Platinum is a transition metal. It is the third element in the tenth column of the periodic table. Platinum is a very dense, ductile and malleable metal. It has an atomic weight of 78 and its symbol is Pt. Platinum is a very rare and valuable metal. South Africa is the largest producer of platinum and is followed by Russia. It is believed that South American people discovered platinum well before the arrival of Europeans.
They used a gold-platinum alloy for making ornaments and jewelry. Platinum is not abundantly found in earth’s crust and that is why a very small amount is produced every year. The average abundance of platinum in earth’s crust is 5µg/kg. It has a melting point of 1768°C and a boiling point of 3825°C. The name platinum is derived from the Spanish term ‘platina’ which means ‘little silver’. A group of six elements including platinum in the periodic table is called the ‘platinum group’.
Platinum is the least reactive metal and is highly corrosion resistant. It is shiny and silvery white in color. Platinum is very ductile and malleable. It is very dense and also has a very high melting point. While platinum is more ductile than gold, it is not as malleable as gold. It does not dissolve it Hydrochloric acid and Nitric acid but dissolves in Aqua Regia. Platinum’s excellent corrosion resistant properties make it a very desirable metal for jewelry. It has stable properties even at high temperatures.
Platinum is a rare element and is used for making jewelry, watches and other ornaments. However, the largest application of platinum is in the manufacture of catalytic converter in the Vehicular Emission Control devices. According to estimates, nearly half (46%) of total platinum produced is used for this purpose. The second largest use of platinum is in the jewelry manufacture (30%). Other uses include oxygen sensors, spark plugs, anti cancer drugs and electrodes. It is also used for making super strong alloys, in dental work and medical instruments.
Listed below are some very interesting and rarely known facts about platinum:
- Platinum is so rare that against 1800 tons of gold mined annually, only about 130 tons of platinum is mined.
- South Africa and Russia account for 90 percent of the total platinum produced, with South Africa alone responsible for 80 percent.
- Platinum is used to secure all famous diamonds of the world including Koh-i-Noor, Jonker I and Hope.
- The first mention of platinum in European writings was by Italian scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger in 1557.
- Platinum is very valuable and it is traded as a currency and investment in shape of coins, bars, ingots and jewelry.
- It is believed that moon and meteorites have a higher percentage of platinum than earth.
- Platinum and other platinum group members are obtained as a by product of nickel and copper mining.
- The price of platinum fluctuates greatly. During the periods of sustained growth and economic stability, platinum is twice as expensive as gold.
- The rarity of platinum impressed Louis XV of France so much that he declared it as the only metal fit for a king.
- The word platinum is often associated with wealth and exclusivity. ‘Platinum awards’ are often ranked higher than gold or silver. They are ranked only below diamond awards.
- Interestingly, in music industry an album that sells one million copies is called a ‘platinum’ album.
- The first British crown to be made of platinum was the one made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother on her coronation as consort of King George VI.
- While short term exposure to platinum salts may cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat, long term exposure can cause skin and respiratory allergies.
- Platinum has six naturally occurring isotopes and thirty one synthesized isotopes.
- The original mining locations that produced the samples for study in Europe are still the main mining sites.