I guess I should start with what is a sulfide mineral right? A sulfide mineral is a mineral that is defined by the specific chemical bond it’s sulfer has (it has an oxidation state of S[2-]). Some of these minerals are important sources of metal ores.
So, now lets pick one to go over when we talk about sulfur in the next episode! Below are 10 common sulfide minerals. Look them over and help me decide on one or more for the next episode!
1) Galena (PbS)
Also called lead glance. It is the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide mineral and an important source of lead. It forms cubes and personally is one of my favorite minerals. It has been used since ancient times as a source of lead, and because of its low melting temperature it was pretty easy to separate the lead. In some areas galena can also contain silver and has been used as a source of silver as well.
In Ancient Egypt it was used as kohl and applied around the eyes to reduce the glare of the sun, and to repel flies. It is also known as a potters ore since it has been used to make a green glaze for pottery.
2) Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2)
Also known as Peacock Ore. This mineral contains copper, iron and sulfur. Fresh unaltered chalcopyrite is a brassy golden yellow color, but when it is exposed to air it oxidizes and forms a distinctive peacock rainbow of colors. It is a major ore for copper due mostly to its wide distribution and abundance. It is also widely used as a decorative stone because of the bright colors. These can be enhanced with either age for an acid treatment. We also went over this in an older episode and here is the blog post
3) Pyrrhotite (Fe1-xS)
This unsual mineral is an iron sulfide mineral with a variable iron content. It is also known as troilite and “magnetic pyrite” since it looks like pyrite and is weakly magnetic. The magnetism decreases as the iron content decreases.
4) Realgar (AsS)
Also known as “ruby sulfur” or “ruby of arsenic” is a beautiful red mineral. It burns with a blue flame. It is used as the main source of arsenic in the world. It is poisonous and the ancient Greeks called it “sandaracha”. It was used to poison rats in medieval Spain and 16th century England and it is still used sometimes to kill weeds insects and rodents. The Chinese name is xionghuang which means “masculine yellow” and was sprinkled around the house to repel snakes and insects and is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is usually mixed with rice liquor and consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival to ward off evil.
It was also used in leather manufacturing to remove animal hair from pelts. It was also used in the Roman Empire as a red paint pigment.
5) Orpiment (As2S3)
This mineral is a deep orange yellow. It is found in volcanic fumerals and low temperature hydrothermal veins. It’s name is from the Latin auripigmentum (aurum − gold + pigmentum − pigment). It was traded in the Roman Empire and used in traditional Chinese medicine even though it is very toxic. it has also been used as fly poison, and to tip arrows. It was of interest to alchemists in the search for a way to make gold because of it’s color in the west and in China.
It was also historically used as a pigment in paint and sealing wax. It was used until the 19th century however it is no longer used.
6) Pyrite (FeS2)
Commonly known as “Fools Gold” and also known as iron pyrite. It gets the name fools gold due to its pale brass-yellow hue and that gives it a superficial resemblance to gold. Its name comes from the Greek pyrites which means “of fire” or “in fire” and this name was originally applied to several types of stones that would create a spark when struck against steel. Oh the uses. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was a popularly used for ignition in early firearms. It is also used in marcasite jewelry that was popular in the Victorian Era. We also went over this mineral in an older episode and here is a link to that blog post
Pyrite also formed as a replacement mineral in fossils leading to beautiful pyritised fossils.
7) Molybdenite (MoS2)
It has similar in appearance and feel to graphite and is used as a lubricant. It occurs in high temperature hydrothermal ore deposits. It is currently mined for its lubrication properties.
8) Cinnabar (HgS) –
This mineral is one of the most common sources for mercury. It has occurrences all over the world and is currently also being formed and deposited in the hot waters of Sulfur Bank Mine in California USA and the Steamboat Springs, Nevada USA. It has been mined since the Neolithic age and during the Roman Empire it was mined for use as a pigment as well as for its mercury. To produce quicksilver (liquid mercury) cinnabar is crushed, and roasted in rotary furnaces. The mercury separates from the sulfur and evaporates. It is them condensed and collected. It was often shipped in iron flasks.
It can be toxic to humans because of the mercury content. “the toxic properties of mercury were well known. It was dangerous to those who mined and processed cinnabar, it caused shaking, loss of sense, and death…data suggest that mercury was retorted from cinnabar and the workers were exposed to the toxic mercury fumes.” – Petersen, G. (2010). Mining and Metallurgy in Ancient Perú. The Geological Society of America.
Cinnabar was used for its color in the New World since the Olmec culture ( Mexico 1500 BCE – 400 BCE), and was used in royal burial chambers in the Mayan civilization. The most dramatic example is the Tomb of the Red Queen (600-700AD). In China it was also used in lacquerware.
9) Sphalerite (ZnS)
This mineral is the chief ore for zinc. It is used in gems and crystals of suitable size and transparency are used and generally are cut with a brilliant cut. This is a range of colors usually yellow, brown, gray, and can be either shiny or dull. The gray-black crystals with a red iridescence are called “ruby sphalerite“.
10) Stibnite (Sb2S3)
It is a soft mineral, and pastes used from a powder of this mineral in fat have been used since ca. 3000 BC as eye cosmetics in the Middle East. It was also used in Anchient Eygept as a medication to clear vision and make hair sprout. In the 17th century the alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes used it as a precursor to philosophical mercury which was a hypothetical precursor to the Philosophers stone.
Alright! Now that we have gone through 10 different sulfides… you get to help me decided which one (or ones) to go over in the next episode! That is right the featured mineral is BACK! So, which one(s) do you use? Which one(s) are you interested in? Help me pick!