HHomeBackground Color:He
LiBeOsmium Pictures PageBlack White GrayBCNOFNe
NaMgOsmium Technical DataAlSiPSClAr
KCaOsmium Isotope DataScTiVCrMnFeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr
RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAgCdInSnSbTeIXe
CsBaLaCePrNdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTmYbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTlPbBiPoAtRn
FrRaAcThPaUNpPuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRfDbSgBhHsMtDsRgCnUutUuqUupUuhUusUuo
Osmium     

Osmium

Atomic Weight 190.23
Density 22.59 g/cm3
Melting Point 3033 °C
Boiling Point 5012 °C
Full technical data

Ultra dense osmium is alloyed with other precious metals to make them harder and stronger. It sometimes occurs naturally combined with iridium, and such osmiridium mixtures are used in fountain pen tips.

Scroll down to see examples of Osmium.
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Osmium Museum-grade sample

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Museum-grade sample.
In early 2004 Max Whitby and I started selling individual element samples identical or similar to the samples we use in the museum displays we build. These are top-quality samples presented in attractive forms appropriate to the particular element. They are for sale from Max's website and also on eBay where you will find an ever-changing selection of samples (click the link to see the current listings).

This bottle contains about 50 grams of arc-melted buttons made in Max's reduced-pressure argon-arc furnace.

I chose this sample to represent its element in my Photographic Periodic Table Poster. The sample photograph includes text exactly as it appears in the poster, which you are encouraged to buy a copy of.
Periodic Table Poster

Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 24 February, 2004
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: See Listing
Size: 0.2"
Purity: >99%
Sample Group: RGB Samples
Osmium Sample from the Everest Set

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Sample from the Everest Set.
Up until the early 1990's a company in Russia sold a periodic table collection with element samples. At some point their American distributor sold off the remaining stock to a man who is now selling them on eBay. The samples (except gases) weigh about 0.25 grams each, and the whole set comes in a very nice wooden box with a printed periodic table in the lid.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description and information about how to buy one, or you can see photographs of all the samples from the set displayed on my website in a periodic table layout or with bigger pictures in numerical order.

Source: Rob Accurso
Contributor: Rob Accurso
Acquired: 7 February, 2003
Text Updated: 29 January, 2009
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: >99%
Osmium Real osmium

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Real osmium.
Osmium metal is hard to get, and very expensive. In fact, it was in the very last group of elements I was able to acquire to complete my collection. It was donated by the extremely kind Max Whitby of the The Red Green & Blue Company, which sells a complete collection of elements (including this one).

Osmium and Iridium are the two densest elements in the world (they are in fact so close in density that which one is considered the densest has switched a couple of times over the years). Even though this is a quite small lump, you can feel its weight when you shake the bottle: Quite surprising. Having a large block of this would be remarkable, but the closest I'm likely to come to that is my large blocks and cylinders of tungsten, which are only about 15% less dense.

To learn more about the set you can visit my page about element collecting for a general description or the company's website which includes many photographs and pricing details. I have two photographs of each sample from the set: One taken by me and one from the company. You can see photographs of all the samples displayed in a periodic table format: my pictures or their pictures. Or you can see both side-by-side with bigger pictures in numerical order.

The picture on the left was taken by me. Here is the company's version (there is some variation between sets, so the pictures sometimes show different variations of the samples):


Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 20 January, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: 99.95%
Osmium Yet a third brand of osmium phonograph needle

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Yet a third brand of osmium phonograph needle.
Despite striking out with two different brands of "osmium" needle (no actual osmium), I remain eternally optimistic that some day I'll find one that contains real osmium. This is a brand I haven't seen before, so maybe....
I have not tested it yet, but before too long I'll know if my hopes will once again be dashed against the rocks of eBay.
Source: eBay seller 00018
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 4 January, 2003
Price: $10
Size: 0.2"
Purity: <20%
Osmium Osmium tetroxide

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Osmium tetroxide.
Osmium tetroxide is extremely poisonous and volatile, so if you so much as lean over it, it can severely harm your eyes. Fortunately my sample is sealed in a glass tube inside a protective plastic outer tube.
Source: Tryggvi Emilsson and Timothy Brumleve
Contributor: Tryggvi Emilsson and Timothy Brumleve
Acquired: 12 November, 2002
Price: Donated
Size: 0.2"
Purity: <20%
Osmium Still more antique phonograph needles, these in original packaging

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Still more antique phonograph needles, these in original packaging.
After he sent it but before I knew about it, I won an auction for five more osmium needles identical to the one George had sent me (see above). I photographed his and kept this set in its original packaging, though by the time you read this I may have traded one for a selenium rectifier.
Source: eBay seller startgroove
Contributor: eBay seller startgroove
Acquired: 31 August, 2002
Price: $17
Size: 0.5"
Purity: <50%
Osmium Another antique phonograph needle

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Another antique phonograph needle.
This is a different brand, one that claims to have an osmium tip welded on it (see below for packaging making this claim). It's still magnetic, though without breaking off the tip it's a bit hard to tell whether the tip itself is, or whether it's just the rest of the shaft that is attracted to the magnet.

Preliminary analysis by x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy at the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, University of Illinois (partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant DEFG02-91-ER45439) indicates that there is absolutely no osmium in this needle either. Again, it could be that the osmium is only in the tip, which I may have missed, or that a plating obscured it. In this case the machine saw 57% iron, 43% copper.

Source: George (not 007) Lazenby
Contributor: George (not 007) Lazenby
Acquired: 30 August, 2002
Price: Donated
Size: 0.5"
Purity: 0%
Osmium Antique phonograph needle

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Antique phonograph needle.
People playing antique phonograph cylinders (the kind that are played acoustically with no electronics between the needle and the speaker) care a lot about their needles. Probably this is because every time they play a cylinder, an irreplaceable historical artifact is irreparably damaged a little bit more, how much depending on what needle you're using.
Fortunately, some people are transferring and archiving the recordings. The sound for this sample is a short excerpt of a wax cylinder recording taken from the website of a person who offers to transfer wax recordings to CD in exchange for a copy of them.
In any case, the preferred material for needles is of course diamond, with sapphire a good second. But, as was very nicely explained in the letter that came with this fine needle, if you're going to use a metal needle to get a certain kind of tone, an osmium one will last much longer, and leave fewer shards of metal stuck in the grooves, than will a steel needle.
My microscopic examination reveals no joints in the metal, and Randall Anderson, the source, explains as follows:

"Yes they are all osmium. The tungsten ones usually have just a tip, or a central shaft set in brass, but the osmium ones are usually all the way. The thicker the needle the louder the tone, thus they come in soft, medium, and loud tone. The last of the manufacturers went out of business in the late 1970's. I bought out their final inventory. Only NOS (New Old Stock) exist at this point."

On the other hand, the needle is quite unmistakably attracted to a magnet, which it should not be if it were solid osmium. It might be plated, or it might be one of several osmium/iron alloys that are discussed in connection with phonograph needles.

Preliminary analysis by x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy at the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, University of Illinois (partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant DEFG02-91-ER45439) indicates that there is absolutely no osmium in this needle. Not the slightest ghost of a trace. But, this is a surface analysis only and it's possible the machine was missing the tip of the needle, so some hope remains: I plan further testing after I learn more about the x-ray beam's exact location within the sample area of the machine. What the machine did see was 60% iron, 40% nickel.

Source: eBay seller hmv
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 12 July, 2002
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Price: $9
Size: 0.5"
Purity: 0%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!
Osmium Osmiridium pen

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Osmiridium pen.
Osimiridium is a naturally occurring mixture of osmium and iridium. It's a very hard metal used in the tips of fountain pens.
Source: eBay seller tbagkdr
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 13 January, 2010
Text Updated: 13 January, 2010
Price: $30
Size: 1"
Composition: OsIr
Osmium Osmiridium pen

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Osmiridium pen.
Osimiridium is a naturally occurring mixture of osmium and iridium. It's a very hard metal used in the tips of fountain pens.
Source: eBay seller tbagkdr
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 13 January, 2010
Text Updated: 13 January, 2010
Price: $30
Size: 1"
Composition: OsIr
Osmium Ad for osmiridium tipped pen

