Chapter 13: Elements as Money

Katana Lowman

Chapter 13 Synopsis

In the book “The Disappearing Spoon”, in chapter 13 the main focus was on how elements can be used for trade and for money. The chapter tells about the history of trading metals and the elements’ origins. Chapter 13 also describes how money such as coins has shaped the world. This chapter admits to past counterfeits that have rose due to fake metals that look very similar to the other coins in circulation. Without the elements mentioned in chapter 13, the world would be tremendously different as we know it today.

The elements that were mentioned in chapter 13 were: Zinc; Gold; Tellurium; Europium; and Aluminium. The elements mentioned are all metals. In the beginning of the chapter, it is mentioned that coin trade began in ancient Turkey in 700 B.C. In today’s world we still can get payed for finding rare earth elements such as gold,(Au); and aluminum,(Al). As time goes on, and Earth grows older, rare earth elements will become even harder to find, and the cost for trading will rise exceptionally.

Zinc (Zn)

  • Atomic #:30
  • Mass#:65.38
  • group#:12
  • Electron configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10
  • Classification:transition metal
  • Where it can be found: ~Australia;Asia;&USA
  • Named after: the Latin word Zincium (which is an unknown word today).
  • Discovered by: Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheium
  • Characteristics: ~tarnishes in humid air
~when Zinc is burning the flames color is blueish-green.
  • Used for: ~cosmetics


Gold (Au)

  • Atomic #: 79
  • Mass #: 196.96
  • Group #: 11
  • Electron configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 5d^9
  • Classification: transition metal
  • Where it can be found: ~Africa;Australia;USA;Mexico;&Canada
  • Named after: "Aurum", meaning "gold" in Latin
  • Discovered by:Ancient civilizations from Central America
  • Characteristics:~very ductile
  • Used for: ~jewelry
~Yellow gold is non-tarnishable

Tellurium (Te)

  • Atomic #:52
  • Mass #:127.6
  • Group #: 16
  • Electron configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^4
  • Classification: metalloid
  • Where it can be found:~North&South America;&Japan
  • Named after: the Latin word "tellus", which means "earth"
  • Discovered by: Franz-Joseph Muller von Reichenstein
  • Characteristics:~Can be added to lead to decrease corrosion
  • Used for:~decreases corrosion& makes metals such as copper and stainless-steel of better quality.

Europium (Eu)

  • Atomic #:63
  • Mass #:151.964
  • Group #: NONE
  • Electron configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 3d^10 4s^2 4p^6 4d^10 5s^2 5p^6 4f^7 5d^1 6s^2
  • Classification: Rare earth crystal
  • Where it can be found: Europe
  • Named after: Europe
  • Discovered by: Eugene Anatole Demarcay
  • Characteristics:~very reactive
~silver color


~oxidizes in air & in water

  • Used for: ~good absorber of neutrons

Aluminum (Al)

  • Atomic #: 13
  • Mass #: 26.98
  • Group #: 13
  • Electron configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^1
  • Classification: malleable metal
  • Where it can be found: in the compound of potassium aluminum sulfate (a.k.a.
  • Named after: aluminum compound
  • Discovered by: Hans Christian Oersted
  • Characteristics:~silver color

~(very) ductile

  • Used for:~packaging(ex.foods)
~Housing (structure panels for buildings).

Overall Summary for Chapter 13

In the book the elements that were mentioned in chapter 13 were gold; aluminum; tellurium; europium; and zinc. Gold is mentioned in the chapter several times. In the chapter, it talks about the “Gold- Rush” in the United States, and about how “fool’s gold” looked similar to gold but it was not like gold chemically. Zinc is an important element that we use in our everyday life. We use zinc in medicine and in cosmetics. Zinc is even in batteries! Aluminum is a very ductile, (bendy) material that people use to package things, like for lunch, or even to bake something. Tellurium is able to decrease corrosion of copper and stainless-steel which helps people to have longer-lasting cookware . Europium is a very good absorber of neutrons and has a compound which is inside of T.V.’s. I have learned that in chapter 13 that elements do serve a purpose in our everyday lives.


Gagnon,Steve.(NA).Jefferson Lab.The Element Aluminum.Retrieved from: