If you want to make exact replicas of The Imperial State Crown Jewels and the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, all you need are some everyday household items including antiseptic cream, sandpaper and drain unblocker, plus an instruction manual, say scientists working with the The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair.
The experiment, led by Dr. Dharmalingam Prabhakaran, Head of the Crystal Growth Unit at Oxford University, was aimed at inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists.
It took eight months to complete and commemorates Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest-ever reigning monarch later in 2015.
With the right everyday household materials and an instruction manual, schoolchildren can make these amazing replicas. (Image: The Big Bang Fair)
Dr. Dharmalingam and colleagues managed to grow exact replicas of some of the most famous jewels in the world.
The St. Edward’s Sapphire replica was made from mixing common cleaning powder with boiling water to create a copper sulphate crystal.
Simple and fun
The scientists describe the experiment as “simple and fun”, and can be done by schoolchildren in the classroom. It shows the science behind acid-base reactions which form the basis of almost every biological process in living things.
The Crown Jewels replicas, which also include thousands of laboratory-grown crystals, are virtually impossible to tell apart from the real ones with the naked eye.
Synthetic gems have several surprising and essential uses in our everyday lives, such as in watch faces, smart phone screens and lasers. They are nearly as hard as natural diamonds.
The scientists exposed basic chemicals to very high temperatures and created the Synthetic Spinel, Cubic Zirconia and Corundum crystals that perfectly mimicked the precious gems – including the Cullinan II (the world’s 4th largest polished diamond), the Black Prince Ruby, and the Stuart Sapphire.
After making the crystals, they were cut to look exactly like the Crown Jewels, and were then carefully set into beautiful casings by professional stage jewellers. (Image: The Big Bang Fair)
The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair
CEO of Engineering UK, Paul Jackson, said:
“By taking a simple classroom experiment as inspiration, we worked with scientists to create this unique crown, with the aim of showing young people just how fun and fascinating science, technology, engineering and maths can be.”
“Every year thousands of pupils and teachers attend The Big Bang Fair, which exists to inspire young people to become the next generation of scientists and engineers – rewarding careers for those young people and essential to the health of the UK economy.”
Dr. Prabhakaran said:
“It’s been great to have been given the chance to get involved with The Big Bang Fair. Crystals are amazing – not only are they incredibly beautiful to look at, but they are also very useful. 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.”
You can see the replica jewels on display at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair on March 11th to 14th, 2015, at the NEC Birmingham. Free places are still available.
Video – Big Bang Fair at Essex University
In December 2014, HRH The Prince of Wales visited The Big Bang Fair at Essex University in Colchester.