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cobaltum metallicum L.
Cobalt was named after the German word kobald which means goblin or evil spirit believed to cause health problems for silver and copper miners.
Introduced into by Hearing; Allen: Encyclop. Mat Med, Vol. III, 361
Description of the substance
Cobalt is a bluish-gray, shiny, brittle metallic element. Its atomic number is 27 and its symbol is Co. It belongs to a group of elements called the transition metals. It has magnetic properties like iron.
Ancient civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia used a substance to color glass a beautiful deep blue. In 1735, the Swedish scientist Georg Brandt set out to prove that this color was due not to the element bismuth, as people believed, but to a new and unidentified element. He is credited with the discovery of this new element, which he named cobalt.
Cobalt is one of the elements that is very important to life, including human life and health. Vitamin B-12 contains cobalt. In areas where there is little cobalt in the soil, farmers have to provide salt blocks containing cobalt for their animals to lick in order to provide enough cobalt in their diet.
Cobalt is also found in iron-nickel meteorites.
It is estimated that there are about 1 million tons of cobalt in the United States. Minnesota has the largest resources, but other ore resources are found in Alaska, California, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and Oregon. The identified cobalt resources in the world total about 15 million tons. Most are found in Australia, Canada, Congo, Russia, and Zambia.
The ocean floor has nodules of metals that form when hot water from deep in the Earth comes into contact with the cold ocean water. These nodules are mostly manganese and so are called manganese nodules. It is estimated that there are millions of tons of cobalt in these nodules. Presently, we do not have the technology to retrieve these nodules at a reasonable cost.
All of the primary cobalt used in the U.S. is imported. Cobalt is imported into the United States in the form of cobalt metal, cobalt salts, and cobalt oxide. The imports come from Norway, Finland, Canada, Russia, and other nations.
Cobalt occurs in the minerals cobaltite, smaltite, and erythrite, and is often associated with nickel , silver , lead , copper , and iron ores, from which it is most frequently obtained as a by-product. It is also present in meteorites.
Cobaltite (Chemistry: (Co, Fe)AsS, Cobalt Iron Arsenic Sulfide) although rare is still an important and valuable ore of cobalt, a strategically and industrially useful metal. (fig.1, pag.3) The symmetry of cobaltite is somewhat in dispute. Its structure is very similar to the structure of pyrite, FeS2. The sulfur to sulfur link (S-S) in pyrite is replaced by an arsenic to sulfur link (As-S) in cobaltite. If the position of the arsenic is not ordered then the symmetry is the same as pyrite's symmetry which is in the isometric class, 2/m bar 3. However it appears from some x-ray spectroscopy studies that the arsenic is ordered there by breaking the higher symmetry and giving cobaltite a symmetry of the orthorhombic class, 2/m 2/m 2/m. But the debate is not settled yet.
Regardless of its actual symmetry, cobaltite forms isometric looking crystals. Either from really being isometric or from simply having such a similar structure to pyrite, cobaltite's crystals mimic those of pyrite. Although the crystal habits are similar to pyrite, cobaltite can not be confused with pyrite which is brassy yellow in contrast to cobaltite's silver gray or white color. Skutterudite on the other hand is also white and forms similar crystals although it has poor cleavage.
Often deposits of cobaltite will have a weathering crust of minerals such as erythrite
Erythrite (Chemistry: Co3(AsO4)2-8(H2O) , Hydrated Cobalt Arsenate) is a wonderful mineral for people who like striking, unusual colors. Its characteristic bright red-purple color is very noticable and was used to spot veins of cobalt-bearing ore. Erythrite, or "Cobalt Bloom" (FIG.1, pag.2) as it is called by miners, is a weathering product of cobalt-containing minerals such as cobaltite. Where weathered cobalt and nickel ores are found, both annabergite, Ni3(AsO4)2-8(H2O) and erythrite become important markers. Annabergite, called "Nickel Bloom", is bright green and is isostructural with erythrite. "Isostructural" means that the two minerals have the same structure but different chemistries. The two minerals are actually in a series where the nickel and cobalt ions can substitute freely for each other.
Color is deep red-purple to lighter pinks in massive and thin crust forms.
Luster is vitreous.
Transparency crystals are transparent to translucent.
Crystal System is monoclinic; 2/m
Crystal Habits include flattened, striated blades or radiating accicular crystals; crystals are rare. More commonly as crusts or earthy masses.
Cleavage is perfect in one direction.
Fracture is uneven
Hardness is 1.5 - 2.5
Specific Gravity is approximately 3.1 (average for translucent minerals)
Streak is pale red.
Sphaerocobaltite (fig.2, pag.3) is a beautiful and colorful mineral. It is also known as cobaltocalcite and cobaltian-calcite. However, these names are often used when referring to calcite that has an appreciable amount of cobalt in its structure as an impurity. The result of the presence of the cobalt is that the calcite is colored a pale pink. In pure sphaerocobaltite (most examples contain a small but significant percentage of calcium), the coloring effect is magnified.
The sometimes deep rose-red to pink color is very attractive and unique. It is easy to confuse sphaerocobaltite with two other carbonates; rhodochrosite and stichtite, because all three are described as red to pink minerals. However, side by side the color difference is obvious, as sphaerocobaltite has a more "hot pink" color than the redder pink of rhodochrosite or the more purple-pink of stichtite.
Sphaerocobaltite, fortunately, is further distinguished by its occurrences with cobalt bearing veins that have been affected by carbonated waters. It is found as crusts and small crystals in many cobalt ore locations around the world, but it is the mines of Shaba, Zaire that have produced the most outstanding specimens. Some specimens are draped with acicular dark green malachite crusts and the combination makes for a very colorful specimen.
Kolwezite (Chemistry: (Cu, Co)2CO3(OH)2, Copper Cobalt Carbonate Hydroxide) is a rare mineral (fig.4, pag.3) that is a similar mineral to the much more common and well-known mineral malachite. Malachite's formula is Cu2CO3(OH)2. Kolwezite contains a significant percentage of cobalt in place of some of the copper in malachite.
Cobalt and copper are two very strong coloring agents. Unfortunately, kolwezite is perhaps too strongly colored and is commonly black. It was only identified in the past fifteen years making it a rather "young" mineral in the mineral world. It is named for the famous mines at Kolwezi, Shaba, Zaire from where it was first discovered and from where many new and rare minerals are found.