This metal was named Bismutum by Basile Valentin in 1450 and Wismut by Paracelsus in the 16th century. In his treatise De re metallica, which also dates from the 16th century, Agricola expressed the view that the metal was a variety of lead and called it Plumbum cinerum. Certain alloys used in the 15th century by Gutenberg contained bismuth.

The name of the metal is derived from the German weisse masse (white substance). The basic nitrate Bi(OH)2O3 was used by painters in the 16th century and was known as blanc d’Espagne.

Industrial production of the metal only began around 1830 in Saxony.


  • Pinkish metallic lustre and is very brittle.
  • The metallic features are much more clear-cut than is the case for arsenic and antimony.
  • Expands on solidification (+3.3%).
  • Slow solidification causes very characteristic large crystals to form.
  • Unlike most metals, its electrical resistivity in the solid state is greater than in the liquid state.


  • Bismuth citrate in association with antibiotics is a very efficient agent against the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers
  • Bismuth metal is added as an alloying element in free cutting steels to improve their machinability.
  • It is used in safety fuses like sprinklers, and occasionally to make moulds in the thermoplastic materials industry.
  • A component of low melting-point solders used in temperature-sensitive electronic assemblies.
  • Some 200–300 tonnes of bismuth a year are used as pigments in paints (e.g. bismuth vanadate BiVO4, which gives a range of bright yellow colours for use in the automotive industry).
  • The oxychloride BiOCl is used in cosmetics to give a pearl-like, shiny lustre to lipsticks, nail varnishes and hair lacquers.
  • In the form of the borosilicate it is used in earthenware enamelling.
  • Bismuth is commonly used as an environmentally-friendly substitute for lead in many applications by virtue of its low toxicity.


Bismuth is difficult to recycle because it is used in many dissipative applications, such as pigments and pharmaceuticals. It is recovered from the production processes for lead and copper refining.


      Umicore uses certain monitoring and tracking technologies such as cookies. These technologies are used in order to maintain, provide and improve our services on an ongoing basis, and in order to provide our web visitors with a better experience.

      By clicking on the "Accept all" button you agree to the use of these cookies while using the website. For further information regarding how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please see section 11 of our website privacy notice

          Necessary cookies are essential and help you navigate our website. This helps to support security and basic functionality and are necessary for the proper operation of our website, so if you block these cookies we cannot guarantee your use or the security during your visit.

          Cookies that help us to understand the behaviour of users of our website. This allows us to continuously improve our website to provide the best information in support of our project aims. These cookies also help us understand the effectiveness of our website. For instance these cookies tell us which pages visitors go to most often and if they get error messages from web pages.

          Cookies that deliver content to you based on your interests, which are assumed from your browsing history. Most Targeting Cookies track users via their IP address and, thus, may collect some Personal Data. Personal Data collected by Targeting Cookies may be shared with third parties, such as advertisers.