What is Platinum?

Platinum is a metal—but what an amazing metal it is! It is grayish white in color, and its name comes from the Spanish plata and means "little silver". Platinum is harder than copper and almost as pliable as gold. You could take a single ounce of platinum and stretch it out into a fine wire that would reach across Western Europe from cologne to Moscow.

A cube of platinum measuring 30 centimetres each way would weigh more than half a tonne. Platinum is almost twice as heavy as lead. Platinum is usually found in ores often mixed with the rare metals, palladium, rhodium, iridium, and osmium, which are called "platinum metals".

Occasionally, it is found with metals such as gold, copper, silver, iron, chromium and nickel. It is found in the form of small grains, scales, or nuggets. Large deposits of platinum were first discovered in South America in the eighteenth century. For a great many years it was considered quite useless, and so it was cheap.

Then, when people began to find how useful this metal could be, and since it is quite rare, the price went up to the point where that cube of platinum mentioned above would have been worth over a million pounds.

What makes platinum especially useful is that it resists oxidation, acids, and heat. The melting point of platinum is about 1,843 degress Centigrade. For most purposes, platinum is mixed (alloyed) with one of the other ‘’platinum metals’’ or with silver, gold, copper, nickel, or tin.

While the chief use of platinum is for jewellery, it is also used for contact points where electrical circuits are opened or closed, in laboratory weights, in instruments for exact measurement of temperatures, and for fuses in delicate electrical instruments.   

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