What Is the Most Expensive Element?

The most expensive natural element in the world

Francium is the most expensive of the first 101 elements, but lutetium (shown) is the most expensive element the average person can actually obtain.
Francium is the most expensive of the first 101 elements, but lutetium (shown) is the most expensive element the average person can actually obtain. Alchemist-hp, Creative Commons License

Question: What Is the Most Expensive Element?

Here is a look at the most expensive natural element and the most expensive of any element known to exist.

Answer: The most expensive natural element is francium. Although francium occurs naturally, it decays so quickly that it cannot be collected for use. Only a few atoms of francium have been produced commercially, so if you wanted to produce 100 grams of francium, you could expect to pay a few billion US dollars for it.

Lutetium is the most expensive element that you could actually order and purchase. The price for 100 grams of lutetium is around $10,000. So, from a practical standpoint, lutetium is the most expensive element.

The transuranium elements, in general, are extremely expensive. These elements typically are man-made, plus it is costly to isolate the trace amounts of transuranic elements that exist naturally. For example, based on the cost of the accelerator time, man power, materials, etc., californium is estimated to cost around 2.7 billion dollars per 100 grams. You can contrast that price with that cost of plutonium, which runs between $5,000 and #13,000 per 100 grams, depending on purity.

Antimatter Costs More Than Matter

Of course, you could argue anti-elements, which technically are pure elements, are the more expensive than regular elements. Gerald Smith estimated positron could be produced for about $25 billion per gram, in 2006.

NASA gave a figure of $62.5 trillion per gram of antihydrogen, in 1999.

Other Expensive Elements

  • Gold is a valuable element, worth around $39.80 per gram. While it's much less costly than lutetium, it's also easier to obtain, more useful, and easier to trade.
  • Like gold, rhodium is an element that is a noble metal. Rhodium is used in jewelry and catalytic converters. It's worth around $45 per gram.
  • Platinum has value comparable to that of rhodium. It's used as a catalyst, in jewelry, and in certain drugs. It costs around $48 per gram.
  • Plutonium is a radioactive element that can be used for research and nuclear applications. It's worth about $4000 per gram (although you can expect various regulatory agencies to take a close look at you if you start accumulating it).
  • Tritium is the radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen. Tritium is used in research and to illuminate phosphors as a light source. It costs around $30,000 per gram.
  • Carbon can be one of the least expensive elements (as carbon black or soot) or most expensive (as diamond). While diamonds vary widely in price, a flawless diamond would run you upwards of $65,000 gram.
  • Californium is another radioactive element, used primarily in research and in instruments used in the petroleum industry. A gram of californium-252 can cost $27 million per gram, which makes it considerably more expensive than lutetium, but less than francium. Fortunately, only a tiny quantity of californium is needed at a time.

More Element Facts

What Is an Element?
How Are Elements Named?
What Are the Elements in the Human Body?
What Letter Is not on the Periodic Table?