It forms a golden yellow crystalline mass, which sublimes slowly in vacuo, and melts at 25.5° C. It blackens on exposure to moisture, and decomposes when exposed to light.
Ammonium sulphide blackens it, and it is soluble in solution of ammonium acetate, which distinguishes it from barium sulphate.
The mastication causes a copious flow of saliva of a brick-red colour, which dyes the mouth, lips and gums. The habit blackens the teeth, but it is asserted by those addicted to it that it strengthens the gums, sweetens the breath and stimulates the digestive organs.
It blackens easily under the influence of smoke, and the town has consequently a somewhat gloomy appearance.