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Platinum

Platinum is one of the rarest of the precious metals. It looks like silver and is denser than gold.

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Chemical Properties

Platinum’s atomic number is 78. Its chemical symbol is Pt. The name platinum is derived from the Spanish word platina which means little silver. Platinum is malleable and ductile. Malleability means that it can be beaten and will spread but not break. Platinum is not quite as malleable as gold.

Platinum is extremely rare and is found primarily in South Africa and Russia. It also occurs in small amounts in some copper and nickel deposits. Platinum is extremely corrosion resistant and is not at all reactive, even at a very high temperature. For this reason it is found in its pure form quite often. Platinum has six isotopes. Platinum is very rare. There is less platinum in the world than there is silver, and there is less silver in the world than gold. Only a few hundred tones are produced each year. A platinum coin is smaller than a gold coin of equal weight. Platinum is reactive with sulfur and care must be taken should DMSO come into contact with it. Although platinum is considered a stable metal, should a salt from platinum form, it would be highly toxic.

Platinum will dissolve in nitrohydrochloric acid.

Price Volatility

South Africa and Russia have announced that they are considering forming a cartel to control the supply of platinum to stabilize the price. Platinum has experienced significant volatility since 2008 and has plummeted from $2200 an ounce to $760 an ounce. It has stabilized at $1500 an ounce now but the control of the platinum through a cartel would ensure high demand and high prices.

Uses for Platinum

Platinum has many uses which greatly influence its price. It’s used in the automobile industry in catalytic converters, in electrical and electronic industries, in jewelry, and in dentistry.

The History of Platinum

Platinum was first record in a paper by Julius Caesar Scaliger in 1557. He wrote that an unknown metal he came across in Mexio could not be melted.

In 1741 samples of platinum were sent by a metallurgist named Charles Wood, from a finding of metal in Jamaica, to William Brownrigg.

1748: the first scientific paper was written on platinum by Antonio de Ulloa. After he published his paper platinum became of interest to many scientific researchers.

1750: William Brownrig wrote a famous paper on the unusual qualities and high melting point of platinum.

1752: it was called white gold by Henrik Scheffer. He was able to fuse platinum with arsenic and believed platinum to be similar to gold.

1772: Carl von Sickingen had discovered platinum was soluble in nitrohydrochloric acid and he had made a platinum/gold alloy.

1786: Pierre-Francois Chabaneau had perfected a process to separate the platinum from iron, gold, copper, and lead. He didn’t know at that time that he was dealing with several isotopes of platinum and this led to an inconsistency in his results. After several months of hard effort he produced 23 kilograms of platinum bullion. The platinum age had began in Spain.

1906: platinum was discovered in South Africa. The Bushveld Complex in South Africa is the worlds largest known deposit. It is also found along with nickel and copper in deposits near Norilisk in Russia. The only other deposit of significance is the Sudbury Basin in Canada. The Sudbury Basin is an enormous mixed metal deposit that may have been caused by a meteorite impact.

2007:Gerhard Ertl perfected the design of the catalytic converter and determined the oxidative process between carbon monoxide and platinum.

Processing

Platinum is often found in copper and nickel deposits. When being processed it sinks to the bottom of the tank when being electro refined. If platinum is found with iron and nickel, it can be separated magnetically as platinum is nonmagnetic. It can be further refined with sulfuric and hydrochloric acid which will dissolve other metals but not platinum.

Platinum as a Precious Metal

Platinum is excellent for jewelry when at 90-95% purity. It doesn’t tarnish and its hardness makes it scratch resistant. The price of platinum dropped significantly in 2008, more than the price of gold when expressed as a percentage of the value. This is due to industrial demand from the automobile industry. As a platinum cartel has been created between South Africa and Russia, supplies might be controlled tighter in the future, resulting in a stable or higher long term price.

The frame of Queen Elizabeth’s Crown is made of platinum. Platinum is associated with being elite. A platinum credit card or award account is considered to be prestigious and is highly desired.

References


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