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Platinum

The first notable deposits of platinum were found mixed with gold deposit during the Spanish conquest of Colombia in the 1500's. They named this worthless metal with the high melting point "platina," or "little silver." It wasn't until the early 1800's that a method for smelting and purifying platinum was finally found. The famous metals corporation Johnson-Matthey began when Percival Johnson took in George Matthey as an apprentice in 1838. Together they perfected platinum and palladium refining in 1851.

Today, platinum is vital to the auto industry in many capacities, from catalytic converters to processes for raising the octane of raw gasoline. It is also used in medical instruments and surgical devices and has gained popularity in the jewelry industry as a metal of choice. In the 1980's, platinum was introduced as an investment option.