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What is platinum?

By Jurgen J. Maerz


  • Platinum is a chemical element with the symbol Pt and an atomic number of ’78.’ Its name is derived from the Spanish platina, meaning ‘little silver.’ It is a dense, malleable, durable, and white metal with a very high melting point.
  • Of all the noble metals, platinum is the most precious, as it is resistant to most acids—it can only be dissolved in a boiling solution of aqua regia, a mixture of concentrated nitric acid and hydrochloric acid usually in a volume ratio of 1:3.
  • Platinum does not oxidize and is naturally white, requiring no rhodium plating. Hypoallergenic and about 30 times rarer than gold, it is found in South Africa, Russia, and to a much lesser extent, in Canada, the United States, and South America.
  • Its ability to securely hold gemstones made it the metal of choice for the British Crown Jewels and the Hope Diamond.
  • The uniqueness of this metal is reflected by its use in terminology where the word ‘platinum’ represents the very best. Think platinum credit card and platinum record for starters.
  • The majority of platinum is used in petro chemical, glass, electronic, medical, and chemical applications. Its biggest use, however, is in the auto industry as the catalyst in catalytic converters, which help keep our air clean.

Jurgen J. Maerz is an independent industry consultant and owner of Jurgen Maerz, Jewelry Consulting LLC. In the industry since 1961, he is recognized as an expert in the world of platinum. Maerz has published two award-winning books on platinum and has presented seminars on the subject all over the world. He can be contacted via e-mail at

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