Massicot, Cerro Gordo Mine, Inyo County, California
Lead(II) oxide is also called lead monoxide and also called PbO. PbO molecules can occur in one of two lattice formats, orthorhombic and tetragonal. The tetragonal form of PbO is called litharge. PbO can be changed from massicot to litharage (or vice versa) by controlled heating and cooling. At room temperature massicot forms soft (Mohs hardness of 2) yellow to reddish-yellow, earthy, scaley masses which are very dense, with a specific gravity of 9.64. Massicot can be found as a natural mineral in the Earth, though it is not common. In bygone centuries it was mined. Nowadays massicot arises during industrial processing of lead and lead oxides, especially in the glass industry, which is the biggest user of PbO.
The definition of massicot as orthorhombic PbO dates from the 1840s, but the substance massicot and the name massicot has been in use since the late medieval era. There is some evidence that the ancient Romans used the substance.
- A simple example is given in A Text Book of Inorganic Chemistry, by Anil Kumar De, year 2007, page 383. A more complex example is in The Chemistry of Metal Alkoxides, published by Kluwer Academic Publishers, year 2002, section 9.4 on lead alkoxides, page 115.
- Some comments about the evolution of the definition of the word massicot over the past few centuries is in Lead Manufacturing in Britain: A History, by David John Rowe, year 1983, page 16. The word is in Italian and French in the late medieval era meaning naturally occurring massicot and in some records more vaguely a lead-based ceramics glaze that may or may not have been massicot.
- Archaeomineralogy, by George Robert Rapp, year 2002, page 173, says three lead oxides were known to the ancient Romans: minium, litharge, and massicot.
- Palache, C., H. Berman, and C. Frondel (1944) Dana’s system of mineralogy, (7th edition), v. I, 516–517
- Webmineral data
- Mindat with location data
- Mineral data publishing - PDF
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