Editors' pick: Originally published Feb. 7.
If you want to send your sweetie over the moon this Valentine's Day then forget a gold or platinum ring. Go for iridium instead.
Iridium is a rare metal primarily used in components for space travel. But Smithson Tennant, a division of engineered materials supplier American Elements, has developed the technology to produce iridium jewelry for the public for the first time. Iridium melts at such a high temperature that the metal was never considered for accessories before.
"We kind of did it as a side thing for fun, just to let the technology world know we had it, but then Elon Musk got one. And Don Henley of the Eagles got one, and all of a sudden we said maybe we should do a little more with these than simply make them for fun and friends," says Michael Silver, CEO of American Elements.
Silver adds that the rings do not tarnish and have a higher luster than gold, silver and platinum. And because iridium is also traded on the commodities market -- around $700 an ounce at last check -- it makes for a smart precious metals investment as well, according to Silver.
"The moment these rings become actual jewelry pieces then you are going to see the price of iridium go up dramatically because iridium is 10 times rarer than gold and platinum," says Silver.
The difficulty in working with iridium is its density. Silver says the furnaces used to make iridium into rings are similar to those used to make diamonds. It melts at 2,000 degrees hotter than gold so jewelers can't use it.
"We are the only company in the world to make these because we have the furnaces to do so," says Silver.
Firing up sales is another challenge, especially ahead of Valentine's Day. Right now customers can only buy iridium rings directly from Smithson Tennant. However, Silver says greater distribution is on the way.
"We are going to be in a very large brick and mortar retailer very soon and we are also talking to one of the top online retailers and once we are in those locations it will be much easier to get it. But between now and Valentine's Day you have to get it from us," says Silver.