Antimony, a metal first extracted from the ore in 1490 by Basil Valentine, a monk of Erfurt. It is of a silver-white color, slightly bluish, of strong lustre, and of a peculiar taste and smell. Its texture is radiated and fibrous, and the metal is so brittle that it may be pounded to powder in a mortar. For this reason it cannot be used alone for any practical purpose, but combined with other metals it forms valuable alloys. Its specific gravity is (6.7, its melting point 842° F. At common temperature it does not oxidize, but heated moderately in the open air, it takes fire and burns with a bright bluish-white flame. The vapor is an oxide, which in condensing often forms beautiful crystals, formerly known as the argentine flowers of antimony. The metal also, after being melted in close crucibles and cooled very slowly, crystallizes in octahedral forms. The name is said to be derived from anti-monachos, or anti-monks, some preparation of the metal having proved fatal to several of the brotherhood, notwithstanding it had been observed that the same mixture had a fattening effect upon hogs, after purging them. A more probable derivation is from atimad, its Arabic name.
The ancients gave the name stibium to some compound of the ore they were acquainted with, which was without doubt the common ore of commerce, the sulphuret. This name is adopted in chemical nomenclature to represent the metal. Its symbol is Sb. Antimony is sometimes found in a metallic state. It so occurs in the Hartz, in France, and in Sweden. The only important natural production of it, however, is the sulphuret, a combination of 71.77 per cent. of the metal and 28.23 of sulphur. This ore is of a lead-gray color, crystallized in laminae and needles, which are very brittle and fusible in the flame of a candle. Its specific gravity is from 4.13 to 4.6; hardness=2. It is easily ground to a black powder, and in this state forms a pigment, which appears to have been used in ancient times by ladies for coloring the eyebrows and edges of the eyelids. The ore is not of rare occurrence in metalliferous districts; but the great supply of it is from the island of Borneo, through Singapore. There are mines of it in lower Hungary, France, and Great Britain. A large vein has been found in Tulare county, California, about 80 miles from Los Angeles, in a high granitic range that borders the Tulare valley on the south.
Its separation from the sulphuret is now effected by first melting the ore in crucibles, perforated at the bottom, and placed in other vessels. As the ore melts, it flows through into the lower vessel, unaltered in composition,but freed from its earthy gangues. This is the crude antimony of commerce. On roasting it to expel the sulphur, different combinations of oxide of antimony and sulphur are formed - as the glass of antimony, the liver of antimony, and crocus. The first-named consists of 8 parts of oxide and 1 of sulphuret. It is a transparent salt, of a reddish yellow color. Crocus contains 2 parts of sulphuret to 8 of the oxide; it is opaque and of yellow-red color. Liver of antimony is opaque and deep brown; it consists of about 4 parts of sulphuret and 8 of oxide. - Crude antimony is reduced to a metallic state by first carefully roasting it to obtain the oxide. This is then mixed with crude tartar, or with carbonate of soda, and powdered charcoal, placed in melting pots, and heated in a wind furnace. An impure metal is thus obtained, called the regulus of antimony. This is again melted with a small proportion of oxide of antimony, by which it is freed from its impurities.
Antimony combines with oxygen in three proportions, the first forming the peroxide, Sb2O3; the third quinquioxide, or antimonic acid; and the second antimoniate of antimony, or quadroxide, a compound of the other two. - The most important alloys of antimony are: type metal, consisting of 4 parts lead and 1 of antimony, which when used for stereotyping has added to it 1/18 to 1/50 of tin; Britannia metal, 100 parts tin, 8 antimony, 2 bismuth, 2 copper; and various white alloys used for teapots, spoons, and forks. Pewter may be made of 12 parts tin, 1 part antimony, and a little copper. - Several compounds of antimony are used in medicine. The pulvis antimonialis, corresponding to the nostrum James's powder, is composed of 1 part teroxide of antimony and 2 parts precipitated phosphate of lime. Kermes mineral is a compound of teroxide and tersulphide in varying proportion, and the precipitated sulphide contains also a portion of teroxide. The most important preparation is the tartrate of antimony and potassa, or tartar emetic. This drug causes vomiting by a specific effect upon the nervous centres. It has a peculiar depressing effect upon the heart and muscular system, both when it produces vomiting and when tolerance, as it is called, has been established.
In poisonous doses it produces burning in the mouth, throat, and stomach, hiccough, copious secretion of mucus and saliva, colic and diarrhoea, muscular weakness, sometimes convulsions and cramp, and a pulse at first weak and slow, then weak and rapid. In chronic poisoning the symptoms are similar, but less marked. Frequently repeated, with intervals of comparative ease, they lead to emaciation, loss of strength, and finally fatal depression. The post-mortem appearances are not very characteristic, and for medico-legal purposes the presence of the drug must be demonstrated. - There are various processes for extracting antimony from suspected matter, which consist essentially in oxidizing and dissolving it in acids. Its presence may be demonstrated by the formation of characteristic precipitates, or by its deposit in a metallic form by Marsh's or Reinsch's test. The metallic spot formed by antimony in Marsh's test is less volatile than that of arsenic, and is insoluble in hot nitric acid or hypochlorite of soda, both of which dissolve arsenic. Tartar emetic is much less used in medicine than formerly, but still finds some favor as a diaphoretic and expectorant, and as a cardiac sedative in inflammatory diseases, especially pneumonia.
Statistics, however, do not speak in its favor as compared with less depressing agents. In most cases other substances possess advantages over this drug as an emetic. Externally, in the form of ointment, it produces a pustular eruption. In poisoning by tartar emetic, vomiting should be encouraged by tickling the fauces and drinking warm water, or the stomach pump may be used. Tannin, such as exists in galls or in green tea, renders less active any of the drug which may remain in the stomach. Subsequent inflamma-tion is to he treated on general principles.