Specimen of the month: Sulfur
Native sulfur (sulfur not combined with other materials) is a bright yellow, soft, odorous mineral found in many areas of the world. The larger piece of native sulfur on display in the KGS collection comes from mines in Italy that are now closed. These beautiful terminated crystals show the perfect crystal form and brilliant yellow color. Many sulfur specimens do not have the fine crystals formed as shown in this specimen, but are a more massive variety of the native element. The distinctive sulfur smell will remain on your hands after specimens have been handled.
Sulfur also occurs as a residual product from mines that have produced massive sulfide mineralization during the production of lead, zinc, and other sulfide minerals. In Texas, massive subsurface deposits of sulfur are recovered by a hot-water extraction method, in which hot water is pumped into the sulfur deposits. This process creates an aqueous solution, which is brought to the surface, where it is then precipitated into massive chunks of sulfur for industrial use.
Most of the sulfur produced from mines is used to produce sulfuric acid, which in turn is used to make phosphates for fertilizers, among many other uses. Sulfur is also used in steel-making and the production of rubber, cement, explosives, and a variety of other products.