Different Types of Precious Metals

Precious metals are any one of a number of relatively uncommon and valuable metals. They are used in jewelry, in coins and sometimes as specie or monetary metals.  The three primary precious metals: silver, gold at platinum. Another very valuable metal is palladium.

Silver: Chemical symbol: Ag, Atomic number: 47,  Atomic mass: 107.9.

Silver is the least valuable of the precious metals, current priced at just under $30 dollars American an ounce in bullion form.  Silver has a long history of use, being one of the first metal utilized by humankind.  Slightly harder than gold, silver is still very malleable.  Silver has a very high heat and electrical conductivity, making it valuable for electronics and industry. However, unlike gold, silver will tarnish.  Silver is often mixed with copper to produce sterling silver and to give it enough hardness to maintain shape.

Gold:  Chemical symbol: Au, Atomic number: 79, Atomic mass: 197.0

Gold is the most popular jewelry metal in the world, being used in over 90% of wedding bands and engagement rings.  The use in wedding jewelry may be because gold does not tarnish.  Gold, in its pure form, is the softest of metals. One ounce of gold can be flattened into a thin sheet that may cover 100 square meters of area.  Because of this, gold is often mixed or alloyed with other metals to make it harder and to hold shape.  Typically, gold is alloyed with silver and copper in various percentages to produce the different colors and carat content.  Gold is currently selling for around $1,400 dollars American an ounce.

Platinum: Chemical symbol: Pt, Atomic number: 78, Atomic mass: 195.1

Platinum is the most expensive of the precious metals, currently valued at around $1,700 dollars American an ounce.  Platinum is used in jewelry, but much less than gold or silver. It is used extensively in industry as a catalyst and it does not rust unless it is exposed to bases.

Palladium: Chemical symbol: Pd, Atomic number: 46, Atomic mass: 106.4

Palladium is the least well known of the precious metals. It is one of the platinum group of metals and has similar properties to platinum.  Palladium is often used as a chemical catalyst. For example, it is used in catalytic converters on automobiles.  When used in jewelry, palladium is most often alloyed with gold to produce an expensive version of white gold.  Currently, palladium sells for just under $760 dollars American an ounce.


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