San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
Halite, from the SDNHM Collection.  Photo Credit: Tim Murray

Halite

From the Greek words, halos, meaning "salt.", and lithos for "rock."

Description and Occurrence

Halite is an evaporite, which means it forms when water evaporates and leaves behind dissolved solids. It usually occurs as cube-shaped crystals, often with concave faces. The crystal habit may be massive, granular, or compact. Halite may be colorless, white, gray, yellow, red, or blue.

As table salt, halite is an important component of the human diet. In the chemical industry, it's used in the extraction or production of caustic soda, chlorine, sodium, and hydrochloric acid

Halite forms in shallow desert lakes and can be found in dried up lakebeds and inland seas. Large concentrations of halite have been found in Germany, Poland, and various parts of the United States. In this region, halite can be found at the Salton Sea in Imperial County, and Searles Lake, a dry lake in San Bernardino County.

Field Notes: Halite is very soft, tastes salty, and dissolves easily in water. The crystals glow under fluorescent light.


Physical Properties

Color Streak Transparency Luster Hardness Cleavage Fracture Specific gravity Crystal form
colorless, white, gray, yellow, red, blue white transparent to translucent vitreous 2 to 2.5 perfect, three directions at right angles conchoidal, brittle 2.1 to 2.2 isometric

Photo Credit: Tim Murray for SDNHM

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