Orpiment (Auripigment) - the toxic yellow

The fame of gold as pharmaceutical ingredient was so great that some apothecary ingredients bore names meant to associate them. Orpiment, golden in color, was in fact arsenic trisulfide, highly toxic, and the “Golden fruit” (Citrus aurantium) was the bitter orange used in pharmacies.
The "Gold and gems" temporary exhibition at the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj-Napoca includes, among other early modern and modern apothecary jars, a special glass vessel for orpiment. The 19th c. glass jar with lid was used in St. George’s Pharmacy in Cluj, that currently hosts the museum. The jar has a painted signature in a cartouche marked with a cross: AURIPIGM: Orpiment is in fact an arsenic derivate, highly toxic, a fact indicated by the painted cross, and way mainly used externally, for skin problems. Painters also used it as an intense yellow pigment for their works.


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