dolomite lies in their chemical composition. Calcite contains calcium, carbon, and oxygen, whereas dolomite, in addition, contains magnesium. These two compounds have different chemical properties due to their differences in chemical composition while also sharing some similarities. Both of these compounds have proven to be of high value in industries, with calcite and dolomite serving various industrial purposes.

FAQ: Calcite and Dolomite

1. What is the difference between dolomite and limestone?

Dolomite and limestone differ in composition. Limestone is made of calcium carbonate, while dolomite is made of calcium magnesium carbonate.

2. Is calcite harder than dolomite?

No. Dolomite is slightly harder than calcite. Calcite has a Mohs hardness of 3, while dolomite has a Mohs hardness of 3.5 to 4. Additionally, calcite is less dense than dolomite.

3. How does calcite become dolomite?

Calcite can undergo a process called dolomitization, where it reacts with magnesium-rich fluids in the presence of heat and pressure. This process replaces some of the calcium ions in calcite with magnesium ions, transforming it into dolomite.

4. Is dolomite more soluble than calcite?

No, dolomite is generally less soluble than calcite. While both calcite and dolomite are carbonate minerals and can dissolve in acidic solutions, calcite tends to dissolve more readily than dolomite due to its simpler chemical structure.

5. What is the formula for calcite and dolomite?

The chemical formula for calcite is CaCO3, indicating that it consists of one calcium (Ca) ion bonded to one carbonate (CO3) ion. The chemical formula for dolomite is CaMg(CO3)2, indicating that it consists of one calcium ion, one magnesium (Mg) ion, and two carbonate ions bonded together.


1. “Calcite.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Dolomite – An Overview.” WebMD.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Calcite jaune sur fluorine violette (USA)” By Géry Parent – collection perso. (Copyrighted free use) via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Dolomite Luzenac” By Didier Descouens – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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