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Poison stone - the basis of medieval cosmetics

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

The predatory appearance of this stone seems to warn of the danger hidden inside it. However, more than one hundred people were destined to die before the secret of the mineral was revealed.

Outwardly, the stone looks like a bundle of sharp silver arrows, but inside it there is a toxic and poisonous element, and if it gets into the body, a lethal outcome is possible.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In ancient times, antimonite, or as it is also called stibnite, was often confused with silver and dishes and weapons were cast from the mineral. In ancient Egypt, and then in Europe and in the eastern countries, ground stone, mixed with oil, was actively used for cosmetic purposes, most often as an eyeliner and eyebrow. At the same time, the mineral performed not only a decorative function, but also a healing one. According to the Egyptians, antimonite strengthened vision and protected the mucous membrane from irritation.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Medieval alchemists assured that anti-monite is able to benefit humanity. However, over the years, their experiments did not give any results, and the number of deaths from interaction with the mineral only increased. So, very often, crushed antimonite was prescribed as an emetic for the purpose of clearing the stomach. Indeed, according to the theory of Hippocrates, which had many followers in those days, in order for the body to remain healthy, it is necessary to maintain the balance of the basic fluids in it. Diseases are born from an imbalance between blood, bile and mucus. Therefore, everything could be brought back to normal by causing vomiting, diarrhea or sweating.

The pharmacists did not even realize that the mineral, getting into the body, caused severe food poisoning, accompanied by irritation of the mucous membranes and vomiting reflex. With long-term treatment, antimony, which is part of the mineral, accumulated in the thyroid gland and gradually suppressed its functions. When the toxic properties of antimonite were proven, the Paris parliament officially banned the use of antimony and its compounds in medicine.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In the Victorian era, the stone continued to be used in cosmetology. Together with arsenic and mercury, the crushed mineral has become an integral part of a woman's “makeup bag”. In addition, at that time it became popular in England to use antimony obtained from antimonite as a slow-acting poison. Dust and toxic fumes caused nosebleeds and fever.

Among the more than a hundred naturally occurring minerals, which include antimony, the most widespread and of the greatest industrial value is antimonite. It gave the antimony its name. After all, originally, by antimony luster was meant this stone.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In the 21st century, antimony, obtained from antimonite, is included in some medicines. Until recently, the only remedy for leishmaniasis, an infection spread by female mosquitoes in Africa and South Asia, was antimony-based drug.

The areas of using the element obtained from antimonite are diverse. Antimony is required in the manufacture of electric batteries, telephones, electrical cables, semiconductors, and even enamels for refrigerators.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Among collectors, especially appreciated are unusual in shape samples of the mineral, like, for example, intergrowths of needle crystals. Experts advise to touch this mineral only in gloves and with great care. At the same time, just being on a shelf, antimonite poses no danger to humans.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей