Element collecting has long been the province of scientists, physicists, high school chemistry teachers and self-described “nature geeks.” Today, however, collecting elements has gone mainstream.
Thanks to new sources and methods for obtaining, safely storing and displaying volatile and radioactive elements, element collecting is a hobby even a stay-at-home mom can enjoy without worrying about the safety of her children. Here are five funs ways to get involved in this unique and exciting hobby for yourself!
1. Do your homework
Because elements form the basis of everything in the physical universe, you and everything around you are composed of elements. But do you know what kind of elements are included in the human body? Did you know every human being is roughly 60% water, which makes us about 20% oxygen and 40% hydrogen?
Would it surprise you to learn that every human body contains trace amounts of gold? A 70kg human body is estimated to contain .2 milligrams of the shiny stuff! Knowing where to find elements in the world around you makes a terrific basis for starting your collection.
2. Not the thing itself, but things made from the thing
Now that you know where to find specific elements, you can start collecting items made from the elements you’re looking for. Simple iodized table salt gives you equal parts sodium and chlorine, plus a little iodine. Pepto-Bismol and milk of magnesia offer bismuth and magnesium, respectively. “
Neon” signs may actually contain neon, argon, xenon or krypton, which glow in specific colors when exposed to electrical current. A smoke detector contains minute amounts of the radioactive element americium. Lightbulb filaments contain tungsten, and so on. Many element collectors begin their collection with representative items rather than the elements themselves.
3. Rock it out
If you’re a rockhound or nature enthusiast, you can find elemental ore just about anywhere. Iron pyrite or “fool’s gold” is one common example. Wolframite, from which tungsten is derived, is another.
Red dirt and sandstone typically have that color because of their high iron content. If you know your area’s geology and understand the elements, you can find and source elemental samples anywhere from the beach to the mountains to caves deep within the Earth.
4. Only the best for you!
Of course, for the devoted element collector, only the purest possible representation of the element will do. Companies like Luciteria source element samples of uncompromising purity and beauty, suitable for the die-hard collector and the casual aficionado alike.
5. Get the family involved
Element collecting is a great way to bond the family together while learning and exploring the natural world. You might ask younger children to identify common elements you can find in your own home, especially the kitchen.
Older children might enjoy nature hikes or beachcombing, where they would look for rocks, soil, plants and animals which have high concentrations of certain elements. You and your partner might enjoy giving each other elements as presents for special occasions. Think of them as your own special love language!