Introduction to Platinum Commodities

Platinum is one of the rarest and most precious metals in the world. Perhaps no other metal or commodity carries the same cachet as platinum, and for good reason. If you put all the platinum that has ever been mined into an Olympic-size swimming pool, that platinum wouldn’t even cover your ankles!

Whereas precious and base metals such as gold and copper have been exploited for thousands of years, man’s interest in platinum developed only in the 17th century, when the Conquistadors discovered large amounts of the metal in South America. Platinum was soon discovered to have superior characteristics to most metals: It’s more resistant to corrosion, doesn’t oxidize in the air, and has stable chemical properties.

Because of these characteristics, platinum is a highly desirable metal and can play an important role in your portfolio.

Platinum is also the name of the group of metals that includes platinum, palladium, osmium, ruthenium, rhodium, and iridium.

Deposits of platinum ore are extremely scarce and, more important, are geographically concentrated in a few regions around the globe, primarily in South Africa, Russia, and North America.

South Africa has the largest deposits of platinum in the world and, by some accounts, may contain up to 90 percent of the world’s total reserve estimates. Russia is also a large player in the production of platinum, currently accounting for 20 percent of total global production (2010 figures). North America also contains some commercially viable platinum mines, located mostly in Montana.

So who uses platinum? Platinum has several uses, but these are the most important:

  • Catalytic converters: You may be surprised to find out not only that platinum is used in catalytic converters in transportation vehicles, but also that this accounts for more than 45 percent of total platinum demand. Platinum’s unique characteristics make it a suitable metal in the production of these pollution-reducing devices. As environmental fuel standards become more stringent, expect the demand from this sector to increase.

  • Industrial: Because it’s a great conductor of heat and electricity, platinum has wide applications in industry. It’s used in creating everything from personal computer hard drives to fiber-optic cables. Despite its relative value, platinum will continue to be used for industrial purposes.

  • Jewelry: At one point, jewelry accounted for more than 50 percent of total demand for platinum. Although that number has decreased, the jewelry industry is still a major purchaser of platinum metals for use in highly prized jewelry.

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