What makes silver a precious metal

What makes a metal a precious metal?

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Precious metals are coveted and valuable raw materials not only for jewelry

A precious metal - that's a precious metal, isn't it? However, the term precious metal is not to be understood quite so literally. Gold is by far the best-known precious metal, but the list is long: the platinum metals platinum, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium and iridium also belong to the precious metals. Silver and mercury are also included in a broader sense, although they have slightly different properties.

Gold, silver and platinum are mainly used for jewelry production. Rose gold, white gold and yellow gold are not separate precious metals. They are gold alloys that are created by combining them with copper, silver, palladium or other metals in various proportions. However, these alloys have very special material properties in terms of hardness, color and chemical and physical reactions, which are very different from pure gold.

What makes a metal a precious metal?

Precious metals stand out from the base metals by their Corrosion resistance that means that precious metals do not react at room temperature with substances in their environment, such as water or air. In contrast to iron, precious metals cannot oxidize or rust. Only silver shows a slight reaction with hydrogen sulfide, in that a thin layer of black silver sulfide forms over time. However, the silver remains undamaged and the sulfide can be removed again with the right silver care.

Even hydrochloric acid cannot damage the structure of precious metals. Another property of precious metals is that many of their chemical compounds are not heat-resistant. When heated, silver oxide decomposes back into silver and oxygen.

Precious metals gold and silver

Precious metals are fascinating: Because of their shine and their agelessness. That is why they have been used in jewelry production for over 6,000 years. Furthermore, gold and silver are easily flexible materials that only have a low Brinell hardness (the unit with which the degree of hardness is defined) and can be processed even when cold. But precious metals can be heated and poured just like other metals. Gold also stands out from other metals because of its special color.

What determines the value of a precious metal?

Gold and other precious metals are without question a safe investment. But why? The answer is simple: precious metals are rare and have to be laboriously extracted, so they have an intrinsic value. In contrast to securities, this makes gold a financial investment with no risk of default, although the gold price is subject to fluctuations due to changing demand.

Silver and gold coins were already used as means of payment in ancient times due to their intrinsic value. The gold standard was still in effect in many countries around the world until 1929, that is, the currency consisted of either gold coins or banknotes that could be exchanged for gold. Currently, the gold price per troy ounce is around 75 times the price of silver. Platinum was even more expensive than gold at times, but gold is currently the most valuable precious metal again. You can find out more about this in the history of gold.

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