What is so valuable about precious metals

Precious metals

Briefly & simply explained:

Precious metals understandable & concisely defined

Precious metals are a specific type of chemical element. They have particularly positive properties, among other things they are very durable, particularly corrosion-resistant and have a distinctive shine. They are not changed at all or only very slowly by environmental influences, which is why these types of metals are used in various industries (e.g. in medicine, jewelry, electronics). Precious metals are considered valuable and are therefore often used as an investment (especially gold, silver and platinum).

What is a precious metal?

Metals make up about 80% of the chemical elements in the periodic table. Precious metals are a special group of metals that have some specific properties. A distinction can be made between the classic precious metals, the semi-precious metals and the short-lived, radioactive precious metals. The transitions are fluid, semiprecious metals and classic precious metals can be further counted to the group of heavy metals. Which substance is called a precious metal ultimately depends on who you ask the question.

These classifications are generally known:

  • The most important precious metals for the world market: gold, silver, platinum and palladium
  • Precious metals in the physical sense: copper, gold, silver
  • Classic precious metals according to the chemical understanding: gold, platinum, iridium, palladium, osmium, silver, mercury, rhodium, ruthenium

The origin of precious metals

Precious metals are natural elements that occur in the earth's crust. Some appear there in a dignified form, i.e. in their pure form, others first have to be converted from other materials (e.g. from alloys) using a mechanical process.

Properties of precious metals

Precious metals have some specific properties that make them stand out. Like all metals, they have a high conductivity. They also have a certain ductility (deformability) and a typical metallic luster.

In addition, precious metals have another important property: They are corrosion-resistant! This means that environmental influences such as air and water either do not change the precious metals at all or only change them very slowly. And they are also very stable against many acids.

Nevertheless, there are methods with which precious metals can be melted or dissolved:

  • Heat: Precious metals have a high melting point, but they can be melted using high temperatures. (for silver it is 961.8 ° Celsius, osmium has the highest with 3,333 ° Celsius)
  • Certain acids: These are also used in precious metal separation, i.e. when alloys of different metals are to be separated from one another. For example, aqua regia (made from hydrochloric acid and nitric acid) is used for gold and platinum, and nitric acid for silver.

The use of precious metals

Gold and silver in particular are precious metals that have been used by mankind for many centuries due to their positive properties. Among other things, precious metals are used in the following areas:

  • Investment (e.g. gold bars)
  • Coins (especially in investment and collector coins)
  • Jewellery
  • electronics
  • Medicine (e.g. dentistry)
  • mechanical engineering
  • Solar and heating technology
  • Space travel
Often not only the precious metals are used in their pure form, but also alloys, i.e. mixtures of several elements. In this way, it can be achieved that various good properties complement each other and an even better material is created. A case in point is gold. It is considered to be the precious metal with the highest corrosion resistance, but it is also relatively soft and easily deformed.

In order to achieve a harder metal that still retains the good corrosion-resistant properties of gold, gold alloys with another precious metal or a non-precious metal are common practice. Gold-copper alloys are often found in jewelry, a gold-silver alloy is usually chosen for dental gold and gold-titanium alloys are often used for medicine.

Why are precious metals so valuable?

In general, two reasons can be given why precious metals are considered so valuable:

  • Their positive properties (long-lasting, corrosion-resistant, easy to process)
  • Your limited availability
The precious metals occur in limited quantities on earth or in the earth's crust. They cannot simply be produced anew and in larger editions. Their positive characteristics also make the various metals popular raw materials in various industries.

In addition, precious metals can be reprocessed again and again: alloys of different metals can be separated from one another in refineries. The precious metals are then available again in their pure form and can be processed again.

Precious metals as an investment

Because precious metals are considered so valuable, they are ideal as an investment. Savings, whether in the form of cash or a bank account, are always subject to inflation. Monetary currencies can certainly lose their value. Precious metals are based on a rate that definitely fluctuates, but can never lose value as much in such a short time as a currency. The most popular forms of investment are:

  • Bars (especially for gold and silver, but also platinum and copper)
  • Coins (gold, silver, platinum, palladium)
  • Securities (ETFs or ETCs)

What are Precious Metals - Definition & Explanation - Summary

  • Precious metals are valuable chemical elements with positive properties.
  • They are considered to be particularly durable and corrosion-resistant.
  • The most important precious metals for the world market and industry are gold, silver, platinum and palladium. They are often used as an investment.
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