Precious Metals Education: Platinum

Platinum is a chemical element, known by the sign Pt. First known by the Spanish name ‘platina’ or little silver, is a part of the six transition elements, that form the family of platinum metals, which includes, in addition to platinum: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, When speaking of platinum as a precious metal in the use of making fine jewellery, the tendency has been to gauge its character and usefulness in relation to the more well known precious metal: gold. Such comparisons between the two precious metals have been made with good reason. Since the other top metal type has a long tradition of widespread use is generally viewed as the ‘gold standard’ for precious metals. For platinum, despite being in popular usage, that goes back hundreds of years, starting in the mid-1700s; and with cases of its adoption even traced back to the ancient world; with some sources claiming its use by the ancient Egyptians, going way back to the 700 BC with artefacts containing this metal, being identified with the ancient princess Shepenupet II. Platinum today is a globally recognized precious metal, that comes under the platinum family of metals, with the platinum variety being the most abundant, relative to the rest, which is extremely rare. Here we will provide an informative overview of the platinum metal, learn about its key features, in terms of its character, and in the application. And why it is viewed as a valuable option in the making of fine jewellery.

Characteristics of Platinum

The lustre of platinum is considered by some to be everlasting: a precious metal that glows with a distinct radiance, with and the promise of endurance. The poetry of metallics aside, the key appeal of platinum, besides its rarity, is its naturally occurring silvery-white colour: which makes it a highly sought after metal. With its brilliant colour, for a while unsurpassed in the industry, until the emergence of white gold at the start of the 20th century. Here we shall look at some key features of the platinum metal that makes it sought after in the world of industry and jewellery making.


 Platinum is a silvery-white metal that is malleable, that when alloyed with the right metals, is also known for its ductility: which is useful in industrial applications. Platinum is known for its high density, which is greater than gold; which means the same amount of platinum weighs about 60 per cent more than gold, this because at the molecular level, platinum has a higher number of molecules, which are also smaller in size, that are packed more tightly. Platinum’s density means that it to be recognized in a purer form in contrast to gold. So a platinum jewel, like a platinum engagement ring, would weigh a lot more than the same ring if it were made of gold. Further, platinum is also known for its strong resistance to natural elements such as air and water, and equally resistance as gold to corrosion and forms of tarnishing brought about by time and wear. Indeed, platinum will not oxidize in the air no matter how strongly it is heated.

Industrial Applications

Platinum owing to its innate qualities, and those which are enhanced via alloying has made it applicable for many uses. Bedsides its resistance to tarnish, which makes it a great option for suited for making fine jewellery; platinum alloys are used in a wide variety of industrial and other technical applications. From the making of surgical tools, catalytic converters, computer equipment, electrical resistance wires, and it is even used in military applications. Platinum’s market price is determined by market forces, as the supply and demand for industrial products in chemical, electrical, glass and aircraft industries exerting a considerable effect, in addition to the demand for platinum jewellery.

Metal Hardness (HV)

Whilst platinum is harder than its main competitor because it is denser and more durable than gold; however platinum is also a softer metal in contrast to gold. This means that platinum scratches more easily than 14K gold. The advantage of the platinum however lies in its resistance to tarnishing, which should not be confused with high endurance, as in the case of titanium. The advantage of platinum jewellery in this regard means that it is able to maintain its colour, brilliance and weight even when scratched. While other metals tend to blemish or discolour quicker. In the making of fine jewellery, gold for example is able to bridge the hardness gap with platinum thanks to alloying, but this comes at the cost of the purity of the metal, which shall see next.


Platinum jewellery is especially valuable, for it is considered to be among the purest, if not the purest of all the precious metals that are used in the making of fine jewellery. Platinum jewellery is often marketed as being 95 per cent pure platinum. As opposed to gold, which is found in 18K and 14K variants. With 18K = gold containing 75 per cent pure gold). The higher percentage of pure platinum in platinum jewellery means that the colour in the jewel is far less likely to fades, some might even argue that it never tarnishes. In practice buying, platinum jewellery means that you are buying jewellery that has a greater platinum content than, secondary metals like copper and nickel that are added to give the alloy strength and other attributes.

Platinum Mining

 Unlike gold, only a few countries in the world are active in the mining of platinum. And even in these countries, only a few are able to mine considerable tonnes, with all known reserves in the world by the year 2020 coming in at less than 70, 000 metric tonnes. As noted platinum is a demand by industries for the production of a range of goods: from catalytic converters to other sustainable technologies, and in medical equipment, and also in the production of industrial machines, that are then used for the manufacture of other goods. Here is a list of top platinum mining countries, with South Africa far ahead of its competition. When it comes to the mining of platinum, it is important to note that platinum is also produced as a by-product of other metals alloys.

  1. South Africa
  2. Russia
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. United States
  5. Canada


Why Platinum is Expensive?

 The price of platinum is determined by its rarity, and the great demand it commands when it comes to commercial and industrial applications. The price of this premium metal fluctuating over time, owing to changes to market conditions. Besides that, platinum alloys are 90-95 per cent pure, whereas 14k gold is 58.5% pure gold and 18k gold is 75 per cent pure. So a higher percentage of an item’s weight is comprised of this rare, dense valuable metal in platinum.

Platinum Types by Purity

 When purchasing platinum jewellery one must have an eye out for quality standards. Pure platinum metals are recognized by stamp ‘PT’, with ‘PT900’, ‘PT950’, indicating the quality of platinum, based on the number of parts per thousand that contains the pure form of the metal. The rules governing the quality and standards in platinum use are made by governments and are applicable worldwide. So when it comes to the purchase of fine jewellery, it is important to request validation of the platinum purity of the jewellery that you are purchasing.

 Advantages of Platinum for Fine Jewellery

As mentioned at the start of this page, when it comes to selecting platinum jewellery, the tendency is to contrast it with gold, to study its strengths and weaknesses. Whilst platinum generally carries the disadvantage of a higher price (though this variable is always in flux), platinum as a precious metal surpasses gold in a number of key areas. As outlined in the following table.




White Gold

Hardness without alloying: 3-3.5 in Mohs scale

Hardness without alloying: 2.5 in Mohs scale

Platinum Jewelry contains a higher platinum percentage

Gold jewellery contains a lower percentage of gold

More vulnerable to scratches as its softer

More resistant to scratches

A better choice for antique designs

White gold has a more modern option

More appealing natural colour

Generally requires rhodium plating

Better hypoallergenic

Not ideal, as it may contain traces of nickel


In Conclusion

 When it comes to choosing between platinum and gold (white or otherwise) there are a number of factors that one must consider. Unless the demand for the metal is clear cut, as in specific industrial applications, when it comes to choosing a certain metal over the other, there are no clear cut answers one could give to sway a potential customers decision. Presuming the person in question is in the market for fine jewellery, such a decision would greatly depend on the interests of the customer, and his/her budget. In principle, when purchasing platinum jewellery, the key factor is that of status, where there is a need to communicate a sense of distinction. Hence for those seeking to stand out from the rest with their choice of fine jewellery, then platinum might be the way forward.