What is Platinum? Definitions, Uses & Comparisons


What is Platinum?

Platinum is a dense, silver-white metal in the platinum group metals (PGMs). It is a precious metal known for its scarcity and durability. It is malleable, ductile, and glossy. it is also highly valued for its natural resistance to wear, tarnish, and corrosion.

Platinum in the periodic table has the symbol Pt, atomic number 78, and atomic weight of 195.084 u. It's a transition metal, a noble metal, and belongs to group 10, period 6. Platinum is an excellent electrical and heat conductor. Its properties make it useful in catalytic converters, laboratory equipment, and electrical contacts. It is also used in platinum resistance thermometers, dentistry equipment, and jewelry.

Forms of platinum

Pure platinum, or fine platinum, is 99.95% pure metal. This is usually found in bullion or luxury jewelry.

Platinum bullion is metal shaped into bars or coins and is used for trading and investment purposes. Some well-known platinum bullion coins are the American Platinum Eagle and the Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf.

Platinum jewelry is sought after because it’s a durable metal and resistant to tarnish. It is used in platinum rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, often in nearly pure form (up to 95% platinum).

The platinum sponge is a porous form of platinum. It is formed by reduction or precipitation. The sponge is commonly used to catalyze a chemical reaction.

Platinum sheets, wires, and fine powders are used in the industrial sector. It is needed in making catalytic converters, laboratory equipment, electrical contacts, and more.

Platinum alloys are formed by mixing pure platinum with other metals to achieve the required durability, color, or cost. Some of the common metals alloyed with platinum are iridium, rhodium, and cobalt.

Platinum salts are compounds used in various chemical, medical, and industrial processes. For example, chloroplatinic acid is used as a catalyst in the production of silicone rubbers and resins.

Uses of platinum

Platinum in Jewelry and Investing

  • Platinum jewelry is known for durability, natural luster, and resistance to tarnish. It is malleable like gold & silver but more durable. This makes it popular for fine jewelry like platinum rings, earrings, and necklaces. It is also hypoallergenic. A platinum ring or earring is recommended for daily wear if a person has sensitive skin.
  • Platinum is a precious metal and is considered a valuable asset. Investors can buy platinum bullion for investment or trade them on commodity exchanges. Platinum's rarity and demand make it an attractive investment. The IRS allows certain platinum bullion and coin to be included in a precious metal IRA.
  • Investors can also invest in platinum through exchange-traded funds (ETFs). They can also invest in futures contracts or shares in mining companies.
  • Investors should exercise caution though as the platinum price is volatile. Surges in supply and demand can impact platinum prices.

Platinum uses in industrial applications

  • Platinum is used in catalytic converters for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. It helps convert harmful gases from the vehicle's exhaust into less harmful substances. This reduces pollution from vehicles.
  • Platinum’s catalytic properties help in many chemical reactions. For example, it's used in the production of nitric acid, silicone, and benzene.
  • Platinum catalysts also play a vital role in refining crude oil. They speed up the cracking process. This process breaks down large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller, more useful oil products.
  • Platinum is used in manufacturing special types of glass, and fiberglass. It increases the glass's clarity and durability.

Platinum uses in computers and electronics

  • Platinum, alloyed with rhodium, is used in making thermocouples. These devices measure temperature in hot and corrosive environments. Examples are chemical plants, jet engines, and gas turbine exhaust systems.
  • Platinum-cobalt alloys are used to make high-capacity hard disk drives. Platinum improves the magnetic layer, increasing the data storage density.
  • Platinum is suitable for electrodes. For example, it is used in multilayer ceramic capacitors. These devices are tiny components that provide stable and efficient energy storage.
  • Platinum is used in making fiber optic cables. It's used to draw the glass into very thin strands.

