Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol Sb and an atomic number of 51. A silvery lustrous grey metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3). Antimony compounds are prominent fire retardants found in many commercial and domestic products. Certain alloys are valuable for use in solders and ball bearings. An emerging application is the use of antimony in microelectronics. The relatively high toxicity of some antimony compounds, being similar to arsenic compounds, limits the applications.
An artifact made of antimony dating to about 3000 BC was found at Tello, Chaldea (part of present-day Iraq), and a copper object plated with antimony dating between 2500 BC and 2200 BC has been found in Egypt. The first European description of a procedure for isolating antimony is in the book De la pirotechnia of 1540 by Vannoccio Biringuccio. A text describing the preparation of metallic antimony that was published in Germany in 1604 purported to date from the early fifteenth century, and if authentic it would predate Biringuccio. The book, written in Latin, was called "Currus Triumphalis Antimonii", and its putative author was a certain Benedictine monk, writing under the name Basilius Valentinus. An English translation of the "Currus Triumphalis" appeared in English in 1660, under the title The Triumphant Chariot of Antimony. The work remains of great interest, chiefly because it documents how followers of the renegade German physician, Philippus Theophrastus Paracelsus von Hohenheim (of whom Thölde was one), came to associate the practice of alchemy with the preparation of chemical medicines.
Pure antimony was well known to Jābir ibn Hayyān, sometimes called "the Father of Chemistry", in the 8th century. Here there is still an open controversy: Marcellin Berthelot, who translated a number of Jābir's books, stated that antimony is never mentioned in them, but other authors claim that Berthelot translated only some of the less important books, while the more interesting ones (some of which might describe antimony) are not yet translated, and their content is completely unknown.
The first natural occurrence of pure antimony ('native antimony') in the Earth's crust was described by the Swedish scientist and local mine district engineer Anton von Swab in 1783. The type-sample was collected from the Sala Silvermine in the Bergslagen mining district of Sala, Västmanland, Sweden.
Antimony and many of its compounds are toxic, and the effects of antimony poisoning are similar to arsenic poisoning. Inhalation of antimony dust is harmful and in certain cases may be fatal; in small doses, antimony causes headaches, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses such as prolonged skin contact may cause dermatitis; otherwise it can damage the kidneys and the liver, causing violent and frequent vomiting, and will lead to death in a few days.