Minerals are formed by organisms in all of the kingdoms of life. Mineral formation pathways all involve uptake of ions from the environment, transport of ions by cells, sometimes temporary storage, and ultimately deposition in or outside of the cells. Even though the details of how all this is achieved vary enormously, all pathways need to respect both the chemical limitations of ion manipulation, as well as the many “housekeeping” roles of ions in cell functioning. Here we provide a chemical perspective on the biological pathways of biomineralization. Our approach is to compare and contrast the ion pathways involving calcium, phosphate, and carbonate in three very different organisms: the enormously abundant unicellular marine coccolithophores, the well investigated sea urchin larval model for single crystal formation, and the complex pathways used by vertebrates to form their bones. The comparison highlights both common and unique processes. Significantly, phosphate is involved in regulating calcium carbonate deposition and carbonate is involved in regulating calcium phosphate deposition. One often overlooked commonality is that, from uptake to deposition, the solutions involved are usually supersaturated. This therefore requires not only avoiding mineral deposition where it is not needed but also exploiting this saturated state to produce unstable mineral precursors that can be conveniently stored, redissolved, and manipulated into diverse shapes and upon deposition transformed into more ordered and hence often functional final deposits.