Flying the flag

Two elements represented by flags, each with a distinctive cross.

The Saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross, is the flag of Scotland and represents the only element to be discovered in Scotland. The small village of Strontian in the Highlands grew up in the 18th century around its lead mine and it was in the minerals from this mine that a new ore and hence a new element were discovered. They were named strontianite and strontium respectively. The name Strontian, or Sròn an t-Sìthein in Gaelic, translates as ‘point of the fairies’ – perhaps those fairies scattered phosphorescent strontianite dust.

The Nordic or Scandinavian cross is used on the flags of the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The element scandium was discovered by a Swedish chemist, Lars Nilson, in the minerals gadolinite and euxenite, both found in Scandinavia.

With thanks to Marie Sveistrup for suggesting the Nordic flag.

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