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Chandeliers are so-named due to the claw-like shapes assumed by stalactites made of gypsum, rather than calcite. Large crystals tend to form on the ends of the stalactite as it grows, making deposition move to the side. The largest crystals are often observed at the end of chandeliers, in radiating sprays.

Chandeliers are relatively rare, with examples known from just a few southwestern USA caves, most notably Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, which has the largest and most spectacular examples known. These are depicted in the first two images, shot in the so-called Chandelier Ballroom. Another cave famous for its chandeliers is the Kupp-Coutunn cave in Turkmenistan.

AUTHOR: Dave Bunnell