Stibnite (#56)

A spray of acicular crystals to 2" in length.
Europe Felsobanya, Romania 4" x 2 ¾" x 2 ¾"


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The chemical formula for stibnite is Sb2S3, so it is a sulfide. The element symbol Sb stands for the element antimony - but there is neither an "S" nor a "b" in the word "antimony." Weird. Where did Sb come from then? Antimony was chemically isolated in the 16th century and given the name "stibium," a name derived from the Egyptian word for Sb2S3, which was used as a cosmetic for the eyes. Later the name was changed to antimony, but the chemical symbol recalls the older name, stibium. Symbols apparently unrelated to the element name are not uncommon in the Periodic Table of the Elements - for example, W for tungsten, Fe for iron, and Au for gold.

Antimony is not an abundant element in the earth's crust, and is nearly always found chemically combined with some other element, as in Sb2S3. It has important uses, though. It is used in batteries, transistors, ammunition, and even fishing tackle. In these uses it is alloyed with other metals (commonly with lead} to produce an alloy with desirable properties.

One might wonder why Egyptians would rub a hard mineral around their eyes as makeup. Well, the mineral isn't hard. On the Mohs hardness scale, stibnite has a hardness of 2, which means that it will leave a black streak if rubbed on paper.

The label says these are acicular crystals. Acicular means that the crystals are needlelike, and they often occur in radiating clusters. These may be a little broader than needle-like, but the term describes them well enough.