All the colours

Iridium is the first element I stitched, and though it got a mention back in the beginning it had little in the way of explanation. So, what better time to feature an element named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, than in February – LGBTQ+ History month? And framing my pattern of mini rainbows is a rug I upcycled from old karate belts.

But why Iris? When English chemist Smithson Tennant* discovered iridium in 1803, he wrote, “I should incline to call this metal Iridium, from the striking variety of colours which it gives, while dissolving in marine acid.” In his letter to the Royal Society, On two metals, found in the black powder remaining after the solution of platina, he mentions solutions of deep red, deep orange, yellow, dusky olive-green, dark blue and purple – some from experiments on iridium alone and others with the mixture of iridium and the second metal in the black powder – osmium. It certainly sounds like chemistry of the greatest fun (though if I were to experience the smell of the osmium compounds I may change my mind).

*I spent some time thinking that Smithson Tennant was his surname, but actually his forename is Smithson. His family had a tradition of naming their firstborn sons with their mother’s maiden name; Smithson’s father was Calvert Tennant. Some fun can be had from working out what your name would have been under this system.

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