promoting the sustainable and responsible production and use of cobalt in all forms

Cobalt and Senses

Cobalt contributes to quality of life by producing vivid colours whilst also being integral for the synthesis of compounds with olfactory properties. Cobalt’s ferromagnetic qualities can also be used to create sound.


Cobalt and cobalt compounds can be used to make bright and vibrant colours for inks and pigments. The most famous of these is “cobalt blue”, however the metal is used for other colours including purple, violet, green, light blue, turquoise, pink, brown and yellow.

The famous 'cobalt blue' colour is created by mixing cobalt oxide with alumina

By altering the concentration of cobalt oxide and adding other metal oxides, many colours can be created for use in inks and pigments. These can be used to colour ceramics and glass. Using cobalt compounds for producing colours dates back to ancient Egypt. Indeed, in the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb cobalt blue glass beads were found inside the sarcophagus.

The use of cobalt as a colourant dates back to ancient Egypt where cobalt blue glass beads were found inside Tutankhamen's sarcophagus.


Cobalt compounds can also be used in synthesising esters. Esters are commonly used in soaps and perfumes to create pleasant olfactory sensations. Cobalt and cobalt compounds are not found in the final product however they are important for the creation of esters. The use of cobalt as a catalyst in esterification reactions also offers economical value, as the metal replaces more expensive precious metals.


Cobalt is ferromagnetic and can be alloyed with other elements to create magnetic alloys. Both Samarium Cobalt Magnets and Neodymium Boron Magnets contain cobalt and are used in earphones, head phones and speakers.

Permanent magnets are used in ear phones to act as a transducer, converting the electrical signal into sound energy. Within each ear phone a coil produces an electromagnetic field which, alongside the permanent magnet, produces a force resulting in vibrations. Similar technology is used in loud speakers and amplifiers.

Photo credit: Nomoreforme, New Martinsville Glass - via Wikimedia Commons