The word cobalt came from kobold, a variant of the German word kobalos, a satyr and shape-shifter of Greek mythology who mocked the work of humans. By the Middle Ages, miners in the dark depths reported that touching the metal burned their fingertips, a sure sign that demons were watching them. And so the “demon metal” it became.
Cobalt – with a capital C – is synonymous with the silver rush of over a hundred years ago in northern Ontario. The town of Cobalt got its start when silver was discovered in 1903, and that mining rush outshone any gold rush in the previous 200 years.
The race to get rich attracted miners, investors, hangers on and fraudsters all hoping to hit the silver jackpot. That there was cobalt – the metal – in the ores was of little consequence, and it was relegated to the waste pile.
But the Cobalt silver rush also gave rise to the Canadian mining industry. The technical expertise became famous worldwide. The rush gave the fledgling Toronto Stock Exchange its foundation. Yet, most people lost money to hucksters and flim-flam artists, and living in the town was far from comfortable.
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