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Precious Metals 101

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Happy New Year to everyone reading this! It's been a while since I posted something, but no worries, I'm back and I'm better.

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Introduction



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


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


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





 


Platinum


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).


Mogalakwena Mine - South Africa

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.