History of Science and Technology in Islam


Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl)

of Jabir ibn Hayyan (c. 721–c. 815)


Part Two

Al-Talawih [1]

Lustre Glass


The treatise contains 118 recipes for talawih (lustre painting of glass), in addition to nine recipes inserted by al-Marrakishi, the editor. The following list of materials of Jabir’s treatise is arranged by the frequency of the materials in the recipes. The most prominent material is burnt silver. It occurs in about 72 percent of the recipes. Copper with its various compounds is most prevalent also. Cinnabar (zunjufr) occupies an important place. It occurs in about 38 percent of the recipes. The table shows the other important materials with the frequency of each.


In a typical process, metallic ingredients, mainly burnt silver, burnt copper or copper compounds, iron and its compounds and cobalt blue, plus other materials such as cinnabar, magnesia, realgar, orpiment, sulphur, and vitriol, are pulverised individually in vinegar or citron juice and mixed together. Glass articles such as cups are painted and decorated by the colouring mixture and are then introduced into the smoke chamber in the oven. When the cups become black they are withdrawn and allowed to cool. Then they are washed until the colour appears. By introducing them again into the fire, the colour intensifies and changes. Sometimes they are introduced into the fire once again and the colour becomes brighter. 


Materials Used for Lustre Painting


Copper (red,  burnt with sulphur, burnt with sulphur and arsenic, burnt with arsenic and sal-ammoniac, brass ‘shabah’ scales, cuprum aceticum ‘zinjar’, copper scales ‘rusakhtaj’ , calcified copper ), 100 ; Silver, burnt, 86; Vitriol ‘zaj’ (Qalqant, qalqatar, qalqadis , suri , green vitriol,  yellow vitriol,  vitriol ‘shahira’), 69;  Cinnabar (zunjufr ,qinbar, sanjfar), 46; Magnesia, 31; Arsenic (zarnikh), (red , yellow), 30; Sulphur, (yellow, white, black, qassari), 22; Marcasite, 21: Iron, (scales  ‘tubal’ , saffron, filings, burnt with sulphur, roasted with sal-ammoniac and alum), 19; Cobalt oxide (lazaward), 18; Alum, (Yamani, Egyptian), 14; Tutia, 12; Hematite (sadhanj), 9; Litharge (martak), 9; Sal-ammoniac, 8; Lead, ceruse ‘isfidaj’, 8; Calamine, (gold. Copper), 8; Malachite (dahnaj), 7 ; Isrinj, 4; Tin, calcined, 3 


Arabic – English Glossary of Lustre Materials





Frequency in 118 recipes





Fidda muharraqa

فضة محرقة

Silver, burnt,


Hadid, ( tubal, za’faran, birada, muharraq with sulphur, mashwi with nushadir and shabby)

حديد (توبال زعفران، برادة، محرق بالكبريت، مشوي بنوشادر وشب)

Iron, (scales , saffron, filings, burnt with sulphur,  roasted with sal-ammonic and alum),


Halqus; see copper


Calcified copper


Iqlimiya,dhahabIqlimiya, nuhas

اقليميا الذهب

اقليميا النحاس

Calamine, gold

Calamine, copper


Isfidaj  al-rasas 

اسفيداج الرصاص

Ceruse of lead




Red lead


Kibrit, (asfar, abyad, aswad, qassari)

كبريت ( اصفر، ابيض، أسود، قصاري)

Sulphur,( yellow, white, black, qassari),




Cobalt oxide














Nuhas (ahmar, muharraq bi’l kibrit, muharraq bi’l kibrit wa’l zarnikh, muharraq bi’l zarnikh wa’l nushadir, tubal al-shabah, zinjar, rusakhtaj, halqus)

نحاس،( احمر ، محرق بالكبريت، محرق بالكبريت والزرنيخ، محرق بالزرنيخ والنشادر،

توبال الشبه،  زنجار، روسختج، حلقوس)

Copper (red,  burnt with sulphur, burnt  with sulphur & arsenic, burnt with  arsenic with and sal-ammoniac , brass scales, cuprum aceticum, copper scales, calcified)






Qal’i, kils                                               

كلس القلعي

Tin, calcined






Shabb (Yamani,


شب يماني

شب مصري

Alum, Yemeni

Alum, Egyptian






Zaj (Qalqant, qalqatar, qalqadis , suri , akhdar,  asfar, shahira),

زاج ( قلقند، قلقطار، قلقديس، سوري، اخضر، اصفر، شحيرة)

