Chemical Composition: Bi Cleavage: Perfect Color: Silver-white, pinkish-white, red. When oxidized it has metallic rainbow colors Crystal System: Trigonal-hexagonal scalenohedral Form/Habit: Cubic Fracture: Uneven Gravity: 9.7-9.8 Hardness: 2-2.5 Luminescence: None Luster: Metallic Streak: Silver-white Transparency: Opaque
Where does Bismuth come from?
Natural Bismuth is found in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Poland, Spain, United States (California, Colorado, South Dakota) and Vietnam. However, most of the Bismuth on the commercial market is lab-grown in Germany.
What is Bismuth?
Bismuth is a relatively rare Native Element, a chemical element that appears in nature uncombined with anything else. Native Elements are typically divided into three groups: metals such as Copper, Gold, Silver, and Platinum; semi-metals like Arsenic; and nonmetals like Sulfur and Carbon. Bismuth is a brittle semi-metal.
How is Bismuth formed?
Bismuth is a rare element, about as common as silver. Most of the time it forms as a lump of grey or silvery metal, which is often mistaken for tin or lead. On very rare occasions, high-purity Bismuth will form natural “Hopper Crystals”, with outer walls full developed like steps, while the interior remains empty. This shape occurs when Bismuth grows so rapidly, that there is not time or the necessary materials, to fill in all the gaps. Hoppering happens when the electrical attraction along one edge of the crystal is higher, thus causing faster growth. Bismuth can easily tarnishes, and when that happens it takes on a wide-range of colors.
Bismuth is usually mined as a biproduct of mining aimed at extracting other metals such as Copper, Lead, Tin and Tungsten. It is usually found in crude lead bullion, which then goes through several stages of refining.
While native Bismuth may be available to collectors on occasion, most of it is used for commercial purposes. But Bismuth Hopper Crystals are one of the easiest crystals to grow and can be created in any home-kitchen. Unsurprisingly, most of the colorful Bismuth crystals are lab-grown, rather than mined. To start with, natural Bismuth, which is usually grey and fairly uninspiring, must be brought up to a high enough temperature to melt. Once in a liquid form, it is removed from the heat source and allowed to cool. During this cooling, crystallization will begin to take place and crystals will begin to float on the surface of the liquid. They can then be removed with tweezers and set down to continue to solidify and cool. Later on, the surface of the Hopper Crystals can be oxidized to bring out beautiful rainbow colors.
Julie Abouzelof is the owner of Moonrise Crystals and an advocate for responsibly sourced gems and minerals. Her first career was in education teaching history, geology and anthropology, as well as working with special-needs students. She is now a heart-centered entrepreneur who encourages mindfulness and positive action to heal ourselves and the world. Julie lives in Hawaii with her lover and a little parrot named Darwin.