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Ad for osmiridium tipped pen.
A magazine ad for an osmiridium-tipped fountain pen.
Source: eBay seller mirluck
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 25 April, 2009
Text Updated: 27 April, 2009
Price: $5
Size: 10"
Composition: OsIr
Osmium Photo Card Deck of the Elements

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Photo Card Deck of the Elements.
In late 2006 I published a photo periodic table and it's been selling well enough to encourage me to make new products. This one is a particularly neat one: A complete card deck of the elements with one big five-inch (12.7cm) square card for every element. If you like this site and all the pictures on it, you'll love this card deck. And of course if you're wondering what pays for all the pictures and the internet bandwidth to let you look at them, the answer is people buying my posters and cards decks. Hint hint.
Source: Theodore Gray
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 19 November, 2008
Text Updated: 21 November, 2008
Price: $35
Size: 5"
Composition: HHeLiBeBCNOFNeNaMg AlSiPSClArKCaScTiVCrMn FeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrKr RbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAg CdInSnSbTeIXeCsBaLaCePr NdPmSmEuGdTbDyHoErTm YbLuHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTl PbBiPoAtRnFrRaAcThPaUNp PuAmCmBkCfEsFmMdNoLrRf DbSgBhHsMtDsRgUubUutUuq UupUuhUusUuo
Osmium Big bag of beads

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Big bag of beads. (External Sample)
This is a large ($18,000) order of platinum group metals placed by an excellent customer of my partner Max Whitby's element sales business. I happened to be visiting Max in London just before the order needed to be shipped to our customer in the US, so I hand-carried the precious cargo home rather than risking international shipping. These beads were made by Max in his reduced pressure argon arc furnace.

The customer wishes to remain anonymous, so you'll just have to keep wondering where this remarkable trove of rare metals currently resides: The only thing you can be sure of is that I don't have it.
Source: Max Whitby of RGB
Contributor: Max Whitby of RGB
Acquired: 4 September, 2007
Text Updated: 7 September, 2007
Price: N/A
Size: 0.25"
Composition: ReRuOsIr
Osmium Osmiridium aka Iridosmine

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Osmiridium (aka Iridosmine).
These are very small granules of native (naturally occurring) osmium-iridium alloy. These two metals are often found combined this way, and because the alloy is actually in many ways more useful than either element on its own, the mixture is often used just as it's found, for example in the tips of expensive fountain pens. Don't be fooled by the picture: This stuff is about the size of fine sand, I've just got a really good macro lens.
Source: eBay seller entropydave
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 15 February, 2006
Text Updated: 5 December, 2006
Price: $85
Size: 0.02"
Composition: IrOs
Osmium Big bag of beads

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Big bag of beads. (External Sample)
Close-up of one bead from the previous sample.
Location: Anonymous
Photographed: 4 September, 2007
Text Updated: 6 September, 2007
Size: 0.25"
Purity: 99.99%
Osmium Big bag of beads

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Big bag of beads. (External Sample)
This is part of a large ($18,000) order of platinum group metals placed by an excellent customer of my partner Max Whitby's element sales business. I happened to be visiting Max in London just before the order needed to be shipped to our customer in the US, so I hand-carried the precious cargo home rather than risking international shipping. These beads are made by Max in his reduced pressure argon arc furnace.

The order consisted of equal volumes of ruthenium, rhenium, osmium, and iridium. Here is what the whole collection looks like:


The customer wishes to remain anonymous, so you'll just have to keep wondering where this remarkable trove of rare metals currently resides: The only thing you can be sure of is that I don't have it.
Location: Anonymous
Photographed: 4 September, 2007
Text Updated: 6 September, 2007
Size: 0.25"
Purity: 99.99%
Osmium Iridosmine

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Iridosmine. (External Sample)
Naturally occurring alloy of iridium and osmium.
Location: The Harvard Museum of Natural History
Photographed: 2 October, 2002
Size: 1
Purity: 50%
The Elements book Mad Science book Periodic Table Poster  Click here to buy a book, photographic periodic table poster, card deck, or 3D print based on the images you see here!