Precious metals are rare and costly; their beauty is displayed in the most expensive jewelry and their unique properties are utilized in the manufacture of high-tech components for computer systems and fuel cells. Examples of precious metals include common, well-known metals, and also some less well-known metals. Value conferred on precious metals by scarcity makes them a good investment.
The history of platinum is short; it was not recognized as an element until 1751. The Spanish brought platinum from the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries, initially regarding it as an impurity of gold. Heavier and more durable than gold, its properties are seen in one of the earliest industrial usages of platinum by 18th French glassmakers, who used it in making crucibles. Platinum replaced gold as a setting for diamonds in high-end jewelry, after new high temperature torches gave goldsmiths the ability to work with this metal. The majority of today’s platinum comes from South Africa and Russia for industrial uses and jewelry making. Platinum has been more accessible for smaller investors since the end of the 20th century, when 1-ounce bars became available for purchase.
Palladium is a white precious metal in the platinum group of metals (PGM), discovered in 1803. Sources disagree about whether it was named after the asteroid Pallas, discovered in 1805, or the Greek goddess Pallas. Palladium is a recent addition to the class of precious metals requiring an identifying hallmark by the U.K. government, starting from January 1, 2010. Its low weight when compared to other examples of precious metals and cheaper price (less than 14 ct gold, more than silver) is utilized to advantage by Chinese jewelers producing large and light items (e.g., pendants) at lower costs. Over 90 percent of palladium comes from Russia and South Africa, mined and refined in a process taking up to six months. Palladium, like other precious metals, is recycled from sources including catalytic converter units present in car exhausts.
Rhodium is a white metal belonging to the PGM, discovered in 1803 together with palladium. Rhodium has been called the ultimate precious metal; it costs 10 times the price of gold and is 100 times rarer. Investors and lovers of jewelry recognize its potential and value. Rhodium’s value in jewelry is in plating; it’s too brittle to make entire pieces from, but produces a reflective bright finish which sets off diamonds beautifully. As a hedge against inflation and unstable economies, the stocks of Rhodium maintained in international and private vaults represent a very attractive investment. Industries using rhodium include car manufacturing, glass making, electrical connections manufacturing and the aircraft industry.