The most valuable and rarest substances in the world tend to be expensive. Some of them come with a high price tag because of the illegal activity and criminal risk involved in selling and buying these products. However, the cost fluctuates over time, depending on the availability of rare materials and what people are willing to pay for them.
We are presenting you the 20 most expensive materials in the world, which includes the rare elements on earth (like platinum and gold), illegal drugs, and complex substance that are hard to produce. The cost of illegal drugs depends more on where you buy them. They all share a common thing – high demand, low supply.
20. White Truffles – $5 per gram
Truffles are an underground fungus, usually shaved down to a near granular form, and can be used in almost all kinds of foods. The white truffles are rare – they are only available for a couple of months of the year, almost exclusively from one portion of Italy.
White truffles have a unique smell – like a combination of musk, nuts, and ozone. In December 2007, Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid $330,000 for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms. In November 2010, he again paid $330,000 for a pair of white truffles (one weighing nearly a kilogram).
19. Saffron – $11 per gram
Saffron is not even close to being one of the rarest elements on Earth; still, it is making an entry in our list. The reason is it grows in the middle of a crocus flower, which is an extremely labor-intensive crop. Around one acre of land of purple crocuses yield only one pound of Saffron.
Saffron is widely used in Indian, European, and Turkish cuisines. There are a few pieces of evidence that says saffron helps with major depressive disorder. It may also help relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
18. Rhodium -$22 per gram
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Rhodium is a noble metal found in platinum or nickel ores along with the other members of platinum group metals. The element is hard, durable, reflective, less dense, and more resistant to heat than platinum.
Rhodium is majorly used as a 3-way catalytic converter in automobiles. And because of its rarity and inertness against corrosion, it is usually alloyed with palladium. Sometimes White Gold is plated with a thin layer of Rhodium to enhance its appearance. The Rhodium detectors are used in nuclear reactors to determine the neutron flux level.
17. Iranian Beluga Caviar -$30 per gram
Image credit: caviarexpress
Iranian Beluga Caviar (also known as Almas) are fish eggs primarily found in the world’s largest salt-water lake, the Caspian Sea.
The fish harvested for caviar are nearly 800 kg, and the eggs themselves are the largest of the commonly used roes. Almas are usually taken from a female centennial sturgeon, which is the rarest type of Beluga available at present, with extremely small production.
16. Platinum – $36 per gram
Platinum is the least reactive metal with high resistance to corrosion, even at high temperatures. It is usually found chemically uncombined as native platinum.
Like Gold, Platinum is used in jewelry and decoration. It is also used to produce catalytic converters, electrodes, platinum resistance thermometers, and laboratory and dentistry equipment. A few compounds containing platinum (like cisplatin and carboplatin) are applied in chemotherapy to remove cancer.
15. Gold (22 Karat) – $56 per gram
Gold is a dense, transition metal and one of the least reactive metal elements that often occur in free elemental form. As of 2022, a total of 205,238 tonnes of gold is present above ground.
It is found in a wide variety of jewelry, art, and decoration. In the past (before 1976), gold was used as currency. Because of its heavy conductivity, it is also used in different electronics. A few gold salts are used as anti-inflammatories in medicine. Moreover, it is used in color-glass production, gold leafing, dental implants, and infrared shielding.
14. Methamphetamine -$90 per gram
You might be familiar with this drug, especially if you have watched Breaking Bad. It’s an illegal, most addictive drug that causes adverse changes in brain structure and function, and can damage neurons in the Central Nervous System.
In the USA, methamphetamine hydrochloride is used for treating obesity and ADHD in both children and adults. Sometimes, it is prescribed off-label for idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy. However, the overdose may lead to high/low blood pressure, painful urination, over-responsive reflexes, abnormal heart rhythm, tremor, and muscle ache.
13. Rhino Horn – $100 per gram
Rhino Horns are made of keratin. It’s a similar type of protein that makes up fingernails and hair. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered a life-saving medicine. There is a rumor that imbibing horn powder had cured a Vietnamese politician’s cancer, which somehow increased the horn demand.
In the past, horns were used to fight fever and liver problems. In ancient Greece, horns were believed to have the ability to purify water. Also, they were a ‘high society’ decorative ‘fad’ in Europe in the late 19th and 20th century.
12. Heroin – $110 per gram
Heroin is generally illegal to manufacture, buy and sell without a license. Afghanistan produced almost 87 percent of the world supply in 2004. Later, from 2007 to 2011, Mexico became the second-largest opium producer.
Heroine is used in the treatment of acute pain, post-surgical pain, myocardial infarction, and physical trauma. However, an overdose may lead to the risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens and bacterial or fungal endocarditis, decreased kidney function, and even death.
11. Cocaine – $140 per gram
Cocaine is a strong, addictive drug, commonly snorted, inhaled, or injected into veins. It is produced from the Erythroxylum coca leaves, which generally grow in the Andes region of South America.
Cocaine is often used for numbing and decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery. However, the non-prescribed intake may lead to an intense feeling of happiness, agitation, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and body temperature. It also increases the risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death.
10. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide – $2,500 per gram
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (commonly known as LSD) is a semi-synthetic drug derived from a non-organic chemical named diethylamide, a fungus that grows on certain grains and ergot. It is sensitive to ultraviolet light, chlorine, and oxygen.
