Sulfur is a bright yellow, combustible, non-metallic element that occurs naturally and is found all over the globe. In its pure form, it is odorless; the smell usually associated with sulfur can be attributed to sulfur compounds.
Some of the earliest recorded references to sulfur are found in scripture passages that refer to sulfur as “brimstone” and associate sulfur with Divine Punishment. This contrasts to use of sulfur by other early civilizations as a balm for skin disorders such as psoriasis and ringworm.1
Sulfur is the primary source in the production of sulfuric acid, arguably the most widely-used chemical in the world. Sulfur is used in the manufacture of fertilizer, in oil refining, processing wastewater, mineral extraction, vulcanizing rubber and in the production of nylon. Sulfur is a component of gunpowder. It is also used in the paper-making process as a bleaching agent, and is used as an electrical insulator.
Sulfur is popular with mineral collectors due to its yellow color and crystalline shapes. The spelling of sulfur varies around the world, with “sulphur” predominant in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, India, South Africa and Australia. However, many scientific societies including the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) and the Royal Society of Chemistry Nomenclature Committee have adopted the spelling of “sulfur” in the 1990’s and it is now considered the official spelling.2