Periodic spiral sculpture by Carl Padgham
Silver with gold, platinum, palladium and diamond detailing
Created 2019
Acquired by St Catharine’s 2019

Close up of part of a silver periodic spiral sculpture

Commissioned to mark the International Year of the Periodic Table in 2019, this stunning piece of artwork is based on a design from 1920 by the German scientist Georg Schaltenbrand and was crafted by silversmith Carl Padgham. A total of 118 element tiles are placed on a 5 metre-long silver ribbon wrapped in a helix of varying diameters around a central rod.  

Sketch of concept for periodic spiral sculpture by Carl Padgham
Concept as sketched by Carl Padgham
Periodic spiral sculpture
The finished sculpture

Just like in more conventional forms of the Periodic Table, elements within the same Group are aligned in vertical columns (with one exception). Thus, just like in the conventional Periodic Tables, we find the elements of the halogens group (Group 17: F, Cl, Br, I, At, Ts) vertically aligned on spirals with the same diameter.  The spirals vary in diameter reflecting the different number of electrons in different regions of the table. 

The one tile that is not aligned directly over the other elements in its group is the element Helium. This is because an understanding of its electronic structure dictates that it should be aligned with the elements in Group 2 (i.e. above Be, Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, Ra) rather than above the elements which it resembles more closely (in some ways), the noble gases in Group 18 (Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe, Rn and Og). To reflect this controversy, it has been placed between both these groups.

There are a number of ‘special tiles’. Element number 6, Carbon, has a diamond in its tile, diamond being one of the forms of this element. Tiles 46, 47, 78, and 79 are made of their pure element and have been hallmarked to shown this.  These are the only elements that assay halls such as the Goldsmiths’ Company in London hallmark. They are Palladium, Silver, Platinum and Gold. 

Palladium tile from the periodic spiral sculpture at St Catharine's College
Silver tile from the periodic spiral sculpture at St Catharine's College
Platinum tile from the periodic spiral sculpture at St Catharine's College
Gold tile from the periodic spiral sculpture at St Catharine's College

The other special tile is element 118 oganesson. This tile has been engraved on the back with the Russian signature of Professor Yuri Oganessian (Honorary Fellow 2019), after whom this element was named. Professor Oganessian completed the sculpture on 19 March 2019 and his signature is shown on the base. At the time of completion, Professor Oganessian was the only person alive who had the honour of having an element named after him.


Contact details

Matilda Watson

01223 338343