While putting together the Isildur posts, a question popped into my head – if the Ring could only be melted in the fires of Mt. Doom, what was it made of? The Ring was hot enough to burn Isildur forever, but when Gandalf put the Ring in Frodo’s fire, it wasn’t hot at all. This is, of course, impossible, but let’s just call that hyperbole. Clearly there’s some mystical stuff going on here.
However, if we discount all of that, I think we can actually come up with something plausible and have a bit of fun along the way.
While at Frodo’s place, Gandalf tossed the Ring into the fire. It was hot enough to bring out the script (as Isildur suspected it might), but did not melt. Gandalf even said that the local iron smiths couldn’t unmake it. However, if the Ring was tossed into Mount Doom, it would be melted (unmade).
The Ring is depicted as being gold in color, but clearly it’s not gold. Let’s look at why. Gold melts at 2,000F. Hot coals in a fireplace reach a temperature of around 1,000F – hot enough to melt lead, but that’s about it.
Now, a furnace used by a smithy is usually around 1,400F. He’ll use it mostly to draw and bend iron. But if they really want to push it, they could heat it up to 2,100F – just enough to melt gold. That sort of blows the idea that the One Ring is gold since then, the smithies could unmake it. At that temp, metals like like copper, brass, iron, and silver would also melt.
For the Ring to be destroyed, however, it had to be thrown into the Cracks of Doom. This was, let’s suppose, the magma chamber of the volcano. Temperatures inside can reach around 3,000F and maybe more in ideal conditions – hot enough to melt metals such as stainless steel, manganese, cobalt and nickel. It’s possible that any of these could be it, after all, they would melt in any volcano. But Mount Doom isn’t just any volcano.
For our purposes, let’s assume that Mount Doom is just a little bit hotter than your average volcano. Maybe it’s magma chamber burns a few hundred degrees higher than the rest. This would still be unable to melt niobium, tungsten, or molybdenum, but could handle a few other metals without too much struggle.
First, we’ve got Titanium, which melts at 3,040F. Titanium is used to make rings, and is a fairly inert metal, so people with allergies wouldn’t be bothered by it. Maybe Sauron was allergic to cheap metal – you never know. We’ve also got chromium with a melting point of 3,380F. Chromium is mostly used as part of an alloy, and really isn’t great for jewelry, so that, along with it’s higher melting point, probably takes it out of the picture.
But right in the middle is our old friend platinum, which melts at 3,220F. It’s an expensive, rare and precious metal (precious, get it?) and would make a pretty good candidate for the One Ring. Though it is not golden in color, maybe it was somehow made so via some sort of chemical or electroplating process. Seriously, who knows?
If a morgul-blade was held to my throat, I’d guess that the One Ring was made of platinum or some alloy thereof.
Oh, but this naturally leads us to another question. Sauron himself was hot enough to heat the Ring and expose the lettering, and even hot enough to kill Gil-galad just by touching him. Yet, he was able to wear armor of some kind (we can assume). This would place his body temperature around 1,500F – between the temperature of a fireplace fire and that in a smithy’s furnace. It would be hot enough to give the Ring heat, but not hot enough to melt his armor.
Incidentally, human flesh burns at around 600F. A crematorium’s temperature is around 1,000F. Sauron would then have no problem at all killing Gil-galad with his hand.
So in summary – the One Ring was (perhaps) platinum and Sauron’s body temperature was (perhaps) around 1,500F. And that was just a bit of fun!
About the Photo
This was the “Miner’s Car” at Mount St. Helens. Three family members parked their car along what was then a logging road to hike to a nearby cabin. The next day, May 18, 1980, the mountain erupted. Their cabin was disintegrated by the blast which traveled at 200mph. The surge of ash was around 500F. The car was thrown sixty feet, landing where it rests today – nine miles from Mount St. Helens.
- Day 129
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 646 (192 from Rivendell)
- 148 miles to the Doors of Moria
- 275 miles to Lothlórien
- 1,133 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place in the narrative: Book II, Chapter 3. Marching south along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Seventh night out from Rivendell. January 5 – 6, 3019 TA. (map)