Vitriol (Qalqant, qalqatar, qalqadis, suri ,  green ,  yellow, shahira),


Zarnikh (ahmar, asfar)

زرنيخ (أحمر ، أصغر)

Realgar (red arsenic)

Orpiment (yellow arsenic)


zunjufr ,qinbar, sanjfar

زنجغر، سنجفر، قنبار




Selected recipes

of Talawih Lustre Glass


Recipe 1, fol. 8b – Colouring bottles into purple red lustre (mulawwah): One part silver burnt with sulphur and arsenic. Silver is burnt thus for all these recipes. And one part golden marcasite, one part brittle magnesia, half part hematite (sadhanj), ten parts calamine (iqlimiya) of copper, half part copper burnt with sulphur, one part qalqant, half part yellow sulphur, half of one tenth of green tutia, and two parts green vitriol (zaj) and Indian iron burnt with sulphur. Combine all these ingredients. Each one is pulverized with distilled wine vinegar and citron (اترج)  juice. Paint mature Damascus bottles with this and it will come out purple red, if God wills.

Recipe 2, fol. 8b – Red lustre (mulawwah) like ruby which sparkles in the sun if it is filled with pure wine: One part burnt silver, one part yellow sulphur, one part Indian tutia, one part iron hammer scales (tubal), one part iron saffron (za’faran al-hadid), one part iron roasted with sal-ammoniac and alum (shabb), and four parts green vitriol (zaj).  <Or> take from each of these parts one quarter part and take from green vitriol one part. And according to the <first> manuscript take <also> six parts qalqant, one part hammer scales of brass, one part qalqatar and four parts brittle magnesia. Pulverise all with citron juice and paint the clear glass and introduce it into the fire and it will come out matchless transparent red. 

Recipe 4, folio 9a – Making blue and yellow; yellow from inside and blue from outside, matchless, and is called the cat’s eye (‘ain al sannur [2]:

one daniq [3] old malachite (dahnaj), and seven grains [4] copper scales (rusakhtaj) which is two qirats and one grain (habba), and one daniq of brass scales, and one daniq of iron saffron (za’faran al- hadid) , and one daniq white sulphur, and four daniqs orpiment (yellow arsenic), and two daniqs burnt silver, and two daniqs green vitriol (zaj), and two daniqs sal-ammoniac (nushadir). Pulverize all with citron juice and paint the vessels with this mixture and introduce into the fire and it will come out as we have described.

Recipe 6, fol. 9b,   a colour like embroidery of red, green, yellow and from every colour: Take equal parts of burnt silver, realgar (red arsenic), marcasite, magnesia, matitus (which is sadhanj or hematite, according to al-Marrakishi), calcined tin, cinnabar (qinbar), qalqatar, cobalt oxide (lazaward), suri which is red mineral vitriol (zaj), and yellow vitriol. Pulverize in squill juice or onion juice. Paint with it and it will come out as embroidery.

Recipe 7, fol. 9b, a colour like that of a solid lazaward stone, proven: twelve parts silver, the same amount of iron scales (tubal) and one quarter of a part from cobalt oxide (lazaward). Pulverize all for one day with the water of leek and for one more day with vinegar; and paint with it. 

Recipe 10, fol. 10a, a turquoise colour: one dirham from each of marcasite and qalqatar. One and a half daniq from clear crystal, one daniq of cobalt oxide (lazaward), one and a half daniq of orpiment (yellow arsenic),  four dawaniq from red copper burnt with sulphur, one dirham and a daniq  cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one dirham burnt silver. Use these as before.

Recipe 21, fol. 10b, another colour, pistachio: Cuprum aceticum (zinjar) and arsenic (zarnikh) one dirham of each, scales (tubal) of copper half a dirham, burnt silver half a dirham. Use them as before.

Recipe 26, fol. 10b, butter colour similar to Chinese clay:   Vitriol (zaj) and cinnabar (qinbar), one dirham of each. Yemeni alum one dirham, salt one and a half daniq, silver burnt with white sulphur one dirham and three dirhams of lead ceruse (isfidaj). Pulverize all in distilled vinegar and work with it.

