Friday, March 22, 2013

What's in a Name?


The country of Argentina was actually named after an element in Periodic Table, Argentum, #47. It happened something like this:

In the early 1500’s, because of a shipwreck, Spaniards landed here. They decided they better give some gifts to the local people to endear themselves, and they offered silver. The local people basically said thanks, but we have plenty of silver. Oh really? Can you show us where? And they went and saw. Not too much later, this group went back to Spain with the news that there was plenty of silver for the taking. They named the river where they originally landed, the River of Silver (Rio de la Plata) and called the country Argentina derived from argentum, the Latin word for silver. As it turns out Argentina does not actually mine that much silver, in fact, it is clear down the list at #15.

Top 20 Silver Producing Countries in 2006
(millions of ounces)
1. Peru 111.6
2. Mexico 96.4
3. China 75.4
4. Australia 55.6
5. Chile 51.5
6. Poland 40.4
7. Russia 39.6
8. United States 36.7
9. Canada 31.2
10. Kazakhstan 26.1
11. Bolivia 15.2
12. Sweden 8.6
13. Indonesia 7.7
14. Morocco 7.6
15. Argentina 6.1
16. Turkey 6.0
17. Iran 3.2
18. South Africa 2.8
19. India 2.7
20. Uzbekistan 2.3

crescent moonHowever, as a minor point of interest, there is a picture associated with argentum. It is a picture of the crescent moon. Between medialunas and how the Argentines love night life, in one way or the other, I think it has turned out to be appropriate. Of course, we don’t know where the locals took the shipwrecked Spaniards to see the silver. We do know that silver has been mined in the Andes Mountains since the days of the Incas. The largest of those mines in Argentina is the Capillitas Mine which is found at about 10,000 feet. As you can imagine, it is not worked year round. minemine2Vista Capillitas Torregm-rhdchrst-argntn-03
SantaRitaThe Incas held a tradition that the blood of their rulers was turned to stone, and the stone was called Inca Rosa. These stones grew in the mine as stalactites and stalagmites. Then, about 150 years ago, people began to use the beauty of Inca Rosa and mine for it, specifically. It was discovered, during that era, that there are over 100 types of precious stones inside the Capillitas Mine.
capillitas2They are among the most beautiful and rare in the world. Interestingly, many of the stones were found among the debris of the silver veins.

Rhodochrosite is the official name for Inca Rosa and is found in several places in the world, however, only in Capillitas Mine, in Argentina, can you find the banded stones, with colors ranging from almost white to rich pink to brown. When the bandings show a distinct chocolate brown color, it is called a capillite.
Although the mine has been mapped, its excavation has not been well-documented and it is thought that perhaps the story of Inca Rosa/Rhodochrosite like the story of Argentina itself, has not completely unfolded.

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