Kyle Explains #7: Precious Metals
I attempt to explain complicated things
Precious metals are rare elements found on the planet. Their value is high because of their rarity and lack of abundance. Precious metals are often used in finance for trading or for their chemical abilities in things like microchips or mufflers. Precious metals and rare metals, or rare earth metals, are both valuable but rare earth metals are something different completely.
Gold is probably the most well known precious metal. Although not the most expensive or rare, it is the most widely used. From computer chips to jewelry, gold can be found in many things. Gold is used in coinage, bullion (bricks or coins held as value), art (gold plating), dental fillings, jewelry, watches, electronics, and for computer chips. Gold can be found in different concentrations or ‘carats’ marked by a K. 24K is pure gold, 22K is 91.7% gold, 18K is 75% gold, 14K is 58.3% gold, 12K is 50% gold, 10K is 41.7% gold, 9K is 37.5% gold. The most common are 24K, 18K and 14K. When gold is not 24K it is usually mixed with silver, copper, and other metals to keep its color or create other colors like rose gold or white gold.
Silver is also used for a lot of common things. Silver used for bullion, mirrors, dental work, electrical components, in paints used on electronics, solder wire, batteries, jewelry, and for decoration and tableware. For instance the term silverware comes from silver and means any tools, usually cooking utensils, made from silver. Silver also comes in a variety of concentrations, 999 and 925 are the most common, while 900 is usually the grade required for bullion. The grade is simply 999 is 99.9% silver commonly referred to as fine silver, 925 is 92.5% silver commonly referred to as sterling silver, and 900 is 90% silver commonly referred to as coin silver. The other part is usually copper or nickel to keep its shiny property. Other types of silver fall between 92.5% and 99.9% silver, and are usually used for jewelry.
Platinum is less known but has a wide variety of uses. It is used for catalytic converters in cars, magnets, electrical components, medical or lab instruments, sometimes in jewelry, for decorations, or dental work. Platinum is known for its ability to conduct electricity and for its lower price than gold. Silver and copper tarnish, or rust, while gold and platinum are strong conductors that don’t rust as easily.
The other precious metals are known as the ‘platinum group metals’. Six metals that have similar physical and chemical properties. In periodic order they are: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. They are all used for similar things, mostly for causing chemical reactions in catalytic converters, except palladium is also used for dentistry and jewelry.
Precious metals have been sought after since the beginning of time for their shine, rarity, and chemical or physical abilities. Their prices are very expensive, and still today they are not easy to come by. They are used in small amounts in many places, and large amounts of any of these metals is of great value. The Earth has limited resources and these surely have earned their title of precious.
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