Platinum Group Metals
- Platinum Group Metals are among the rarest elements on Earth.
- American Palladium is mined almost exclusively in southwestern Montana.
- Rhodium is often used as plating for other metals to reduce wear.
Both Gold and Silver have served as measures of wealth for centuries, but another collection of Precious Metals has been prized for nearly as long. Platinum Group Metals, an assortment of six rare, naturally occurring elements, have been sought after since at least 700 B.C.E. Known for their beauty, high melting point and chemical inertness, investors look to this group as an essential part of a diverse portfolio. Because no other resource can compare to the value that Platinum Group Metals bring to manufacturing, demand is expected to increase for many years to come. Rising demand is just one of several reasons that you should consider buying bullion made from these unsung heroes of Precious Metals.
While scientists are not entirely sure as to the abundance of Platinum Group Metals in the earth’s crust, most estimate that quantities are comparable to Gold. The name “Platinum” came from a Spanish word for Silver. Initially, many thought of the metal as less desirable than Silver because it was harder to shape. As metalsmiths soon realized, the chemical properties are extraordinary.
Alongside Platinum, the other metals in the group include Palladium, Rhodium, Iridium, Osmium and Ruthenium. The individual elements were identified in the early 1800s by scientists who studied the residue left behind when Platinum ore was dissolved in a mixture of acids. The most significant deposits of these Precious Metals are found in South Africa, Russia, Canada and the United States. Almost all American Platinum comes from the Stillwater complex in southwestern Montana. These deposits are thought to be 2.7 billion years old. Montana is also the only significant source of American Palladium.
Platinum Group Metals are an extremely valuable resource for several industries, including the electrical, glass, petroleum, medical, jewelry and automotive sectors. Because so many manufacturers rely on metals like Rhodium and Palladium, their demand is expected to increase in the coming decades. Car makers are the largest consumers of minerals from the Platinum Group. Chinese and American car makers use Palladium in the catalytic converters of fuel-cell automobiles, while European factories mainly use Platinum for the same application. Small amounts of Rhodium can be found in many of these catalysts, as well. These metals are naturally resistant to corrosion even at high temperatures, helping reduce the carbon emissions of gas-powered motors better than any other element.
Palladium and ruthenium are heavily used in electrical contacts as they are highly resistant to wear. In the medical sector, Platinum Group Metals are used for everything from dental crowns to cancer prevention therapies. Iridium can be found in spark plugs, electrodes and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. While Rhodium coins are seldom seen on the market, it is often used as plating for other metal products, including White Gold jewelry and Sterling Silver tableware to make the finish more durable and resistant to tarnish.
Because of the broad range of applications for Platinum Group Metals, many savvy investors choose to buy assets from this category. Platinum itself is rarer than Gold, so as the world’s supply dwindles, prices will almost certainly rise. Palladium has been increasing in value since 2000 and lately has traded for spot prices comparable to Gold. This growth is primarily due to increased automotive demand. While some experts point to tighter emission restrictions as a sign that fuel-cell car manufacturing will have challenges ahead, others see this as evidence that Platinum Group Metals will become more critical than ever. Iridium bars are popular among investors interested in solar energy technology, as this metal is central to new developments in this sector.
All Precious Metals tend to have an inverse relationship with the U.S. dollar, which makes this group an important hedge against inflation. As dollar-traded commodities, buying power for other currencies increases when the dollar is weak. A limited supply also gives these metals ongoing strength, as production cannot immediately increase to meet growing demand. Having a diverse portfolio is a wise decision for any set of assets, so owing Platinum coins and Iridium bars can be an easy way to hedge against volatile stocks and falling interest rates.