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The first recording reference to platinum was in 1557 when it was described as a metal that wouldn’t melt. It wasn’t until the 1740s when scientists began to examine the metal for commercial applications. It was described as a metal that was "unworkable and unmeltable" and was known as "white gold." Beginning in the early 1800s, purified platinum was produced and sold. Today, platinum is used in a wide range of commercial applications and by investors looking to diversify their portfolio with a strong, valuable physical metal.
Just like gold, silver, and palladium, platinum also appears on the periodic table of elements with its symbol Pt and atomic number 78. The first recorded reference to platinum was in 1557 when it was described as “unmeltable” and called “platina,” meaning “little silver.” Even before this reference, people in ancient Egypt and the Americas would use a mix of platinum and gold for jewelry and other decorative pieces.
Commercial applications for platinum span multiple industries. One of the largest consumers of platinum is the automobile industry. Platinum’s ability to withstand high temperatures makes it a great asset for manufacturing catalytic converters. Aside from the automotive industry, the medical industry has a high demand for platinum for a variety of reasons. In addition to being a great metal for manufacturing medical equipment, platinum is also used in many anti-cancer drugs. According to a 2014 study conducted by Johnstone, Park, and Lippard, half of all cancer therapy patients currently use drugs which contain platinum. Apart from these two main sources of demand, platinum can also be found in more typical commercial applications for precious metals such as machine parts, tools, and jewelry.
Platinum prices are no different than other precious metals prices as they tend to react to civil disputes, geopolitical issues, and overall demand. However, because approximately 80% of all platinum is mined in South Africa, this also becomes a factor in determining current prices. Issues such as electricity available for the mines can greatly impact the price. The huge demand from the automotive industry means that auto manufacturers switching between platinum and palladium can also cause large price swings over long periods of time.
Below are some of the most dramatic price increases that platinum prices have seen in the past years.
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