If we told you platinum is helping save the world, would you believe us? Well you should because this chemical element is really making a difference in the world and we’re here to tell you how, including some reasons why lots of people are choosing platinum jewelry over similar gold or silver options.
Platinum or gold?
Platinum is a naturally occurring chemical element that is actually about 30 times rarer than gold, according to Jenny Luker, president of Platinum Guild International USA (PGI), a marketing organization for the platinum jewelry industry. Luker explained, “If all the platinum ever mined were melted and poured into an Olympic-sized pool, the platinum would barely reach your ankles. Gold, however, would fill three pools.”
Its rarity makes platinum the least common of all the popular precious metals. It appears silvery-white and shiny in a way that it can sometimes be confused as white gold to the untrained eye because they look so similar.
“White gold is actually yellow gold that was mixed with other metals and then plated with rhodium to appear more white — a white mask that will unveil a yellow tinge over time,” Luker said. “Platinum, on the other hand, will maintain its naturally white color.”
However its appearance can change over time, which some people actually love. “If you look closely at a piece of well-loved platinum jewelry, you’ll notice a satiny finish on the surface that developed over time. This change in texture is known as ‘patina,'” Luker said.
Platinum is also more durable than gold, which is one of the reasons why people often opt for platinum engagement rings or wedding bands. Gold prongs are more likely to break than their platinum counterparts, but keep in mind that the added durability comes with a heftier price tag. Platinum is a bit more expensive than gold.
“Right now, the price per ounce of platinum is actually lower than gold. However, because platinum jewelry is more pure (typically 95 percent platinum versus 58.5 percent gold in 14 kt. gold jewelry) and more dense than gold, it will still cost a bit more than a similar gold ring,” Luker said.
What is it used for?
Platinum’s versatility keeps it constantly in demand and the industrial use of platinum has increased four times since 1980, according to the media brand Visual Capitalist.
Although platinum’s strength and beauty have made it a favorite for jewelry use, about half of platinum’s demand is actually for use in catalytic converters for transportation vehicles, like buses, cars and trucks mostly because it’s ability to convert harmful engine emissions into less damaging waste. Platinum is also used as a catalyst to make chemicals like silicone, where performance qualities such as high purity, tear-resistance and low toxicity are important, Visual Capitalist reported.
In the healthcare field, platinum compounds are a component of some chemotherapy drugs, and are also used in medical devices, such as pacemakers and hearing assist devices. Platinum compounds such as cisplatin damage cancer cells and can treat specific cancers, including testicular, ovarian, lung, bladder, head and neck cancers. According to Visual Capitalist, “Platinum is a biologically compatible metal because it is non-toxic and stable, according to Visual Capitalist. It does not react with or negatively affect body tissue.” Also it’s been used in surgical tools since 1874.
Platinum is also used in computer hard disks and its properties are also used to reduce air pollution and to the construction of energy-efficient fiberglass. In the field of renewable power, it’s “catalytic properties make it critical to cleaning up air pollution, producing renewable hydrogen and unleashing the power of hydrogen in fuel cells.” Visual Capitalist explained.
To further discuss its durability, the chemical also holds up well under high temperatures, boasts stable electrical properties and is highly resistant to chemical attacks. For example, coating jet engine blades with platinum-based products protects them where temperatures can reach 3,632 degrees Fahrenheit.
For many more reasons than those mentioned above, platinum is so important to economic and defense efforts that it was listed as one of the 35 minerals “deemed critical to US national security and the economy.”
How platinum is formed and mined
South Africa accounts for 70 percent of the world’s mined platinum, according to Bloomberg, though it can also be found in Russia and Zimbabwe. Most commercially produced platinum come from a mineral called cooperite, also known as platinum sulfide, but some are prepared as a by-product of copper and nickel refining. Platinum is even found in outer space and has been discovered in heavy concentrations in meteorites.