Chromium, a transition metal, is used in the production of stainless steel, in corrosion resistant platings and as a pigment in glass. We are more apt to think of it as the shiny parts of our cars and motorcycles.

The film carriers on this square are a nod to hexavalent chromium, which was used in the processing of the once popular Kodachrome 35mm slide film. Use of the film declined with the advance of digital photography and it was discontinued by Kodak in 2009.


Mercury is a silvery-white poisonous metal that’s liquid at room temperature. It has been in use since ancient times. Alchemists took its modern name from the fastest moving planet and the fleet-footed mythical Roman messenger of the gods, Mercury. It’s used in barometers, thermometers, mercury switches and other electrical applications such as mercury/vapor lamps.

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of  the rock group Queen, seems right at home riding the Mercury rocket. His on-stage persona was mercurial, his voice commanded us to listen. Long after his death from AIDS in 1991 he’s still garnering new fans. Real showmen are rare.


Clare Degerness

Platinum is one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust. This scarcity makes it highly valuable, and thus it has become a symbol of noteworthy accomplishment: sale of over one million musical albums, 70 years of marriage, and extensive credit card spending. Although none of my ancestors reached this marriage milestone, and I do not have a chance of living long enough to do so, they celebrated their weddings in style and lived out their marriage vows for many years. Pictured along with my husband and me are my parents, my paternal grandparents and my maternal great-grandparents.


“Come on, rhenium, get the lead out!”

rhenium, Clare Degerness

This element was discovered in Germany and named after the Rhine River. One of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust, rhenium has an extremely high melting point and is used to construct high temperature turbine engines. It is also used as a catalyst in the production of lead-free, high-octane gasoline.



Rutherfordium, Clare Degerness

New Zealand-born chemist and physicist Ernest Rutherford pioneered the planetary model of the atom in 1911. The Rutherford model has been used as a symbol for atoms and atomic energy, and is featured in the logos of the US Atomic Energy Commission, the American Atheists and minor league baseball’s Albuquerque Isotopes. “Go, ‘Topes!”


At  position #108, Hassium seems more like an empty hole in the periodic chart than a respectable element. Found in nature? Not. Industrial uses?  Zero. Melting point, density, crystalline form?  Unknown.

So, how would you recognize Hassium in a crowd? He might use a number of aliases (aka Unniloctium, Hahnium) since his official name was only recently adopted in 1997 after great pressure from German scientists who discovered him. He might be wearing the proud black, red and gold of the Deutschland flag, but he won’t be lingering by the spätzle and sauerbraten since his half-life is 0.08 milliseconds.In the truest sense of the word, Hassium is a fleeting guy in search of a reason to exist. Best to avoid.


Palladium was named after the asteroid Pallas. It is relatively rare and resembles platinum. Palladium is mined and sold as jewelry, bullions and coins, including the Lewis and Clark coin which I used to represent this element. Palladium is also used in dentistry to make crowns as it is very malleable and non-corrosive. It is used medicinally as a treatment for certain types of cancer by inhibiting cell division and causing fewer side effects than some other types of treatments.

The Stillwater igneous complex is located in southern Montana. Long a source for chromium ore, it also produces palladium and other platinum group elements.


Bohrium  has a half-life under half a second, and is named after Niels Bohr, who figured out the electron structure.
Since I know little about chemistry – I am repeating what I read – that this “gave rise to the periodic table”.  This seems to be pretty important since this is something that all scientist revere and quilters get to be creative with!   Bh contains 7 levels of energy, the energy in each level is represented by the black beads at each of the colors variations I used to interpret these levels. They total 106. Evidently the P: 107 which was part of the atomic structure does not relate to this or the N: 155.

These don’t mean a thing to me – maybe some scientist can explain?


Glenn Seaborg (1912-1999) was a chemist and winner of the Nobel prize. He discovered, or helped to discover, 10 elements, including number 106, which is named for him.

Seaborg was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He also served as Chair of the US Atomic Energy Commission. He worked on the Manahattan Project, where he developed the extraction process used to isolate plutonium fuel for the second atomic bomb.

In 1980, he transmuted bismuth into gold, fulfilling the dream of alchemists throughout history. The technique is too expensive to be commercially viable.

He was also a pioneer of nuclear medicine. He considered his own biggest accomplishment to be his work on the Limited Test Ban Treaty. He influenced President Johnson’s administration to pursue the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Seaburg’s family name was originally Sjöberg, yet another connection between Sweden and the periodic table. Holmium is named for Stockholm, and four elements were discovered on the Swedish isle of Ytterby: Ytterbium, Erbium, Terbium and Yttrium. Johan Gadolin, who discovered Yttrium, was a Finn when Finland belonged to Sweden. Gadolinium is named for him. Cobalt and oxygen were both first recognized as elements in Sweden. Lise Meitner, part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, was born in Austria but lived and worked in Sweden. Meitnerium is named for her. Then of course there is Nobellium, named for another Swedish chemist. Also consider Thorium (after a Norse god) and Scandium, named for Scandinavia. Vanadium is a name from Norse mythology, and Tungsten comes from the Swedish for “heavy stone.”


Molybdenum is a grey metal added to steel to give it strength. I had an ulterior motive in selecting this element. (Well, two actually. I just plain like the word – it’s so silly sounding.) But principally I wanted to resurrect an earlier project which I was never happy with.  It was supposed to be a depiction of Pele’ – a face emerging/fusing with a molten lava flow. But frankly, although I loved the lava part the face always gave me the creeps. So I took the advice of a quilting friend who told me if I was that unhappy, I should whack it up and make something else with the parts I liked. So I did. Here you go. Silvery grey molybdenum melting in with iron, carbon and other elements to form incredibly strong steel. And I love it this time.