Sadly not all of them are nice or very beneficial.
Gold, often thought to be one of the most expensive substances in the world has inspired greed, envy and war as men’s lust for the precious metal outweighs their logic. It has provided a shiny coat to human history; the ancient art of alchemy aimed to find a method of turning base metals into gold and the tombs of the Pharaohs were full of it.
The value of gold is volatile but you might be surprised to discover it doesn’t even appear in this Billionaires top 10 list of the world’s most expensive substances by weight. Today, the most costly materials are more likely to be recent scientific discoveries – and many of them are just as bad for your health as an obsession with gold once was. Check out our countdown and prepare to be surprised as costs head up into the trillions.
In at number 10 is Methamphetamine, more commonly known by its street name of meth, or ICE, it’s a dangerously addictive drug, which we’ve written about at some length previously, and it is valued at around $120 per gram. The illegal drug acts on the nervous system to produce euphoric feelings among users and often comes in the form of crystals.
Despite its high price, the drug is often ‘cooked up’ from a variety of cheap and readily available ingredients including paint thinners, battery acid and cold medicines. Long-term use can lead to a variety of conditions ranging from psychotic episodes to tooth loss, convulsions and death.
For number nine, we stay in the world of illicit drugs with crack cocaine, another incredibly addictive substance that can be valued at up to $600 a gram. First appearing on the streets in the mid-1980s, this form of the drug is said to be the most addictive. It comes in ‘rocks’ and produces a short but intense high for the user. As well as cocaine, crack also contains cheap ingredients such as baking soda.
Users experience euphoria but also a range of highly-unpleasant side-effects from scratching themselves until they bleed, to paranoia, heart attacks, lung and liver damage.
LSD, popularly associated with the counter culture of the 1960s, costs around $3,000 a gram and makes number eight on our most expensive substances countdown. The drug lysergic acid diethylamide, also commonly known as acid, has been used in therapies and commonly produces hallucinations.
Unlike the ‘recreational’ drugs we’ve mentioned so far, LSD is non-addictive, but it has been blamed for causing anxiety and paranoia, and in some cases death when users have been involved in accidents while under the influence. It was originally concocted by chemists in the 1930s and was introduced commercially for treating mental disorders after the Second World War. During the 1950s, the CIA explored LSD as a method of potential mind control in warfare but it was outlawed after it took off as a recreational drug. Trials of LSD’s potential as a medical treatment began again in 2009.
In this video, a 1950s housewife takes LSD as part of a medical trial:
From the peace and love generation of the 1960s, we move to the central ingredient of nuclear bombs – Plutonium. Costing around $4,000 a gram, this radioactive chemical element is also used in nuclear power reactors.
Although small amounts of plutonium are found naturally, sizeable amounts were not produced until it was successfully synthesised in 1940 by chemists in the US. Plutonium was used in the core of the nuclear bomb that devastated Nagasaki. The fall-out from plutonium causes radiation sickness and the safe disposal of the substance from nuclear power stations remains a key concern.
Taaffeite, an incredibly rare gemstone, makes the number six spot in this Billionaires top 10. Costing up to $20,000 a gram, taaffeite is a purple mineral named after Richard Taffete who first discovered it in 1945 as a polished stone in a jewellery shop in Dublin. Until he identified it as a new type of gem, most examples had been mistaken for the relatively low-value spinel.
Taaffeite is so valuable because it is thought to be around a million times rarer than diamonds. It is found in few places on earth, but if you want to set out on a taaffeite hunt, Southern Tanzania, China and Sri Lanka are the best starting points.
Number five in this most expensive list is tritium, the substance that costs an amazing $30,000 a gram, and it is an isotope of hydrogen that is produced by nuclear fusion. So you may be surprised to learn that it is commonly used in self-illuminating exit signs of the sort you see in offices and when you go to the movies. These are called betalights and it is also used in the night sights of guns and watch dials, as well as the manufacture of nuclear bombs.
Marilyn Monroe sang that they were a girl’s best friend and at a more than $65,000 a gram, diamonds are in at number four in this countdown. The colourless form of this gemstone is the best known although it also comes in an array of other hues from yellow to blue and pink.
Synthetic diamonds are used in a variety of industries and modern techniques of creating them in the lab have become so sophisticated that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart from the real thing that is mined from the depths of the earth. Real diamonds are a form of carbon that were created at incredibly high temperatures. As Monroe, and other Hollywood goddesses such as Elizabeth Taylor knew, however, the real thing is something that will never age or go out of style.
Cast your eyes on some of these beauties:
Our number three is painite, which can cost up to $300,000. This is a crystal so rare that until 2005, only 25 examples of it were known to exist although more have recently been unearthed in Myanmar and it’s hoped there are still more to be mined.
The first example of this gem, which is shaped like a hexagon, was uncovered by British gemologist Arthur CD Pain in the 1950s and it is from him that the crystal takes its name. Some of the newly discovered examples have been cut into polished gemstones to be used in very expensive jewellery but most have been left in their original crystal form.
As we head towards the top of the list we come to a substance that is used to help find another valuable commodity – oil – in oil wells. Californium 252 costs a phenomenal $27 million a gram.
It was named after the US state where it was first created at the University of Berkeley in 1950. As well as being used in the oil industry, it can be used to start up nuclear reactors. It produces radiation and is used in the radiation treatment of a number of forms of cancer.
If you think that Californium 252 is expensive, how about the $100 trillion per gram cost of the number one on our list – antimatter? According to scientists, this is the costliest substance on earth to produce and it’s made in particle accelerators and through some forms of radioactive decay.
If sufficient amounts can be created in the future, scientists believe antimatter could be used as a cancer treatment, to fuel space ships and more worryingly, in weapons.
Top picture: CNBC
With thanks to Billionaires Australia
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