One of the most valuable precious metals is platinum, which usually sells at a higher price per oz. than gold, depending on market fluctuations. It is extremely rare, approximately 30 times rarer than gold. Platinum bullion has the ISO currency code XPT.
Where is platinum found?
Platinum is separated as a by-product of nickel and copper mining. 90% of all platinum is mined in South Africa and Russia. Around 8 tonnes of ore must be mined to produce just one ounce of platinum.
Who discovered platinum?
Platinum is widely thought to have been discovered by Antonio de Ulloa in South America in 1735. Platinum has been found in ancient artifacts from long before this time, but it is widely assumed that this platinum was naturally occurring with another metal and wasn't identified as a separate element.
What is Platinum used for?
Platinum is used in a wide variety of applications. In fact, more than one fifth of all consumer products contain platinum or are produced using platinum.
More than half of all platinum sold is used in catalyst emission converters in cars. These are devices that limit the amount of pollution from automobile emissions. Unleaded fuel was introduced because it is compatible with these platinum catalytic converters.
Platinum is also an important component of fuel cells, technology that produces electricity from oxygen and hydrogen. So even with cars' energy sources changing in the near future, the auto industry will continue to keep platinum demand high.
One twentieth is used in electronics, such as LCD displays, hard disk drives, thermocouples that measure temperature, and infrared detectors. The increasing production of personal computers in the developing world is sure to add to demand for platinum in the future.
And about one twentieth is used as a chemical catalyst. It is used in explosives and fertilizers, in the production of silicone for aerospace and automotive industries, and as an additive to petrol to enhance combustion.
Smaller volumes are also used in a number of other applications, such as turbine engines, oxygen sensors, electrodes, pacemakers, and anticancer drugs. It is also used to create alloys in a wide variety of metal items, including medical instruments, electrical contacts, and fine wires.
Platinum in Jewelry
In addition to its industrial uses, about one fifth of platinum is used in jewelry. Platinum is a popular but expensive choice for jewelry, being reserved mostly for expensive luxurious items aimed at the wealthy. It is an extremely durable metal, making it a popular choice for wedding rings and other meaningful keepsakes. Platinum is a white metal, and is largely considered better than white gold, which loses its white color over time and starts to appear yellow if it is not replated every few years with rhodium. Silver resembles platinum somewhat, but silver tarnishes over time while platinum retains its beauty without any maintenance.
Another benefit of platinum jewelry is that it does not cause any skin irritation like white gold sometimes does.
Nearly half of all platinum jewelry is sold in Japan. Some say that this is a reflection of Japanese modesty, viewing gold as too overt an expression of wealth but still desiring beauty and quality.
One of the downsides of platinum jewelry is that it is heavier and more dense than gold, giving it some extra weight and possible discomfort.
Unlike gold, there are no significant stocks of platinum above ground. Most of the platinum mined is used to immediately fill industrial and commercial demand. That limited supply, combined with increasing industrial demand, makes platinum a promising investment opportunity for the future. Platinum prices are extremely low at the moment and this presents an excellent buying opportunity for investors.