The origin of the names of precious metals
Where do the names of precious metals and some elements used in jewellery come from?
In ancient times, seven metals and seven celestial bodies were known and seven-day units were used to measure time. Metals and days were identified with planets. The colour of the planets was associated with the colour of the metals. Gold was likened to the yellow of the Sun, silver to the Moon, and iron to the red of Mars, while lead, as a heavy metal, was compared to Saturn because of its supposed slow motion. In the Middle Ages, planets and metals were closely associated: they were given similar names and similar symbols.
The names of ancient metals, celestial bodies and suns:
The names of the elements today can have different origins.
They can come from the geographical location, the mineral, the ore that contains the element and the laboratory where it was discovered. They may be of ancient origin, referring to a property of the element, or they may be linked to the name of a mythological person.
Some examples of the origin of the names of elements used in the jewellery industry:
Copper: Copper (Cu) From the words küprion (Greek) and cuprum (Latin). The ore aes cyprium is named after its deposit in Cyprus. The island was named after the Cypress plant called Cyprios.
Gold: Gold (Au) It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word geolo (yellow), which is Sanskrit for "to shine".
Mercury: Mercury (Hg) Named after the Roman god of messengers and the planet Mercury. Mercury (Hg) is derived from the Greek hydro-argyros (water-silver), which refers to the fact that mercury is a shiny, liquid metal.
Platinum: Platinum (Pt) The Spanish word plata means silver, -ina is a diminutive. Platinum is similar to silver. It was used by South American Indians long before the arrival of Columbus.
Silver: Silver (Ag) Of unknown origin, it may be derived from the Norwegian silfr and the Anglo-Saxon soelfor. The Latin argentum (Ag) comes from the Sanskrit argunas (shining).
Palladium: Palladium (Pd) Named after the second planet to be discovered, Pallas. Pallas was discovered in 1802 and palladium in 1803. Pallas Athena is the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology.
Nickel: Nickel (Ni) Nickel (German): devil. If an ore that looked like ordinary copper did not contain copper, German miners called it "Kupfer-nickel", copper devil. Nickel was discovered in such ore.
Titanium: Titan (Ti) In Greek mythology, the Titans are the sons of Uranus. Klaproth discovered the new element after uranium.
Zirconium: Zirconium (Zr) Derived either from the Arabic word zerk (gemstone) or from the Arabic word zargum (golden yellow). (Zirconium is extracted from the gemstone zircon - ZrSiO4.)