Many examples of ionic sulfates are known, and many of these are highly soluble in water. Exceptions include calcium sulfate, strontium sulfate, and barium sulfate, which are poorly soluble. The barium derivative is useful in the gravimetric analysis of sulfate: one adds a solution of, perhaps, barium chloride to a solution containing sulfate ions. The appearance of a white precipitate, which is barium sulfate, indicates that sulfate anions are present.
The sulfate ion can act as a ligand attaching either by one oxygen (monodentate) or by two oxygens as either a chelate or a bridge. An example is the neutral metal complex PtSO4P(C6H5)32 where the sulfate ion is acting as a bidentate ligand. The metal-oxygen bonds in sulfate complexes can have significant covalent character