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It’s Elemental- Mercury- Hg September 17, 2017

Posted by makingyourdashcount in Elements.
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  • Remember standard disclaimer.

For as toxic as it is, it’s amazing how many products (both professional and consumer) use mercury.  From therrmometers to barometers and scientific instruments like diffusion pumps, it is a relatively common material. Some advertising signs use mercury. And never throw a compact fluorescent light bulb in the trash, because it is likely that it contains mercury, as well!

It is the only metal that is not solid at room temperature, which accounts for those familiar blobs. It’s melting temperature is -38.83 °C (-37.894 °F, 234.32K) at atmospheric pressure.  Brrr.

Not found freely in nature, one gets it by condensing the vapor from cinnabar ore. 50% of the world’s supply comes from Italy and Spain.  The standard volume of mercury is measured in flask quantities with a weight of 34.47kg (76 lbs.) The cost of this quantity is about $150. A DOT approved container from Bethlehem Apparatus to transport it costs $900.

We have all heard stories of artists poisoning themselves with the mercury ingested while working with toxic paint. (van Gogh, for example) One mineral pigment, Cordierite, decomposes to metallic mercury and mercury chloride. And cinnabar, the ore used in mercury production, was used to make bright red vermillion. The friezes from Pompeii show the brilliance of these colors (Scenes of a Dionysiac Mystery Cult. Mural Frieze. 50 B.C.E. Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii.)

Everyone my age knows firsthand how totally cool mercury is. We played with it; really. I’m not sure where we got it, but we had globs that we coated coins with, as well as shuffled it hand to hand.  Now that would be call for statewide hazmat team intervention.

I’ve heard of entire schools being evacuated for one mercury thermometer spill, but there have been larger incidents.

2003 in Washington, D.C.

A student at Ballou High School took mercury from a science lab to sell to other students. It ended up everywhere. It was all over the school in classrooms, restrooms and cafeteria.  And it ended up in eleven houses!  The total cost to clean this up?  Over $1.5 million.




It’s Elemental- Gold- AU September 17, 2017

Posted by makingyourdashcount in Elements.
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*Standard Disclaimer applies.


I know that there are many of you who are major fans of gold.

I would like to know, why?  It is not the rarest of metals.  You learned that yesterday, yet it has been prized for jewelry and other forms of ornamentation as far back 5000 BCE in Egypt. We use gold in dental work; It is used for coating certain space satellites, & in plating. It is a good reflector of infrared.

Gold is found just about everywhere geographically; in nature it’s found in free metal and in Calaverite, or gold telluride ore;.  It’s estimated that there are about 187,000 tonNES of it above ground. You don’t even need to dig for it. (187,000 metric tonNES= about 206,132 plain old regular Imperial tons,.) THAT is a lot of gold. Los Alamos Lab tells us that all the refined gold, ever refined, “could be placed in a single cube 60 ft. on a side.” That is hard to fathom given all the Zales, Kaye Jewelers and Jared’s pawning the stuff.

About 50% of mined gold is used for jewelry; and 10% is used in industry.

As metals go for jewelry, it really isn’t all that valuable, just prized. It’s beautiful and malleable. Its price has more to do with demand than with supply.

Consider Platinum. It is 10x rarer than gold, yet it’s market price is close to gold. That makes no sense. People seem to prefer the obvious gold finish.  I don’t really understand why people even buy white gold, when platinum’s lister is so superior, oh, and rare.

Gold also serves as an international standard of measurement (ITS-90.) 1337.33 Kelvin, 1064.18o Celsius, and 1947.52o Fahrenheit are defined by the freezing point of gold. (Yes, your gold jewelry is frozen gold.) (It is only ONE part of what defines our temperature scale- triple points of water, hydrogen, argon, etc.. all factor in.)

Do you know where your gold comes from?  Next time you buy a piece, ask your jeweler. S/he should know.  Under Dodd-Frank, all public companies are required to file form SD- The Conflict Minerals Report to the SEC. This requires them and their entire supply chain to report the smelters used to melt the gold ore. This is to keep conflict sourced gold (tin, tungsten and tantalum) out of the supply chain. It is these ores that are financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This requirement is to help shut off that funding.

(Note that I am leaving my political commentary out of this. Daily I work on documenting the smelters of the metals used in our products. I do have opinions. Many. J)

So that is gold.  IF you buy it, know where it was sourced (your diamonds, too.) If you use it in your work, you understand its material value.

Gold- it’s not just for jewelry.