Oxford Scientists Use Household Products to Grow British Crown Jewel Replicas

Scientists from Oxford University used common household products — such as drain cleaner, sandpaper and antiseptic cream — to grow crystals that mimic the British Crown Jewels.

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The experiment, which was directed by Dr. Dharmalingam Prabhakaran, head of the Crystal Growth Unit at Oxford University, took eight months to complete and honors Queen Elizabeth II becoming the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch later in 2015.

The impressive replica jewels will be presented at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, set to take place from March 11 to 14 in Birmingham. The show organizers are hoping the crystal experiment will inspire young students to focus on the sciences.

Among the famous gems replicated from household items are the 170-carat Black Prince Ruby, 104-carat Stuart Sapphire and 317-carat Cullinan II (the fourth largest polished diamond in the world).

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The scientists were also able to mimic the 12-carat oval sapphire from the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring.

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St. Edward’s Sapphire, which is set in the Maltese Cross atop the Imperial State Crown, was recreated using common cleaning powder mixed with boiling water. The resulting bright blue copper sulfate liquid crystalizes under the right conditions. The crystal-growing experiment can be duplicated with adult supervision in a classroom or at home.

Attendees of the fair will learn that when scientists exposed basic chemicals to extremely high temperatures they were able to create crystals of synthetic spinel, corundum and cubic zirconia. The crystals were then cut to exacting specifications to match the size and shape of their authentic, more famous counterparts.

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“Crystals are amazing. Not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at, but they are also very useful,” noted Dr. Prabhakaran. “A lot of important discoveries, many that went on to win Nobel prizes, were only possible because of crystals. I hope that this project will help get young people excited about science and inspired to take that excitement further with their studies and into their careers.”

Images: The Big Bang Fair/Mikael Buck

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