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Erbium is a soft, malleable, lustrous, silvery metal. It is very stable in air, it reacts very slowly with oxygen and water and dissolves in acids. Its salts are rose coloured and it has a sharp adsorption spectra in visible, ultraviolet and infrared light.
Some erbium is added to alloys with metals such vanadium because it lowers their hardness, making them more workable. Due to its adsorption of infrared light, erbium is added to the glass of special safety spectacles for workers, such as welders and glass-blowers. It is used as a photographic filter as well, and to dope optical fibres at regular intervals to amplify signals. Finally, due to its pink colour, erbium is sometimes used as a glass and porcelain enamel glaze colorant.