CHAPTER 8

Platinum

OVERVIEW

More valuable than gold, platinum is a chemically inert metallic element that is known for its great resistance to attack by air, water, single acids, and ordinary reagents. Its many uses in industry derive from its ability to withstand high temperatures, acid damage, disintegrating atmospheres, and great stress.

Platinum is heavier than gold and other precious metals and is much rarer. There are platinum mines around the world, but most of the world's concentration of this metal is in South Africa. It takes five months to produce a single troy ounce of pure platinum, and only about 5 million troy ounces of new platinum are produced annually. In fact, all the platinum mined worldwide to date would fit into an average-sized living room.

Because of its strength, rich luster, and resistance to tarnishing agents, platinum is prized by the international jewelry industry, which accounts for about 51 percent of total demand for the metal. Gem settings constitute the single most important jewelry use.

The other primary use of platinum is in auto catalysts, which convert harmful vehicle emissions to less harmful ones. Platinum is also used to produce fiber-optic cable wires, fertilizers, explosives, petrol additives, and anticancer drugs.

Similar to, but less important than, platinum are two related metals—palladium and rhodium. Palladium, which is a by-product of nickel mining, is more common than platinum. Like platinum it is used in automotive catalysts, ...

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