Hot Metals in the Market: Platinum & Palladium
Like gold and silver, platinum is traded around the clock on global commodities markets. It often tends to fetch a higher price, than gold during routine periods of market and political stability simply because it's much rarer. Far less of the metal is actually pulled from the ground annually. While platinum’s rarity is similar to that of gold, far less of it is used in the minting of bullion. Platinum’s desirability comes from its beautiful luster, resistance to tarnishing (unlike other white metals), and metal strength. These characteristics make it very popular as jewelry. Platinum has been integrated into human life since the time of the ancient Egyptians; however, an understanding of this beautiful metal was not reached until centuries
Archaeologists’ earliest discoveries of platinum date back to the ancient Egyptians. Specifically, the famous Casket of Thebes was found to be adorned with platinum, along with gold and silver. Additionally, indigenous South American peoples were known to incorporate platinum into their ceremonial jewelry such as nose rings and necklaces.These ancient uses of platinum likely did not consist of the pure metal itself; rather, they likely were made from commonly found platinum mixtures (or “alloys”) that included palladium or iridium.
1. Like silver, platinum is considered an industrial metal. The greatest demand for platinum comes from automotive catalysts, which are used to reduce the harmfulness of emissions. After this, jewelry accounts for the majority of demand. Petroleum and chemical refining catalysts and the computer industry use up the rest.
2. Because of the auto industry's heavy reliance on the metal, platinum prices are determined in large part by auto sales and production numbers. "Clean air" legislation could require automakers to install more catalytic converters, raising demand. But in 2009, American and Japanese carmakers started turning to recycled auto catalysts or using more of platinum's reliable—and usually less expensive—sister group metal, palladium.
3. Platinum mines are heavily concentrated in only two countries—South Africa and Russia.7 This creates greater potential for cartel-like action that would support or even artificially raise platinum prices.
Even before any precious metal testing, there are a couple of ways to tell if a metal is platinum. The first way is to use visual cues. Pure platinum jewelry, or jewelry that is at least 50% platinum, is typically marked with a stamp (also known as a hallmark). Usually, this mark will include a number like 850 followed by “plat or “pt”, which indicates the piece is 85% pure. If the piece you’ve acquired is marked with the word “platinum”, it is most likely 90-95% pure. A couple other things to keep in mind when identifying platinum is that it may not be marked if it comes from a country that does not require it to be stamped or if it is incredibly old. Also, any metals that are less than 50% platinum are not stamped.
A few other visual indicators exist that can help you determine if a metal is platinum. The first is seeing whether it has a bright, white appearance. When compared to precious metals like white gold, silver, or palladium, platinum has a whiter and brighter color. It’s also important to check and see if your piece has any scratches. Platinum is very scratch-resistant, and you should see little to no scratches on it. The final tip is to check and see if your piece is tarnished. If it is, you are carrying silver, not platinum.
Lesser known than the above three metals is palladium, which has more industrial uses. Palladium is a shiny, silvery metal used in many types of manufacturing processes, particularly for electronics and industrial products. It can also be used in dentistry, medicine, chemical applications, jewelry, and groundwater treatment. The majority of the world's supply of this rare metal, which has the atomic number 46 on the periodic table of elements, comes from mines located in the United States, Russia, South Africa, and Canada. Jewelers first incorporated palladium into jewelry in 1939. When mixed with-yellow gold, the alloy forms a metal stronger than white gold. In 1967, the government of Tonga issued circulating palladium coins touting the coronation of King Taufa Ahau Tupou IV. This is the first recorded instance of palladium used in coinage.
Metalworkers can create thin sheets of palladium down to one-two hundred fifty thousandths of an inch. Pure palladium is malleable, but it becomes stronger and harder once someone works with the metal at room temperature. The sheets are then used in applications like solar energy and fuel cells.The largest industrial use for palladium is in catalytic converters because the metal serves as a great catalyst that speeds up chemical reactions. This shiny metal is 12.6% harder than platinum, making the element also more durable than platinum.
Relative to platinum, palladium will form a bluish oxide film when heated in a Bunsen flame and then, unlike base metals, will, if heated in a reducing flame, revert back to a silver colour. Contradictorily, once the oxide film is formed, the temperature is increased to ~1000ºC and the oxide again reverts back to pure metal. Palladium will be slowly dissolved by concentrated nitric acid to colour the solution orange/brown. Platinum will not be affected and nickel alloys will produce a solution with a green colouration. Gold isn’t the only metal you might find yourself in a position to buy. You may find yourself confronted with people wanting to sell palladium. Use this guide to learn the ins and outs of testing palladium. Like platinum, palladium is another high quality white colored precious metal used for jewelry. If someone brings in some metal to sell and calls it palladium, you can test it in much the same way you would test gold to be sure that it is what they claim it is before buying it. With that being said there are some things to conclude there are various ways to test Platinum and Palladium.
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