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Bismuth (Bi)

bismuth mineral specimen

Bismuth was confused in early times with tin and lead because of its resemblance to those elements.

Bismuth is a soft, heavy, brittle, and silvery white metal with a pinkish tinge. Bismuth is a heavy metal, however it is scientifically recognized as one of the safest elements. It has a low melting point and has a rare quality of expanding rather then contracting as it freezes. Bismuth metal is relatively inert and non-toxic. The most common uses are in Pharmaceuticals, Fuses, Fire detection, and magnets. It has replaced lead in many applications such as in plumbing , soldering,  and in the production of bullets and birdshot.  When mixed with tin, cadmium and lead bismuth forms a series of low melting point or ‘fusible alloys’ used in fire sprinklers and safety devices.

Bismuth was found in small amounts in many Cornish mines, often in the metallic (native) state or combined with sulphur as the mineral bismuthinite. In a few locations bismuth occurred in quantities large enough to warrant its recovery notably at Dolcoath in Camborne and Wheal Owls in St Just. The East pool mine produced the greatest amount of bismuth with a recorded output of four tons between 1872 and 1877.

Very small amounts of bismuth were recovered at Geevor in the flotation residues.


Data Panel: Bismuth Native Element

Silver-white with an iridescent tarnish
Crystal system
Crystal habit
Crystals are rare.
Greenish black
Uneven, jagged
Other characteristics
Pinkish tint on broken surfaces


 Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Geevor Archive

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