When assessing precious metals like Gold, Silver, and Platinum from a chemical standpoint, we can see that there’s more to them than meets the eye. These metals have practical value. They are resistant to corrosion and are grouped with noble metals.
The properties, industrial uses, scarcity, and cost to acquire each of the metals listed below contribute to their value, making them an attractive investment.
The Most Expensive Metals in the World
While Platinum sold for the highest prices in the past, you’ll be interested to know that Rhodium is currently the most expensive metal in the world.
The metals Rhodium, Iridium, Palladium, Platinum, Ruthenium, and Osmium, make up the platinum group metals (PMG). These metals are often extracted from the same mineral deposits and are some of the most valuable metals found on earth.
Gold and Silver are known as coinage metals, due to their use as coins. They’re also widely used for art and jewelry.
Now let’s dive into each of the most expensive metals and their price per troy ounce.
As one of the most well-known precious metals, Silver (Ag) has many practical uses and has a history of being one of the most valuable substances in society. It is used in jewelry, water filtration systems, solar panels and is manufactured into bullion coins. While more common than other expensive precious metals, it can add diversity to your investment options.
It is white with a lustrous appearance. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all the metals and is resistant to room temperature oxidation. These properties are favored for use in electrical circuits and conductors. It is also used as a catalyst to create industrial chemicals in converting ethylene to ethylene oxide.
Price: $22.47 per troy ounce – lower than the most expensive spice in the world.
Rhenium (Re) was discovered relatively recently (1925) but since then its uses have grown significantly. This rare metail has the ability to resist oxidation even at very high temperatures (upwards of 2500 °F).
Rhenium finds many uses within aerospace engineering where extreme temperature resistance are required such as rocket nozzles or turbine blades. It also has excellent electrical conductivity, so it’s often found in electrical components such as switches and relays.
In addition, rhenium is used as a catalyst in petroleum refining.
Price: $1,417 per kilogram
Osmium (Os) is the world’s densest metal. It’s also one of the rarest metals. Osmium is not harder than a diamond, but it is stiffer. It is hard and brittle and has a bluish-grey appearance when used in jewelry.
It is used to reduce friction in areas like the tip of ballpoint pens, vinyl player needles, and electrical contacts. It has a reflective surface and is used on mirrors in spacecraft.
While it has common uses, it is not a practical metal to manufacture due to its toxicity and high melting point. The rarity and high cost of the material have limited its use.
Osmium is amongst the most expensive substances on earth and has sold for the same high price for more than two decades.
Price: $400 per troy ounce
Ruthenium (Ru) is a rare metal used as an alloying agent to harden other metals, including platinum and palladium. It has the appearance of platinum but is rarer, harder, and more brittle.
The global use of ruthenium is nearly 20 tons and is expected to increase with a growth in the manufacturing of electronics. Other uses of ruthenium include microelectronics and dye-sensitized solar cells. It has ferromagnetic properties at room temperature, making it useful in sensors and hard drives.
Price: $465 per troy ounce
Platinum (Pt) is one of the least reactive metals. It has reflective properties and is found in platinum ores such as sperrylite, copperite and as a by-product from ore refined for copper and nickel. These ores appear in the Vredefort Dome in South Africa, Sudbury district in Canada, and Oktyabrskoye copper-nickel deposit in Russia.
The primary use of Platinum has been in catalytic converters in diesel vehicles. Platinum has taken a dip in price following the Volkswagen emissions scandal of 2015.
South Africa is the most significant contributor to newly mined platinum ore. Recent decreases in short-term supply saw the prices of platinum increase.
Price: $852 per troy ounce
Gold (Au) is a yellow color metal with attractive brightness and a lustrous look. Historically, South Africa was the dominant gold producer, unearthing 32 million ounces of gold in its peak year of 1970. It is no longer in the top ten countries, with China, Australia, and Russia producing the most gold.
If you happen to find yourself in South Africa’s City of Gold, you can learn about the discovery of gold in the area of Johannesburg during a gold reef heritage tour.
The purity of gold is categorized using the karat system – measuring the ratio of gold to other alloys. Gold is naturally found in its highly malleable and purest form.
The price of gold is fairly stable as it is seen as a safe haven for investments. In fact, gold prices tend to go up when the economy is in recession.
Price: $1,937 per troy ounce
Palladium (Pd) is another valuable precious metal and is used in jewelry to create a white gold alloy. It also has many industrial applications, being used in electronics, dentistry, and exhaust systems in petrol vehicles. The amount of Palladium produced per year has been lower than the demand for the past ten years.
The majority of Palladium comes from Russia, South Africa, Canada, The United States, and Zimbabwe. South African contributes 40% of the world’s annual Palladium production. However, its contribution has seen a decline in recent years.
Price: $2,697 per troy ounce
Lutetium (Lu), a silvery white element, is not only among the rarest metals but also one of the most expensive. Discovered in 1907 in Paris, it takes its name from the Roman name for Paris, Lutetia.
This pricey metal is highly prized for its unique properties, particularly in the field of memory devices. Its ability to enhance information storage makes it a valuable component in advanced electronics. While it may come with a high cost, lutetium’s importance in cutting-edge technology makes it a worthwhile investment.
Price: $10,000 per 100 grams
Iridium (Ir) is one of the rarest elements and is the second most dense metal on earth. The product of nickel mining, irridium is the most corrosion-resistant metal.
This rare metal has a silver-white appearance in its pure form. Iridium is found in higher quantities in meteorites than in the Earth’s crust.
The largest deposits of iridium are in the Bushveld igneous complex near the Vredefort crater in South Africa. The increase in the demand for iridium has lead to a rise in the price since March 2021. It is used as a catalyst for electrolysis in the production of green power using hydrogen.
Price: $5,00 per troy ounce
Rhodium (Rh) is non-radioactive and is the one of most expensive metals in the world. It is a rare member of the platinum group with a global annual demand of 32 tonnes.
The largest producers are South Africa, which produces most of the world’s 21 tonnes of Rhodium a year, and North America. In addition, South America and Canada produce Rhodium as a by-product of copper and nickel refining.
As a noble metal, it resists chemical reactions and is often used in platinum alloys to protect metals from oxidation at high temperatures. It is a hot commodity with rhodium prices trading higher due to an increase in demand. International trade is also an influence on the commodity’s availability and, therefore on rhodium cost.
The use of Rhodium in the automotive industry has maintained a high level of demand. It is used in jewelry to electroplate gold with an alloy metal such as nickel or palladium. Other uses include coating electrical contacts and the electrodes for spark plugs.
Price: $20,250 per troy ounce
Californium (Cf), the most expensive metal in the world, was first synthesized in 1950 at the University of California, Berkeley. Due to its rarity and the cost of producing it, Californium is valued at approximately $27 million per gram.
The production cost of this element is exorbitant as Californium is synthesized through irradiation of curium in a nuclear reactor, followed by complex chemical separations. With only a few handfuls of this element ever produced, Californium remains a highly sought-after metal in various industries, including nuclear and medical fields.
Price estimate: $27 million per gram
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