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What is ithmid kohl/surma chemically ?

The black type of ithmid kohl is thought to be a form of antimony tri-sulfide whereas the red type is thought to be some form of antimony penta-sulfide. However it might not any type of or antimony tri-sulfide or antimony penta-sulfide is suitable to be used as an ithmid eyeliner as rocks can vary significantly in their chemical makeup even though the name is exactly the same.

Many customers have been asking about what mineral ithmid kohl is chemically. This post discusses this but before going straight into answering question it is important to make a little bit of introduction and background information.

Ithmid kohl is a kohl made from ithmid rocks which are formed naturally by the reaction of various elements over many many years.
Rocks from the same family of ithmid can be found in many places around the world. However, these rocks , although chemically similar, are not exactly the same.

This is very important to note : Not all rocks with the same name are exactly the same chemically. There can be differences even though the name is same.

This is well known concept in chemistry. The same element or mineral can exist in different forms (allotropy) and have different properties. Thus rocks of the same mineral can have different properties and act in a different ways chemically.

Because of this focusing too much on attaching a specific chemical name to ithmid can be very misleading. So even if one knows what mineral ithmid kohl is, not all rocks that correpsond to the chemical name of the ithmid kohl mineral will be fit for use as kohl and applied to the eyes. In fact some of the rocks that have the same mineral name as ithmid rock might be harmful.

Also the exact chemical make-up of any rock is massively influenced by the elements and the local environment. It is not entirely determined by its name.

The other big issue is that ithmid as an arabic word is somewhat loose term and is not tied exactly to just one substance. Trying to identify “the” ithmid can be misleading and wrong. It is a fact that ithmid can come in different colours and is found on several places on the world. So ithmid is not one specific mineral.

The most popular places for mining ithmid are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Morocco, Yemen and Levants. But it can exist at other places too. The ithmid from each place is unique and different at the micro level and sometimes at the physical level. Many properties like the colour, texture and effect on the eyes can vary, even between stones from the same country or region.

Red/Burgundy Hijazi Ithmid Kohl

In the Hijaz region of Saudi Arabia, red/burgundy and black ithmid types can be found. The isfahani ithmid from Iran also comes in red/burgundy.

This variations illustrate the fact that it wrong to think of ithmid as one specific mineral as all these types are considered as ithmid.

Pure black ithmid kohl
BLACK Hijazi Ithmid Kohl

Another issue is that when it comes to rocks and minerals, identification is not as a straighforward and clear cut process as many people imagine. There is families and subfamilies etc. It is easy to have a rock lab tested to find out the chemical elements and compounds it contains. But sticking a name on it is not as easy.

With that points in mind, the black type of ithmid is thought to be a form of Antimoy Tri-Sulfide , Sb2S3 , and the red types are a form of Antimoy Penta-Sulfide Sb2S5. Ithmid Kohl is not Galena as wrongly claimed by some articles on the internet.

Galena compunds contain significant amounts of lead but laboratory analysis of ithmid kohl show it has no detectable amounts of lead and those claiming ithmid kohl to be Galena are decieved by the similar looks of Galena rocks to ithmid rocks

Armed with this knowledge it is very tempting to try and order rocks or powders with with this chemical name from chemical substance sellers but this is not advisable as not any type of Antimoy Tri-Sulfide or Antimoy Penta-Sulfide rock will be suitable for use on the eyes.

4 thoughts on “What is ithmid kohl/surma chemically ?

  1. Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatulaah.

    i have a background as a chemical engineer, and read your articles.

    I had several questions:

    1. You mention that Lead is poisonous for us but you still use Galena (lead sulphide) as a ithmid kohl. Is this safe and what is the proof?

    2. I have read that you can use a magnet to determine whether an ithmid kohl is genuine, does this also apply to the brown iron oxide kohl? since they contain iron I suppose they have some magnetic properties.

    3. How can you be sure that the ithmid which the prophet recommended is the ones you are presenting? I saw that a lot of different natural mineral including Galena and iron oxide where used for kohl purposes in the early Egyptian era, how do you know what is ithmid and what is not and what is the proof?

    4. looking at your products I saw that you are selling a 15g hijazi black ithmid and a 10g genuine hijazi black ithmid, are they the exact same or are they from different sources and distributers? I noticed that the 15g cost more than the 10g when we look at the gram value, since 15g costs 29 pounds it is almost like 1g for 2 pounds, where the 10g costs 17 pounds which is 1g for 1.7 pounds.

    1. I am interested in knowing this too.

  2. Me too I am interested too know may Allah bless that brother barakallahu feek

  3. I can also verify as I purchased from here that I did the magnet test every one seems to talk about & that ain’t nada stick to the magnet.may king Allah bless this brother in his his business if for the right reasons Aameen

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