Cerussite is a mineral with a hardness of 4 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness [?]. These Orthorhomibicly structured gems are made of lead carbonate, their full chemical compound being PbCO3.
Cerussite is a colorless carbonate of the aragonite mineralogical classification. It appears as colorless or white crystals with grayish tints, elongated and generally twinned to form a reticulated network with 60-degree angles, as stubby, tabular crystals in star- or heart-shaped twins. It can also be grey, greenish, or blue as a result of inclusions, such as lead, or copper. Impure cerussite is earthy and darker.
It is semi-hard, very heavy, very fragile, and has a prismatic cleavage. It ranges from transparent to translucent with an adamantine luster, and exudes a bright blue-green fluorescence in ultraviolet light. When heated, it turns brown, then fuses easily.
It is insoluble in hydrochloric acid, but dissolves in nitric acid, with strong effervescence, distinguishing it from anglesite.
It usually occurs in the oxidation zone of lead deposits, produced by the chemical alteration of galena through the action of waters rich in carbonic acid. It usually forms in the altered parts of mineral veins, with lead, copper, and zinc.
Examples are visible as very large, clear crystals in Tsumeb (Namibia) and Dona Ana (New Mexico). Splendid crystals can be found in Broken Hill (Australia), Rhodesia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Tunisia, Siberia, Yugoslavia. In Italy it is commonly found as small, very clear crystals in close bundles at Montevecchio and Monteponi. Sizable deposits are worked in Kasakhstan.
Cerussite is also called "white lead" or "lead spar."
Cerussite takes its name from the Latin "cerussa," meaning "white lead" or "whiting." Cerussa nativa was indicated by Conrad Gessner in 1565, but its present form, cerussite, is from W. Haidinger (1845). In its natural mineral form, cerussite is rarely noted in paintings, but its synthetic counterpart, lead white, is considered to be the most important white pigment since the time of ancient Greece.
Cerussite is an ore for lead, and to a lesser extent, silver. It is important for the study of deposits and of interest to collectors. It is sometimes mistaken for diamond, and other colorless or brownish stones. Collectors value the orthorhombic crystals which are frequently twinned to give pseudo-hexagonal shapes.