Antimony minerals, particularly stibnite, have been known and used since ancient times. Because it is so soft, stibnite was used in ancient times as black eye makeup. The Roman historian, Pliny, wrote about its use as a medicine. Artists used finely-ground stibnite in the Middle Ages as a black pigment. Ancient “scientists” were interested in antimony because of their belief that it may be useful in the process of changing common metals into gold. This field was known as alchemy.
Antimony is a native element,antimony metal is extracted from stibnite and other minerals. Antimony is used as a hardening alloy for lead, especially storage batteries and cable sheaths, also used in bearing metal, type metal, solder, collapsible tubes and foil, sheet and pipes, and semiconductor technology.
The most important use of antimony is in chemicals used to impregnate plastics, textiles, rubber, and other materials as a flame retardant – that is, a form of fireproofing.Over half the annual U.S. antimony consumption is for the manufacture of flame retardants.
Antimony is mixed with other metals and turned to alloyed,such as lead, to make the lead harder and stronger for use in lead-acid batteries.On the other hand,some alloys such an an alloy of antimony,tin,copper,and sometimes lead are useful as machine bearings because they are soft and slippery.Antimony is also alloyed with tin to make pewter items such as plates, pitchers and cups, used mostly for decoration.
Antimony is also used for pigments in plastics, paints, rubber and for a wide variety of minor uses, including medicines, fireworks, and others. Antimony oxide is a brilliant yellow color, accounting for much of the pigment use.Stibnite is used for metal antifriction alloys, metal type, shot, batteries, and in the manufacture of fireworks. Antimony salts are used in the rubber and textile industries, in medicine, and glassmaking.
Most of the antimony mined each year comes from China, which supplies over three-quarters of the world total. The remainder is from Russia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Bolivia, and a few other countries. Some antimony is produced as a by-product of smelting ores of other metals, mainly gold, copper and silver, in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.