Platinum uses in dentistry and medicine

  • Platinum is used in dental alloys that make crowns, bridges, and inlays. They are prized for their strength, corrosion resistance, and aesthetic appeal. Platinum alloys are also used in orthodontic braces.
  • Platinum is used in some dental laboratory equipment, such as crucibles for melting and casting other metals.
  • Platinum compounds are used in chemotherapy. These drugs interfere with cancer cell DNA, preventing them from dividing and growing.
  • Platinum is used in many medical tools and devices. It is found in pacemakers, dental fillings, cochlear implants, surgical tools, and stents.
  • Platinum is inside devices for deep brain stimulation and spinal cord stimulation.
    Certain types of radiation therapy use platinum. For example, it is used in small radioactive implants to treat cancer. Platinum helps to shield healthy tissue from the radiation.
  • Infrared scanners use platinum for diagnostics because of its excellent reflective properties.

Platinum vs other metals


  • Platinum is about 30 times rarer than gold and much more than silver. Most of the world's platinum comes from just two sources: South Africa, which provides around 75-80% of the annual supply, and Russia. 
  • Platinum is more durable and resistant to wear and tarnishes, making it suitable for pieces that see heavy use, like wedding bands. It also has a more modern look, with its white, silvery color.
  • Platinum can be more volatile in price due to its heavy industrial use. However, some investors might see potential in platinum because of its rarity.
  • The prices of both metals fluctuate based on market conditions. Currently, less expensive.


  • Gold is more widely distributed and mined in larger quantities around the world. Gold is mined in China, Australia, Russia, the United States, and more.
  • Yellow gold has a warmer color and has been valued in jewelry-making for millennia. White gold is an alloy made to resemble platinum’s silvery-white patina.
  • Traditionally, pure gold is considered a more stable investment, often seen as a "safe haven" during economic downturns.
  • Currently, gold is more expensive than platinum, but in the past platinum had higher prices.


  • Platinum is rarer and more valuable.
  • Platinum jewelry is more durable. It is more scratch-resistant and doesn't tarnish.
  • Platinum has a white-silvery sheen that maintains its look over time. 
  • Platinum's rarity and wide industrial application can make it an attractive option for investment. 


  • Silver is more abundant and accessible.
  • Silver can tarnish and needs to be regularly polished to remove tarnish.
  • Silver is similar in color. Platinum was actually called "little silver," from the Spanish word “platina”.
  • Silver is also often used as an investment and can be more affordable to start with.


  • Platinum is silvery-white. It is also harder and has a higher melting point.
  • Resistant to corrosion and oxidation. Platinum is more resistant to chemical attack and high-temperature degradation.
  • Used in catalytic converters, jewelry, and dental fillings.
  • Both metals are rare.
  • Both platinum and palladium are considered investment metals. 


  • Palladium is also silvery-white but lighter and less dense than platinum. 
  • Resistant to corrosion and oxidation. They have similar properties because palladium is a platinum group metal.
  • Used in catalytic converters, jewelry, and dental fillings.
  • Palladium is rarer and more difficult to mine.
  • Palladium has gained popularity in recent years due to its rising price. 

5 interesting facts about platinum

  • Platinum is a rare element, typically found in ultramafic rocks, nickel, and copper ores.
    Platinum was first seen by Julius Scaliger in 1557 but was more thoroughly described by Antonio de Ulloa in 1735.
  • It's one of the densest elements with a density of 21.45 grams per cubic centimeter. It’s more dense than gold.
  • It has a high melting point of 1,768.3 degrees Celsius (3,214.9 degrees Fahrenheit). It also has a high boiling point of 4,077 degrees Celsius (7,371 degrees Fahrenheit). This makes it the metal with one of the highest boiling points.
  • Most of the world's platinum ore is found in two primary sources: South Africa and Russia. South Africa is the largest producer of platinum, contributing about 70-75% of the world's supply. Russia is the second largest producer.

Interested in Platinum

Platinum is a valuable precious metal with many uses. It is one of the IRS-approved metals allowed in a gold IRA. However, investors need to recognize investing in platinum is risky. Learn more about investing in precious metals with Augusta Precious Metals.

About the author 

Ronald Cagape

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