Bismuth is a rare chemical element with the symbol Bi and the atomic number 83 on the periodic table, commonly found as silver or whitish masses of material similar to lead or tin. Well formed crystals with their characteristic metallic sheen and strange, step-pyramid shapes are extremely rare in nature. Most of the specimens you will find on the market are laboratory grown, but even good quality lab grown crystals are hard to find. To create crystals artificially, large amounts of Bismuth are melted and a metal rod placed in the liquid, then pulled through it very slowly. Crystalline structures will form around the rod as the material cools, but there is no way to know how good a range of colors the crystal will have until the process is finished.
Bismuth is a brittle element that normally has a pinkish color; the iridescent metallics are caused by light refracting off oxide tarnish ('rust') on the surface of the metal at a microscopic level. High grade crystals display a gorgeous flash that ranges across the spectrum from yellow to violet. Lower grade Bismuth tends to show only one color, though these crystals are still very beautiful. In 2003 researchers in France discovered that Bismuth is very slightly radioactive, but not at all harmful. Its half life is more than a billion times longer than the estimated age of the Universe, and our own bodies are thousands of times more radioactive than this element.
The name 'Bismuth' is derived from 'bisemutum', a modern Latinization of the German 'Wismuth' or 'weiße masse' meaning 'white mass'. For many centuries Bismuth was confused with tin and lead, which it resembles in its natural state. The earliest reference to Bismuth is from 1450, when Basilius Valentinus described some of its potential uses. Claude Francois Geoffroy proved scientifically that Bismuth was distinct from lead in 1753.
Bismuth's most important ores are bismuthinite and bismite. Although it is about twice as abundant as gold in the earth's crust mining Bismuth is rarely economical, so most material used in industry and manufacturing is collected as a by-product of lead, tungsten or other metal mining operations. China is the world's largest producer, followed by Mexico and Peru and then to a lesser degree Canada, Bolivia and Kazakhstan. Bismuth is widely used in cosmetics and medicine (it is a main ingredient of Pepto-Bismol) and researchers are studying whether it could be used as a non-toxic substitute for lead.
Bismuth is used magically as a 'transmitter crystal' that can absorb, store and amplify energy and intent. It can be used for practically any magical purpose, but is believed to be a particularly effective healing crystal. Low grade specimens that show one color are useful for channelling the energy of that particular color into the body of the patient, whereas high grade Bismuth with its rainbow of colors is considered a 'cure-all', able to treat just about any illness or complaint by harmonizing the energetic frequencies of many different colors.
Bismuth is said to enhance teamwork and cooperation, inspiration and creativity. Keeping a crystal in a room where there will be a meeting or a brainstorming session would be helpful for this purpose. Bismuth can also be used in meditations and visualizations to attract a partner or a group of like-minded individuals for magical and spiritual work.