Hebrew: beydÓl, tin. Numbers 31:22; Isaiah 1:25; Ezekiel 22:18 & 20, 27:12.
Greek: kassiteros, derived from a Celtic name for the "tin isles," Britain.
Probable Identity: Tin.
Tin is a soft, dull, silvery-blue metal, element number 50 in the periodic table, with a melting point of 232oC. Tin very rarely occurs as a native metal. Its principal ore is cassiterite, SnO2, which occasionally forms prismatic tetragonal crystals with pyramidal terminations. The tin mines of Llallagua in Bolivia yield good crystals of this type, but cassiterite occurs far more commonly in granular nodules with a reniform or kidney-like appearance and radiating fibrous structure. Cassiterite is usually brown to black with a greasy to adamantine luster. It occurs primarily as hydrothermal veins in granites and pegmatites in association with tourmaline, topaz, fluorite, and apatite, but its major commercial sources are placer deposits.
Although termed a base metal nowadays, ancient smiths valued tin highly for making bronze, an alloy of copper with 8 to 10% tin, and Phoenician sailors explored as far west as Brittany and Cornwall in their search for cassiterite. See "BRONZE."
Conquering armies did not hesitate to carry off bronze vessels and weapons with their other plunder. The advent of iron failed to diminish the demand for bronze in applications other than weapons and tools because ancient metalworkers could cast large objects in bronze whereas they never achieved temperatures high enough to melt and cast iron.
The ancient Egyptians mined cassiterite at four locations in the Red Sea Hills of Gebel Meulih, Gebel el Agala, and Quseir in Egypt's Eastern Desert, and at least one has inscriptions showing cassiterite mining as early as 2300 BC. Hydrothermal quartz veins contain cassiterite and wolframite in association with topaz, mica, tourmaline, fluorite, sericite, and chlorite. The veins cut metamorphosed Precambrian sediments, volcanic rocks, diorite, and granite. Egyptian geologists continue to study tin deposits near Mersa Alam.
Artifacts of tran or tin are rare in Egypt and date from the second and first millennia BC. The Egyptians also used tin oxide to color glass white, and they used metallic tin to make pewter and solder. Their solder consisted of 20% tin and 80% lead. Early pewter was also an alloy of tin and lead, although modern pewter consists of tin hardened with copper and antimony.
Tin's corrosion-resistance, malleability, and non-toxic properties account for its principal use today in plating tin cans. It still finds metallurgical uses in making bronze, brass, pewter, babbit metal, type metal, solder, tinfoil, and mirror coating. Tin fluoride is a toothpaste additive which prevents tooth decay, and other tin compounds are used in burn dressings, agriculture, and toxic marine coatings that discourage barnacles from fouling ship hulls. The largest deposits of tin today are in Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Colombia.
Audetat, op. cit.; 2091-2094.
Darling, op. cit.; 58-61.
Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 170, 239.
Los Alamos National Laboratories. http://periodic.lanl.gov/elements/50.html
Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 253-257.
Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004. http://www.mindat.org/min-3965.html
Tennisen, op. cit.; 348, 375.
Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Richard S. Barnett, Virtual Curator of