Platinum

The Isle of Man, in 1983, issued a very popular, 1 oz. Noble platinum bullion coin which enticed other mints to issue their own platinum coins.  The American Platinum Eagle was introduced in 1997 but for nearly 10 years, Australia’s Koala and the Canadian Maple Leaf coins have been among the leading platinum coins sold.

Platinum is nearly impossible to corrode with gases or chemicals and heavier than gold and was finally recognized as a new element in 1751.  It was used to make laboratory instruments in Belgium in 1784 and was used in France for glass production and it is still used today.  Platinum has also been used by jewelers and goldsmiths.  The Royal Goldsmith to Louis XVI and Pierre Chabaneu of Spain used the metal for expensive cutlery, coat buttons and watch chains but platinum was rarely used until high-temperature torches were developed and Louis Cartier became the first person to successfully set diamonds into platinum jewelry.  King Edward VII of England then hailed Cartier as the “jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers.”

The daughter of the King of Thebes was buried in 700 BC in a platinum and gold decorated sarcophagus but knowledge about and usage of platinum did not reawaken until many centuries later.  We do know that the Incas used platinum in their jewelry and the use of platinum re-appeared again, briefly, when the Europeans explored the New World.  The Spanish conquistadores called platinum ‘platina’, meaning ‘little silver’, and they threw it back into the rivers of Ecuador to ‘ripen’, thinking it was an inferior metal.

Though Columbia is still the only major producer of platinum, it ceased exporting platinum in 1820 and in 1822 Russia became the source in the gold fields of the Ural Mountains.  The Russian government produced almost 500,000 ounces of platinum over the next 18 years and started the world-wide assumption that platinum was like gold.

The world’s largest platinum deposit was found in 1924 in Johannesburg, South Africa and in 1985 small amounts of platinum bars for individual investors were introduced in Japan.  Johnson Matthey & Co. Ltd. and the Engelhard Corporation, two platinum fabricators, began to produce one and ten ounce platinum bars after the huge price changes, during the late 70’s and 80’s, when interest in platinum bullion spread to Europe and the U.S.

Did you know?

  • Cartier, Faberge and Tiffany all created their timeless designs in platinum
  • Nearly 133 tons of platinum is mined annually compared to nearly 1,792 tons of gold
  • The world’s most famous diamonds, including Hope, Jonker I and Koh-I-Noor, are secured by platinum
  • Platinum can be scratched; however, with platinum there is no material lost as with gold
  • Meteorites contain platinum and the earliest recorded meteorite to impact Earth was 2 billion years ago
  • Platinum is the rarest and heaviest  and all of the platinum mined would fit into an average sized living room
  • Unlike with gold and silver there are no large above ground platinum bullion stockpiles
  • 10 tons of ore and a 5-month process are needed to generate 1 oz. of platinum bullion
  • Cartier, Faberge and Tiffany all created their timeless designs in platinum
  • At the beginning of WWII, the US government declared platinum a strategic metal and no non-military applications, including jewelry, was allowed