Recipe 29, fol. 11a, another pistachio colour: Take two dirhams of cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one dirham malachite (dahnaj), two daniqs cobalt oxide (lazaward), three dirhams realgar (red arsenic) and three dirhams burnt silver. Pulverize in the water of leek and work with it, if the Most High God wills.

Recipe 33, fol. 11b, good gold colour, understand it and work accordingly: filings of Rumi [5] yellow copper two mithqals [6],   silver filings one quarter mithqal, zunjfar half mithqal,  vitriol (zaj) one qirat, qalqadis two qirats,  sal-ammoniac (nushadir) three qirats.  Pulverize with vinegar and use it.

Recipe 44, fol. 12a, and another lazaward golden colour: take two qirats of burnt copper, magnesia four qirats, zunjufr and cuprum aceticum (zinjar) two qirats from each. Pulverize with vinegar and paint from inside and outside. What is painted from inside will come out lazaward blue and what is painted from outside will come out gold. Expose it to fire and let fire scorch it slightly. That is all.

Recipe 45, fol. 12b, another, violet colour: burnt copper four qirats, vitriol (zaj) and cuprum aceticum (zinjar) four qirats from each and yellow sulphur three qirats. Pulverize in very sour vinegar (khall thaqif),[7] and use it.

Recipe 46, fol. 12b, and if you want the sky colour: take two dirhams of burnt silver, magnesia six qirats, realgar (red arsenic)  three qirats, qalqant four qirats, cuprum aceticum (zinjar) four qirats and vitriol (zaj) eight qirats. Pulverize in vinegar and use it.

Recipe 58, fol. 13b, an oyster shell resembling ruby: magnesia, qalqatar and cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one dirham from each. Marcasite and yellow sulphur two daniqs from each, cinnabar (qinbar) one daniq and a half, cobalt oxide (lazaward) one daniq and burnt silver one dirham. Pulverize in distilled vinegar or citron juice and expose to fire and it will come out like red ruby.

Recipe 60, fol. 13b, a green oyster shell resembling ruby: cinnabar (qinbar) one quarter of a part, magnesia one part, qalqatar one part, cuprum aceticum (zinjar) one pat, marcasite (marqashisha) half a part, cobalt oxide (lazaward) one sixth of a part, yellow sulphur one third of a part, sadrat al-‘aj (sandarus [8] al-‘aj according to al-Marrakishi) one part. They are worked with distilled vinegar or hummad  [9] and then you illustrate with it on the inside of the cup (qadah) or on the outside. If you paint one side the other side will look as a ruby.

Recipe 63, fol. 14a, gold lustre (mulawwah dhahab): one magnesia, two marcasite (marqashisha), one copper, three parts litharge (martak), two arsenic (zarnikh). They are worked with good vinegar and exposed to fire (talwih) and it comes out golden.

Recipe 65, fol. 14a, another golden lustre (mulawwah mudhahhab): seven tutia, four sal-ammoniac (nushadir), two litharge (martak), one cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one half of a part vitriol (shahira), one part qalqant, one and a half part silver burnt with yellow sulphur. It is utilized and exposed to fire and it will come out golden.

Recipe 66, fol. 14a, another golden: take four dirhams of yellow copper burnt with sulphur and arsenic together, two and a half <dirhams> golden marcasite (marqashisha), two and a half dirhams male magnesia, one and a half dirhams litharge (martak), three dirhams sal-ammoniac (nushadir), one dirham cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one dirham qalqant, four dirhams silver burnt with sulphur. Work with vinegar and expose it to fire. 

Recipe 70, fol. 14b, amazing golden lustre (mulawwah mudhahhab): get as much as you can from the milk of red anemone (shaqa’iq al-nu’man), and as much qalqant, and the same tincar, and the same dorema ammoniacum [10] (ushshaq), that is one part from each. Pound and sieve through a silk cloth. Then take the unwashed water of leek (allium porrum. kurrath) after you leave it overight and mix with it this drug and the milk of red anemone (shaqa’iq al-nu’man). Combine all in a bottle in the bran of wheat for ten days and decorate the glass with it

Recipe 77, fol. 15a, another golden: ten parts burnt silver, twenty four parts cinnabar (qinbar), four parts vitriol (shahira), four parts qalqant. Pulverize with vinegar and paint pictures from inside and expose to fire and it will be gold from outside.

