With Gold Trading Near All-Time High, It’s Time to Take a Closer Look at Platinum

With gold trading near an all-time high, it might be a great time to take a closer look at another undeniably elegant noble metal, platinum.

Gold was in the news last Friday as it hit $2,448 per ounce due to investors flocking to the precious metal as a hedge against inflation and international uncertainty. By contrast, an ounce of platinum was priced at $1,000 per ounce, about 41% of gold’s value.

Historically, platinum has traded at a premium to gold. In January of 2014, for instance, one could purchase an ounce of platinum for $1,378, while an ounce of gold sold for $1,225. In January of 1990, platinum stood at $475 and gold stood at $404.

But, then at the beginning of 2011, gold started to overtake platinum.

This was an unsettling phenomenon because platinum always reflected a higher status overall. The record industry, for instance, awards a gold album at 500,000 units and a platinum album at 1 million units. The American Express Platinum Card offers far more benefits than its Gold Card.

King Louis XVI of France once said that platinum was the “only metal fit for kings.” In the jewelry industry, platinum was always preferred over gold to secure the most valuable and famous gemstones in the world — including the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond.

The status of platinum in 2024 is not the first time it’s been undervalued.

In the 1500s, platinum was belittled and cast aside by the Spanish conquistadors who encountered the material while mining for silver in Rio Pinto, Colombia. They named the curious metal “platina” or “little silver.” In one version of the story, the conquistadors threw the platinum nuggets back into the river hoping they would ripen into silver. (Silver is trading today at $28.45 per ounce).

Here are some additional fun facts about platinum…

Platinum is 30 times more rare than gold. If all the platinum ever mined was melted and poured into an Olympic-sized pool, the platinum would barely reach your ankles. All the mind gold, however, would fill three Olympic-sized pools.

Platinum is stronger than gold. When platinum is scratched, the material moves aside and no platinum is lost. When gold is scratched, tiny bits flake away. This is why gold rings that are worn for a long period of time often need to be re-shanked.

Platinum jewelry is typically 90% to 95% pure and includes markings in the band that say “PLATINUM, PLAT, PT, PT950, 950PT or 900PT.” Canadian quality marks can say “”platinum,” “plat.” or “platine.” In the UK, the platinum marks will say “850,” “900,” “950” or “999.” Gold purity, on the other hand, is measured in karats. Most commonly, 14-karat gold is 14/24th (58.3%) gold and alloyed with other metals. Eighteen-karat gold contains 75% precious metal.

Platinum is a true white metal. White gold, by comparison, is actually yellow gold that has been mixed with other white metals and then plated with rhodium to give a bright white appearance. That plating does wear off over time and requires re-plating.

Platinum is hypoallergenic and an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin or allergies to other metals.

Platinum is 60% more dense than 14-karat gold. It’s a difference you can actually feel.

Platinum typically occurs as small grains and crystals in certain layered igneous rocks. The extraordinarily rare platinum nugget, above, weighs 444.4 grams (just under 1 pound) and is so special that it’s on permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

Credit: Photos by Chip Clark / Smithsonian.


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