Niobium, a rarely used metal, is relatively new to the family of metals used by artists. Its name is derived from the mythological Greek Goddess Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus.
Due to the limited quantities geologists have located in the Earth's crust, this beautiful metal has a value on par with silver. It is not to be confused with its family member Titanium. Monetarily, comparing Titanium to Niobium is like comparing copper to silver.
Niobium (Nb) is an element. Its atomic number is 41 and has an atomic weight of 92.9064. Niobium has an extremely high melting point of approximately 4,470 degrees Fahrenheit (2468-2740 C). Boiling point of approximately 9261 F (4742 - 4927C) Density 8.4, Electrical Conductivity 0.08, Thermal Conductivity .125. The major Niobium producing countries are Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, Zaire and Russia. The United States does not mine Niobium and, therefore, has to import it.
In 1801, Charles Hachett discovered the element in a sample of ore that was sent to England in the 1750’s. In 1864, Christian Blomstrand of Sweeden unlocked the mysteries producing this unique and colorful metal.
The property that makes it a jeweler's pleasure to work with is its ability to create durable, permanent, hypoallergenic, iridescent colors. These colors are brought out in the metal by using a special process called Anodization. Heat is applied precisely, allowing the jeweler to manipulate the molecular structure of the metal. Electric current running through the metal oxidizes, activates and excites the special qualities of the material. The colors you see are pure refracted Interference patterns of light through the varied transparent oxide thickness.