Invest in precious metals?
Besides silver and gold there are other precious metals that can be taken into consideration for investment. They are all very valuable but not all of them are appropriate as an investment, as they are either too expensive, toxic or exclusively produced for the industry and thus not available in form of bars or coins. Because of the toxicity of some of the metals it is not recommended to store them at home. Precious metals are less reactive than other metals, the reason why they are mainly used in industry, for coinage and jewelry.
Platinum was used for the first time 3000 BC by the Ancient Egypts. It is a very stainless material that is mainly used in the production of jewelry, catalyzer and for implants. The most important platinum provider is South Africa, followed by Russia and Canada. After rhodium, platinum is the most valuable metal and more expensive than gold. Platinum as an investment is thus reasonable in forms of coins, the most important of which being the Platinum Canadian Maple Leaf and the American Platinum Eagle. Platinum has raised its value in the years as for 1999 about 570%! This price increase overcomes even the value of gold and silver. Silver increased its price in the same period for 319%, gold for 304%. Palladium just 115%. This grave price increase is due to a shortage of the material, since 1999 there's a lack of 2,4 million ounces every year.
Palladium is usually half the price of gold. It is a silver white metal that resembles platinum from a chemical point of view. It is mainly used for jewelry, in the car industry, for medical instruments and in the nano technology. The most famous bullion coin made of palladium is the Palladium Maple Leaf that exists as for 2005 in a special limited edition, fineness 1 oz.
Iridium is the most non-corrosive metal of all platinum metals. Iridium is more seldom than gold and platinum. After rhenium together with rhodium and ruthenium it is the rarest non-radioactive metal. It is extracted in the Ural and in South Africa. Together with Platinum one gets a hard and non-corrosive alloying. It is mainly used in the medical industry or for engineering, but as well for jewelry, mainly alloyed with platinum. Iridium is normally not used as an investment. There are no bars or coins of this metal available.
Osmium is part of the platinum metals. Of all elements osmium has the highest density. Osmium became famous for its use in bulbs. It is mainly extracted in Canadian nickel ores, but even in South Africa. There are no actual osmium ores. The process of osmium extraction is very complex and time-consuming, amongst other aqua regia is to be used in order to separate it from gold and/or platinum. Due to the complex production process and its rareness osmium is quite expensive. One ounce is round about 350 US$. Osmium is highly toxic and normally not used for investment.
Rhodium resembles platinum and palladium from a chemical point of view. It is harder than platinum, but not as hard as iridium. Because of its strong catalytic characteristics it is mainly used in catalyzers. Rhodium exists pure and is mainly extracted in Montana and Alaska. Like with osmium, the production of rhodium is very complicated and time consuming. Because of the high demand, mainly from the jewelry industry, the value of rhodium has raised remarkably in the past few years. As of 1970 one troy ounce cost 470$, in 2008 it is already 9700$. Thus it is the most expensive metal of the world! Like osmium rhodium is no metal for investment. It is only provided in form of powder.
Ruthenium is part of the platinum family too. It is mainly used in industry for hardening palladium and platinum, by which the non-corrosiveness of the material is enhanced quite a lot. It is said that ruthenium will be used in the photovoltaic industry, reason why it will dramatically increase its value. Ruthenium is no classical metal for investment; there are no coins or bars available. Rutheniumtetraoxid is highly toxic and explosive and is under suspicion to provoke cancer.
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