Precious metals are rare metallic elements that have high intrinsic value. Throughout history and across the globe, particular metals like gold, silver, platinum, and even copper, tin, and aluminum have been considered especially valuable. Today precious metals attract investors as valuable resources, also known as commodities. This is not limited to the West; the trade in precious metals is truly a global industry. Below are descriptions of the major precious metals traded today and their uses.
Most people are familiar with gold to some degree. This lustrous yellow metal has been a symbol of wealth, economic strength, and stability. The majority of the global gold supply is used to create jewelry, while the remainder is used for industrial and scientific applications, as well as investment. Industrial uses of gold take advantage of its unique chemical properties, namely its ductility and malleability, its resistance to corrosion, and its ability to conduct electricity.
Long considered a valuable, silver is a lustrous white metal that has a wide variety of industrial applications in addition to its use in jewelry and as an investment tool. Silver is used to manufacture electronics because it conducts both electricity and heat extremely well. This metal also has antimicrobial properties that make it valuable in the medical fields. Silver has been used for developing photographs, but the amount of silver devoted to this application has steadily fallen with the introduction and proliferation of digital photography.
Platinum Group Metals
The platinum group metals are extremely rare, relatively inert, silver and greyish-white metals that are characterized by their chemical similarity to platinum. Platinum and palladium are the platinum group metals most commonly held by investors due to their high value and heavy industrial demand. In fact, more than half of the global supply of platinum is used to produce catalytic converters for automobiles. Platinum is also widely used for jewelry.
- Precious Metal: A metal that is considered highly rare and valuable (i.e. gold, silver, platinum).
- Intrinsic Value: The inherent value of an object or substance which is based on tangible qualities rather than subjective qualities.
- Gold: A yellow metal (Symbol: Au, Atomic Number 79).
- Silver: A white metal (Symbol: Ag, Atomic Number 47).
- Platinum: A greyish-white metal of the platinum group (Symbol: Pt, Atomic Number 78).
- Commodity: A basic good used in commerce, often a raw material.
- Luster: A bright, reflective (shiny) appearance.
- Palladium: A silvery white metal of the platinum group (Symbol: Pd, Atomic Number 46).
- Platinum Group: A group of six metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum) that have similar physical and chemical properties and tend to co-occur in the same mineral deposits.
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