Updated: Jan 25
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When you hear the phrase "precious metals" what comes to mind? Gold and/or Silver? That's correct but did you know that there are 8 precious metals overall?! They are: Rhodium (the most valuable), Platinum, Gold, Ruthenium, Iridium, Osmium, Palladium, and Silver.
Precious metals are those which are rare, and naturally occurring metallic elements that have high economic value. They are often used as currency or investments. Today I will be covering Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Rhodium.
Silver has the chemical symbol of Ag, and is easily the second most popular metal in the world, and is used as investment, industrially as well as in jewellery. Out of all metals silver has the best thermal and electrical conductivity, and the lowest contact resistance.
Silver beneath the Earth’s crust often mixes with sulphur, before it's deposited into the earths crust by volcanic activity, or as silver salts in hydrothermal activity. However it is rarely found in it's true pure form, but as alloys or mineral deposits (silver sulfide, silver chloride etc). The top 10 Silver mines in the world are located in: Mexico, Poland, Australia, Peru, Bolivia, and Turkey.
As of 1st January 2022, Silver is £17.27 per ounce. Did you know that there are actually 11 grades of Silver? The most well known being 925 and 999, the numbers represent their purity.
925 Silver contains 92.5% silver, and 7.5% another metal (usually copper which forms an alloy). Whereas 999 silver contains 99.9% Silver and trace amounts on impurities. 999 Silver also does not tarnish.
Nobody actually knows who first discovered Silver, The Egyptians and Greeks have some of the oldest records of using Silver however, historians mostly say is was The Sumerians.
Gold. With a chemical symbol of Au, it's easily the most popular metal or even material in the world. Contrary to what you might believe, Gold isn't the rarest precious metal, but it still isn't as common as other metals found naturally.
In 2017 it was estimated that around 190,040 tonnes of gold has been mined over time. Two thirds of which was mined since 1950. It is estimated that there is still roughly 54,000 tonnes of gold reserves still to be mined.
The USA holds the largest stockpile of gold reserves in the world, with over 8,100 metric tons, more than Germany and Italy combined! At todays gold price, that amounts to over £353,000,000,000!
Gold can be mined in many ways such as: Placer mining, panning, byproduct mining, processing gold ore etc. The most cost effective way of mining Gold is Panning. In 2021, the top 5 Gold producers in the world were: 1) China, 2) Australia, 3) Russia, 4) The USA, and 5) Canada.
Gold purity is measured graded using the Karat system. 24 karat is pure gold, which means 1 karat = 1/24 of the pure Gold content. In the UK, Gold can usually be found in: 9k (37.5% Gold), 14k (58.3% Gold), 18k (75% Gold), 22k (91.7% Gold), and 24k.
The higher the karat, the softer the Gold. Therefore, due to its softness, 24k Gold is not commonly used in jewellery.
As of 1st January 2022, Gold is £1352.05 per ounce.
It is common to find 5 main types of Gold which are:
Fine Gold - Pure gold with a purity of 999 or above
Gold Alloy - Gold mixed with other elements to form an alloy
Yellow Gold - Gold alloyed with silver and sometimes copper
White Gold - Gold alloyed with nickel, silver, or palladium
Rose Gold - Gold that is alloyed with copper
With a chemical sign of Pt, Platinum is a silver/white soft metal, and is considered one of the
most precious out of all the precious metals. It is also a noble metal as it is resistant to tarnishing and corrosion. It's 15 times rarer than gold, and is much denser (Gold is 19.3g, Platinum is 21.45g). Platinum is used in lab equipment and catalytic converters (which is often why they are stolen).
80% of Platinum mining is done in South Africa, mainly in The Bushveld Region. There are other large mines in Colombia, Russia, and Canada.
Platinum is usually found deep underground, in nugget or grain form, and is normally alloyed with gold, nickel/copper ores, or mineral sperrylite.
The 4 main types of mining in regards to Platinum are: Underground, open pit, sifting from placer/surface deposits, and in-situ.
Once mined the Platinum goes through an extensive extraction process, which further drives up the price per gram.
It is also believed that large amounts of Platinum also exist in space, on the moon, and in meteorites.
As of 1st January 2022, Platinum is £717.92 per ounce.
Platinum, iridium, osmium, palladium, ruthenium, and rhodium are all members of the same group of metals (called the platinum metals) and share similar properties. These metals are often alloyed together to create highly durable parts for various machines, tools and jewellery.
With a chemical sign of Rh, Rhodium is the second most expensive metal in the world.
In 1803, English Chemist William Hyde discovered Rhodium. He extracted it from a piece of Platinum ore.
Rhodium is obtained as a by product of mining Platinum and Palladium, in the USA, Russia, and South Africa.
As of January 1st 2022, Rhodium is priced at £10,481 per ounce!
Did you know that Rhodium is names after the rose colour of its salts?
However, Rhodium is a very brittle metal, and cannot be easily shaped or formed. As a result, pure Rhodium cannot be used to make jewellery. However, when it is used to plate other metals, their durability is enhanced.
Rhodium plating, also known as rhodium dip or rhodium flashing, is used to increase the durability, lustre and light reflection of a piece of jewellery. Because it is a hard metal, a rhodium plated piece of jewellery will be more scratch resistant. Rhodium plating is mainly used on silver-hued metals, such as white gold, palladium or silver. Most rhodium plating has a thickness of .75 to 1.0 microns.
Rhodium can also be used to plate yellow Gold jewellery, but this will change the colour to a white metal. As the plating wears off, the original yellow hue will start to reappear.
That's all for this week! I hope you enjoyed reading this and hopefully learning something new! Don't forget to like and share this post, see you next week :)