How Was Antimony Used in Ancient Times?

Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol Sb and atomic number 51. It is a metalloid that has been used by humans for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians used antimony as a cosmetic, while the Chinese used it in metallurgy and medicine.

Antimony in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians were known to use antimony as early as 3100 BC. They used it as a cosmetic, mixing it with other substances to create black kohl eyeliner. The Egyptians believed that wearing kohl would protect their eyes from the evil eye and ward off infection.

Antimony was also used in the production of ceramics and glass in ancient Egypt. It was added to glazes to produce a yellow color, and to glass to make it opaque.

Antimony in Ancient Babylon

The ancient Babylonians were also familiar with antimony. They used it to make sculptures, which they believed had magical properties. The Babylonians also used antimony compounds as medicine, particularly as a remedy for eye infections.

Antimony in Ancient China

In ancient China, antimony was primarily used in metallurgy. It was added to bronze alloys to improve their hardness and casting properties. Antimony was also used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it was believed to have healing properties.

The Dark Side of Antimony

While antimony had many practical uses in ancient times, it also had some harmful effects on human health. Exposure to high levels of antimony can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, and even death.

Despite these risks, antimony continued to be widely used throughout history. Today, antimony is still used in a variety of applications including electronics, plastics, and flame retardants.


In conclusion, antimony has been an important element throughout human history. From ancient Egypt to modern times, antimony has been used in a variety of applications. While it has had both positive and negative effects on human health, its versatility and usefulness continue to make it an important element in industry and technology.