Gypsum is a mineral rock made up of calcium sulfate. Gypsum has a long history of use in building and construction and was even used in the construction of the ancient Egyptian pyramids. Gypsum is one of the most widely used minerals in construction materials, but is made into many other products as well. Gypsum is found in nature as crystal mineral deposits that are clear to white in color, and usually tabular or prismatic.
Plaster is historically one of the most common uses of gypsum, both in building and construction plasters, as well as in plaster used for art. Plaster of Paris, alabaster and wall plasters are all gypsum products. Plaster of Paris and alabaster are typically used in artistic or decorative applications, as it is far less durable and more prone to corrosion than other plaster formulations specifically for construction.
According to the Gypsum Association, over 30 billion square feet of gypsum panels are produced each year in the U.S. Gypsum panels, such as drywall, gypsum board and Sheetrock are manufactured from gypsum plaster, then pressed and cut into uniform sizes. These panels are regularly used in internal walls and ceilings, and are very popular among DIY builders
Common blackboard chalk, which was traditionally made from natural chalk, today is made from gypsum. Blackboard chalk is made into sticks and used to draw on blackboards and other rough surfaces
Gypsum is considered safe for human consumption, and is regularly used as a food additive. It is used as a natural source of calcium, as well as in brewing beers and wines and for canning vegetables. Gypsum is also used as a binding agent in tofu, white bread, blue cheese and ice cream, as well as being the primary ingredient in most toothpaste formulas
Gypsum is used extensively in agriculture as a soil conditioner. Gypsum is added to soils and improves the workability and moisture retention of the soil. According to the Gypsum Association, crops that require high levels of sulfates, such as alfalfa, peanuts, wheat, corn and cotton, are primary benefactors of gypsum used as a soil conditioner.