PLATINUM - The Rarest of the Precious Metals
Though it has been treasured as an odornment for more than 3,000 years, it is only over the past two centuries that platinum has been widely recognised as the most precious of the three 'noble' metals - gold, platinum and silver.
While largely overshadowed by the romance and the riches associated with gold, platinum is by far the rarest of the precious metals.
For every 17 ounces of gold and 120 ounces of silver, only one ounce of platinum is produced and usually ten tonnes of ore must be mined to yield that tiny amount. It is this rarity which has encouraged growing interest in platinum as an investment medium - and which has seen a renaissance of platinum coins.
An Ideal Jewellery MetalPlatinum has long been prised by jewellers for its strenght and brilliant white lustre. They handle the gleaming metal with reverence and from it have created some of the fine art masterpieces of all time.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular examples of early 20th century platinum jewellery was that created for the Czar of Russia by Carl Faberge. To commemorate the opening of the Trans-Siberian railway in 1901, Faberge crafted a set of jewelled eggs, one of which featured a finely detailed platinum railway engine, pulling carriages of gold.
In 1937, a platinum crown was created for the coronation of King George VI to be worn by his wife, Queen Elizabeth. Acclaimed for its grandeur, the crown is adorned bt the famous Koh-i-nor diamond, also set in platinum.
Since those early accomplishments, jewellery demand for platinum has increased dramatically. Currently it absorbs about a third of all production, mostly destined for the Japanese market, where the silvery lunar lustre of platinum is considered more elegant and refined than gold.
A Metal for the FutureHowever, in the last few decades, platinum has come to be recognised not only for its beauty and its preciousness in monetary terms. The metal is expected to come into its own as one of the most sough after and useful metals known to man because of its ability to act as a catalist aiding and speeding chemical processes, its high resistance to corrosion, its high melting point and its extremely good conductivity of electricity. These attributes have made it vital to modern industry, to the extent that the manufacture of one in five of today's products is said to require the use of platinum.
Greatest DemandThe largest single area of demand for platinum today is in the reduction of air pollution through its use in the catalytic converters of car exhaust systems and in the refining of lead-free petrol.
Energy scientists believe fuel cells containing platinum catalysts are destined to revolutionise world power supplies, providing cheaper, more efficient and less polluting energy sources across the globe.
Platinum's importance to industry has created a consistently strong demand and firmly established it as a highly valued investment metal.
Source: Booklet entitled 'The Tenth Proof Issue of The Australian Koala Platinum Coins' issued by the Perth Mint - 1997.