Last Updated: Jul 19, 2016     Views: 228

From Dr. Robert Brill, Research Scientist Emeritus:


There are (were) three different pigments commonly used for making yellow opaque glasses. 


From the 14th-century B. C. through Roman times, lead antimonate was used.  Its chemical formula is Pb2Sb2O7.  (The numerals should be subscripts, but my computer does not approve of subscripts.)  Then from Roman times through the Middle Ages, and on into the Renaissance, both lead antimonate and the tin compound lead stannate (PbSnO3) were used.  The lead antimonate was also used as an artists' pigment called "Naples Yellow". 


Sometime during the early twentieth century cadmium sulfide (CdS) began to be used for making yellow opaque glasses.  Although the two lead pigments were probably prepared separately and then added to the glass, cadmium sulfide yellows can "strike" right inside the glass as it cools and sets up.  The cadmium sulfide glasses are yellow.  Cadmium selenide can be used to make red transparent (ruby) glasses or orange–red opaque glasses.  Both are used, for example, as backgrounds for the scales in thermometer stems.


I always think the stannate is more of a lemon yellow color while Naples yellow has a slightly warmer, more orangish tint.  That has been the case with samples of the pigments we prepared in the laboratory years ago.

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