The Alchemy web site on Levity.com
The extraction of Antimony from its ore
The following photographic documentation of the process of extracting antimony from its ore made by one of my French correspondents and one of his colleagues. He says:-
"These pictures describe an experiment undertaken a few years ago related to the Dry path of antimony (or Stibnite Path) as followed by E. Canseliet and, I guess (but opinions could differ on this point !) by Fulcanelli. The first group concerns the "liquation", i.e. the preliminary purification of the antimony ore (stibinite). The second series shows the Separation. Except for the ore which came from Bolivia, we worked with commercial products coming from a local chemical dealer."
The purpose of this operation is to purify the crude ore from the main
part of its coating. Although the operation could be made with two super-posed crucibles, as
was described in several old treatises of chemistry, my friend chose
to build a small "multi-purpose" furnace which could be used for other
This picture shows this furnace. He made two similar plates of
refractory concrete. Both of them have a circular hole for the exhausting of fumes or for the
running of the melted ore. The top plate was fitted with handles made
with electric wire.
The main chamber of the furnace was built with standard refractory
bricks. My friend decided to avoid cement in order to change molten of
broken brick without any difficulty. My opinion is it would be possible to simplify the building
of this furnace with four "L" plates fitted at each corner.
The whole furnace is installed on two large breeze blocks in order to
have a second chamber where a can of water (or another required liquid ) will receive the purified ore.
The furnace is heated by two gas burners fitted tangentially
to the crucible. These burners are not expensive and are available from the Swedish firm
SIEVERT (ref 2943): they are widely used for burning old paint or
fusing road tar.
My friend used propane as a fuel. Butane is not convenient because it
tends to freeze-up the gas bottle, regulator, gas pipe and stop-cocks when used
with powerful burners. Charcoal could be also used but such a fuel is
more difficult to regulate, regardless of the dust and smoke.
REMEMBER ! Take great care of your safety !!!
The crucible will be installed on a hollow cylinder of refractory
concrete. My friend used the bottom of a plastic bottle as a mould for
making this support.
The crude ore (reduced to pieces of about the size of a nut but not into
powder) is placed in a crucible having a hole of 5 mm of diameter
at its bottom.
A metallic wire-netting is placed around the crucible. Acting as a
screen, it will "break" the flames coming from the two burners. Thus reduces the
risks of breaking the crucible and the heat will be more even.
A cover is fitted on the crucible in order to reduce the oxidation of
REMEMBER ! : all parts of the furnace, crucibles and covers ought to be
perfectly dry before being used. Refractory products are very fragile
and expensive. Due to the fact they tend to act as a sponge, stock them
in a dry place. A low temperature pre-heating will certainly be required.
The upper piece is now fitted. You should check that is it not too tight.
Each part of the furnace needs room to expand
The two burners are now installed and lit. The gas flow should be
moderate during the first ten minutes in order to avoid thermal shock.
A can of water (or another required liquid) is now placed into the
lower chamber, just beside the bottom hole.
When the temperature reaches the melting point of the sulphur the
liquid will flow into the can. At this moment, it will be necessary to
reduce the power of the burners in order to avoid oxidation and
sublimation of the sulphur. Remember: Liquation is a kind
of "distilation per descensum" and not a "sublimation" or a
You will stop the operation when noises tend to reduce in intensity.
Don't try to obtain more from your ore : you'll waste your time.
The gas is now turned off. You have to wait until the temperature drops
to normal before removing the top of the furnace in order to avoid
thermal shock (crucibles are so fragile !) You'll see some yellow traces
of sulphur on the walls of the furnace.
REMEMBER ! : BEWARE OF TOXIC FUMES !
The purified ore is now ready for further operations : Levigation
(remember: "alcohol" means " "a very subtle powder" in Arabic. Good for
your eyes !) , Assation, Separation .