What Are the Platinum Group Metals?

We have written many posts here about the history, uses and value of platinum.  But what about the other platinum group metals?

Platinum Group Metals from The Periodic Table of Elements Poster, available From Theodore Gray at http://periodictable.com/

Platinum Group Metals from The Periodic Table of Elements Poster, available From Theodore Gray at http://periodictable.com/

The platinum-group metals are six metallic elements that are grouped together in the periodic table. They are platinum itself, as well as palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium. They have similar chemical and physical properties and are usually found in the same mineral deposits. The largest deposits of them are found in Ontario, in Russia’s Ural Mountains, in South Africa and in Montana.

What You Need to Know about Platinum Group Metals

  • Platinum is the most common metal in the group, and the only one that is found in pure form in nature, most often in deposits of gold-bearing sands. Platinum is bright, non-corrosive, and malleable. Of all the platinum group metals, it is the one you are most likely to recycle because it is found in catalytic convertors, platinum jewelry, laboratory testing equipment, implanted medical devices, and other items that are far from rare.

The rest of the platinum group metals are found in very low concentrations in nature, and always in ores where they are chemically bound to other metals, most often nickel and copper. Because vast quantities of nickel and copper are mined and extracted from ore every year, these secondary platinum group metals occur as byproducts that mining companies can profitably sell. 

  • Palladium is harder than platinum and more scratch resistant, which explains why small quantities of it are often added to platinum to create an alloy that is used to make jewelry. Palladium is also blended with gold to make white gold. That explains why you’re unlikely to find anything made of pure palladium in your search for recyclable precious metals.
  • Rhodium is also found in small concentrations in nature, most often in ores where it is bound to platinum, silver, gold and even palladium. You won’t find too much of it as you search for precious metals to recycle. If you do come across it, chances are that it will be in a platinum/rhodium alloy that is used in jewelry, catalytic converters, laboratory crucibles, and sparkplugs that are used in airplane engines.
  • Ruthenium is another rare platinum group precious metal that also occurs as a byproduct when other metal ores are processed. Chances are slim that you will find any of it. If you do, it will probably be in the form of a corrosion-resistant titanium/ruthenium alloy that is used in aerospace applications. Small amounts of this metal are sometimes found in platinum jewelry too, where it is added to improve durability and resistance to wear.
  • Iridium is extracted from nickel-bearing ore. Due to its hardness, it is sometimes alloyed with platinum to improve durability. You might find small amounts of it in an alloy of platinum that is used to make laboratory equipment for use in extremely high-temperature settings.
  • Osmium is very rare and found only in trace amounts of nickel ores. Alloys of platinum and osmium are sometimes used in the construction of pacemaker electrodes because they must be highly resistant to corrosion.

So, What Do You Want to Recycle?

Chances are that you only find small quantities of the valuable secondary platinum group metals (palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium) hiding in recyclable items that you think are made only of platinum. How can you tell if these rarer metals are present? It’s simple, we will do the testing for you and tell you what the items you want to recycle are really worth. Call our highly qualified precious metal recycling consultants at 800-426-2344 to learn more.

Related Posts:

What You Need to Know about Recycling Alloys of Precious Metals
What Happens when Platinum Meets Rhodium?
Palladium Recycling: Don’t Overlook the Great Value of this Little-Understood Rare Metal
All about Rhodium, the Other Precious Metal