The effects of LSD are unpredictable. The user may experience changes in mood, different emotions at once, and visual hallucinations. The physical effects include weakness, hypothermia, sleeplessness, tremors, goosebumps, elevated heart rate, and blood sugar.
9. Plutonium – $3,900 per gram
Plutonium is a radioactive element derived from Uranium that has been used in nuclear reactions. It quickly dissolves in concentrated mineral acids and reacts with halogens, silicon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon.
Plutonium is used in nuclear weapons. It has been used as a source of energy on space missions, including the Mars Curiosity Rover and the New Horizons spacecraft. Also, inhaling Plutonium in any form may cause cancer.
8. Painite – $8,500 per gram
Painite is a very rare borate mineral found in Myanmar. It contains trace amounts of vanadium and chromium and has an orange-red to brownish-red color.
As of 2021, there were fewer than 300 known crystals, though many more materials have been found recently in Myanmar. Only a few of them are privately owned. The rest of the stones are distributed between the Gemological Institute of America and GRS Gem Research Laboratory, and the British Museum of Natural History.
7. Red Beryl – $9,000 per gram
Red beryl was first described in 1904 for an occurrence. It is so rare that it has only been found in a handful of locations — the states of Utah and New Mexico.
Red beryl also occurs in topaz-bearing rhyolites. They are produced by crystallizing under low pressure and high temperature from a pneumatolytic phase along fractures or within near-surface cavities of the rhyolite. The crystal is slightly softer than the diamond but much rarer. It is used to make jewelry.
6. Taaffeite – $20,000 per gram
Taaffeite is the gemstone identified from a faceted stone. It is named after its discoverer Richard Taaffe. There are less than a dozen Taaffeite stones known to exist, whose colors range from red to purple. The originally discovered taaffeite weighed 1.419 carats – part of this material was analyzed, and the remainder was re-cut into a gem of 0.55 carat.
Taaffeite is the first mineral to contain both magnesium and beryllium. It also shows the property of double refraction.
5. Tritium – $30,000 per gram
Image credit: Wikimedia
A tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen – its trace amounts are formed by the interaction of the atmosphere with cosmic rays.
The radioactive decay of small amounts of tritium makes phosphors glow, which is why it is used for making self-powered lighting devices known as betalights. It is used to increase the yield of fission bombs and the fission stages of hydrogen bombs. Tritium has been used as a tool to examine ocean circulation and ventilation. Moreover, it is an important fuel for controlled nuclear fusion.
4. Diamond -$50,000 per gram
Diamond is the most expensive gemstone, despite the fact it is not the rarest one on Earth. It’s an allotrope of carbon with the highest hardness and thermal conductivity. A few diamonds have been dated as far back as 3.3 billion years.
Diamonds are mostly used in making jewelry – it’s a popular choice for engagement/wedding rings. The smaller pieces are used for cutting glass and drilling rocks. Diamond dies are used to make thin tungsten wires.
3. Californium – $27 million per gram
The cyclotron used to first synthesize californium
Californium is a radioactive element, first made in 1950 at the University of California Radiation Laboratory. It doesn’t occur naturally on earth: To create it you need to have either a particle accelerator or nuclear reactor. The element is almost insoluble in water, but it adheres well to ordinary soil.
Only one microgram of Californium is capable of releasing 170 million neutron particles every minute. It is used as a neutron source to identify silver and gold ores. It is also used in neutron moisture gauge, which helps researchers find water and oil-bearing layers in oil wells.
2. Buckminsterfullerene – $150 million per gram
Image credit: Wikimedia
Buckminsterfullerene (also called Buckyball) contains 60 carbon atoms (with nitrogen atoms housed in them). Oxford University has been working on this material for more than 12 years.
The material can be used for building a small and portable atomic clock, which would be the world’s most accurate form of timekeeping. At present, atomic clocks are room-sized. This new nano-material can shrink down the atomic clock to microchip size and thus could be integrated into mobile phones. It can also make GPS navigation accurate to 1 millimeter.
1. Antimatter – $62.5 trillion per gram (estimated by NASA)
The first positron ever observed
Antimatter is a material composed of antiparticles, having the same mass as particles of ordinary matter but opposite charges. Making 1 gram of antimatter would require 25 million billion kilowatt-hours of energy.
When antimatter particles interact with matter particles, they annihilate each other and produce massive amounts of energy. This could be used as a fuel for interplanetary or interstellar travel. Moreover, matter-antimatter reactions have practical applications in medical imaging, such as Positron Emission Tomography.
More To Know
Strongest Element On Earth
Tungsten is the strongest element on Earth, mostly used for building alloys, steel, and industrial machinery. It has the highest boiling point (5,930 °C) and the highest melting point (3,410 °C) of all known elements except carbon.
What Is The Heaviest Material In The World?
Osmium is the heaviest material on Earth, with a density of 22.59 grams per cubic centimeter. It is also one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust, making up just 50 parts per trillion.
However, much heavier and denser materials exist beyond our planet. Neutron stars, for example, have a density of about 100 trillion grams per cubic centimeter.
Graphene: Transparent, Thinnest 2D Material
One of the most studied materials of this decade is graphene. It’s a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a two-dimensional hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It is the thinnest known material with incredibly high strength and electrical conductivity.
Researchers all over the world continue to study graphene to learn its range of properties and potential applications, which include semiconductors, batteries, water filters, DNA sequencing, and bacteria detection.