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Cerussite crystals


A grayish-white, crystalline mineral composed of lead carbonate. Cerussite, first described by K. Gesner in 1565, is one of the primary types of lead ore. It is mined in Spain (Murcia), England (Cornwall), Saxony (Johanngerogenstadt), Namibia (Tsumeb), Australia (New South Wales), Canada (British Columbia) and the U.S.(Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Pennsylvania). Cerussite can be formed by the action of ground water on Galena (lead sulfide) ore. Although basic lead carbonate has been used as a white pigment since ancient times, it was made synthetically and not obtained from the naturally occurring cerussite ore. In fact, cerussite has rarely been used as a white pigment although it is occasionally found as an impurity in basic lead carbonate (Gettens, Kuhn and Chase, 1993).


Synonyms and Related Terms

normal lead carbonate; natural lead carbonate; horn silver; Cerussit (Deut.); Weißbleierz (Deut.); cérusite (Fr.); cerusita (Esp.); albayalde (Esp.); carbonato de plomo (Esp.); cerussite (It.); cerusite (Port.); cerussiet (Ned.)


Cerussite PMA.TIF




  • Toxic. Carcinogen, teratogen, suspected mutagen

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Orthorhombic crystal system with tabular, prismatic or pyramidal crystals.
  • Brittle with conchoidal fracture.
  • Yellowish to golden fluorescence.
  • Can be transparent to translucent.
  • Luster = adamantine to silky.
  • Streak = white.
  • Effervescent in acids.
  • Ground particle are transparent under plane polarized light.
  • High birefringence under cross polars with fourth order interference colors. Extinction is complete
Composition PbCO3
Mohs Hardness 3.0 - 3.5
Density 6.55 g/ml
Refractive Index 1.803; 2.074; 2.076

Resources and Citations

  • R.J.Gettens, H. Kuhn, and W.T. Chase, "Lead White", Artists Pigments, Volume 2, A. Roy (ed.), Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1993.
  • Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, Ruth Siddall, Pigment Compendium, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 2004 Comment: Vol 2, page 301
  • C.W.Chesterman, K.E.Lowe, Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979 Comment: source for physical parameters
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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