Recipe 91, fol. 16a, silver lustre: take one uqiyya [11] from each of Yemeni alum, Egyptian alum, and sal-ammoniac (nushadir). Take one mithqal from ceruse (isfidaj) and borax of goldsmiths and tincar and natron. Combine and pulverize with white vinegar for two hours; adorn with it and expose to fire. 

Recipe 100, fol17a, yellow lustre, and cornelian gold; it comes out yellow but if fire is persisted it comes out golden: one dirham of good quality Rumi brass burnt with sulphur, pulverize finely with water. One dirham of calcified copper (halqus). One quarter of a dirham from each of sal-ammoniac (nushadir), orpiment (yellow arsenic), Iraqi red lead (asriqun) and yellow vitriol. Pulverize in strong vinegar. Illustrate with it from inside the cup (qadah). Introduce into the smoke chamber until it becomes black. When it is washed it comes yellow as the yolk of an egg. If you intensify the fire it will come out as cornelian stone (‘aqiq) and if you renew after this it becomes better. Understand this. 

Recipe 106, fol 18a, yellow khaluqi [12] lustre,  like smoke: seven parts burnt copper, two orpiment (yellow arsenic), and one realgar (red arsenic). Pulverize with vinegar which contains two parts of vitriol (shahira). Expose to fire.

Recipe 110, yellow oyster shell from inside: seven parts copper, two parts vitriol (zaj), half a part orpiment (yellow arsenic). Work it in vinegar; expose it to smoke and fire. Take it out and wash it and its purity will be exposed. Introduce it into fire and it will come out ibriz[13] gold if God wills.

Recipe 111, fol 18a, yellow lustre: one part from each of burnt copper and white marcasite (marqashisha), half a part from each of gold calamine (iqlimiya), cuprum aceticum (zinjar) of Hims [14] and hematite (sadanj). One part of silver burnt with sulphur and arsenic. Pulverize each individually in pure vinegar. Combine all using vinegar also. Draw pictures with it from inside and place in the smoke chamber until it becomes black. Take it out gently and when it cools down wash it with a fibre sponge (lif) from inside and outside and it will come out yellow. 

Recipe 112, fol. 18a, green lustre: three parts burnt silver, two parts and a half realgar (red arsenic), two parts cuprum aceticum (zinjar), one part magnesia, half a part cinnabar (sinjufr). You will burn silver in sulphur and pulverize in vinegar and expose to fire.






[1] Talawih is the process of exposing a ludtre painted glass article to fire inside the glass-makers furnace.

[2] About ‘ayn al-sannur, al Biruni writes in  al-jamahir,(p. 228, Arabic edition):

 ووصفه بفرفيرية اللون وذكر الكندى في المسبوكات عين السنور.

“Among the cast stones (masbukat), Al-Kindi has described a stone known 'ayn al-sinnawr (the cat's eye) and it is farfiri in colour (red colour with a violet tint).

[3] A daniq is four carats, or 1/6 of dirham. It equals 0.525 grams.

[4] Grain is habba or sha’ira (barley grain). It is equal to  0.049 grams

[5] Rumi means coming from the land of Rum. In the Abbasid era the Rum is Byzantium.

[6] The value of the mithqal varies between 3.6  and 4.68 grams

[7] In Arabic dictionaries khall thaqif means very sour vinegar. الثقي في اللغة الحاذ ومنه خ ثقيف أي شدد الحموضة

[8] Sandarus is the resin of a tree. We could not find a reasonable interpretation for the resin (sandarus) of ‘aj (ivory).

[9] Hummad is rumex accetosa. Most of such plants contain oxalic acid and tannin. The author most probably means hummad al-utruj  as in other recipes which is citron juice.

[10]  Ushshaq is the gum resin exuding from the flowering and fruiting stem of Dorema ammoniacum.

[11] One uqiyya equals approximately 33.85 – 37.5 grams..

[12] Al Qalqashandi in  Subh al A’sha classifies the red colour into’innabi for intensive red, khamri (wine colour) if less intensive , and khaluqi for less intensive than khamri.

: اللون الرابع الحمرة - إذا كان شديد الحمرة قيل‏:‏ عنابي فإن كان دون ذلك قيل‏ خمري فإن كان دون ذلك قيل ‏خلوقي ‏

[13] Ibriz: pure gold

[14] Hims is a town in Syria, on the road between Damascus and Aleppo.


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