The oldest record of platinum use is as an inlay in ancient Egypt. However, the Egyptians though it was a variation of electrum, (a natural blend of gold and silver.) Native Americans used it for centuries in small decorative objects. Platinum was unknown to Europeans until Spanish discovered it in Columbia. The Spanish called it platina, meaning little silver. It was not identified as a new metal until the 1700’s. The metal was introduced into Europe from South America in the middle of the eighteenth century. It is always found in association with other metals, chiefly Rhodium, Osmium, Iridium, Palladium.
Platinum is one of the rarest and purest precious metals in the world. The perfect jewelry material for these fortuitous times, Platinum is regarded by many as a “new” metal. Platinum has been held in high regard as a symbol of wealth and nobility, the true worth of Platinum was underappreciated until the eighteenth century, when the Europeans began to recognize Platinum’s beauty. As a matter of fact, France’s Louis XVI proclaimed it the only metal fit for royalty. Legendary jewelers such as Cartier, Faberge and Tiffany created their timeless designs in platinum. The world’s famous diamonds, including the Hope and Koh-l-Noor, are secured permanently in platinum.
Platinum reached its peak of popularity in the early 1900s, when it was the preferred metal for all fine jewelry in America. It dominated the world of jewelry design during the Edwardian era, the Art Deco period and well into the 1930s. At the onset of World War II, however, the U.S. government declared platinum a ‘strategic’ metal and its use in non-military applications, including jewelry, was banned.
Very few countries have platinum supplies, with South Africa (80%) and Russia (11%) accounting for approximately 90% of the world’s supply. The yearly production from these mines is only 150 tons, which is 1/25 of the yearly production of gold. Moreover, the amount of platinum that can be produced from raw ore is relatively small. To make a single small ring of approximately 3 grams requires approximately 1 ton of raw ore.
Today, platinum is much more valuable than gold. Although it is used in many industrial applications, including the automotive industry, platinum jewelry consistently commands higher prices than even pure gold because of its rarity.
Two of the best ways to find the cheapest scrap platinum is through catalytic converters and scrap platinum jewelry. Due to the prices of platinum being so high as of late, a lot of people are becoming victims of thieves who steal their catalytic converters. It used to be you had to worry about your rims, stereos and gps systems, well not anymore.
A catalytic converter is used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from an internal combustion engine. They were first introduced on cars in the US market for the 1975 model year to comply with tightening EPA regulations on auto exhaust. Each catalytic converter contains between three and seven grams of platinum. Not a bad catch if you can find one legally. Catalytic converters are also used on generator sets, forklifts, mining equipment, trucks, buses, trains, and other engine-equipped machines.
From the scrap yards, the converters make their way into the metal-recycling industry, where the platinum and other precious elements, including palladium and rhodium, are removed and used to build high-tech machinery, including more catalytic converters.
Although it is being brought to the forefront thanks to thieves stealing the catalytic converters, platinum still seams to be the big unknown in scrap metal. Some great places to find old catalytic converters for scarp are the local junk yards, online classifieds, such as Craiglist, US Freeads and Kiji. Another great place, as usual is Ebay. Some people even find them at flee markets and garage sales. The trick is once you get them, finding refiners that will pay decent scrap metal prices for the platinum. It will be less than what the price of platinum is due to the fact that they have to extract it, that price is passed on to you.
Now there is a second way to find the cheapest scrap platinum and that is through jewelry. Again the best places to find great deals on platinum jewelry is through the flee market and garage sales, followed by Craigslist, Us Freeads, Kiji and Ebay. Or if you are really resourceful you can invest in a metal detector and hope for the best.
What is so great about scrap platinum jewelry? Well, the number of knowledgeable buyers and sellers are low. Most people don’t understand that platinum jewelry is 90% platinum and that the other 10% is made up of a platinum group metal. If you call around to your local pawnshops, scrap metal dealers, junk yards, coins shops, and jewelers, you’ll find that most of them are paying about the same for platinum jewelry as 14k gold and some may pay close to what they pay for 18k gold. They are taking advantage of most of the sellers out there who just don’t understand what they have.
If you find the cheap scrap platinum that you are looking for then your next step is to locate a platinum refiner preferably in your area and get their schedule or purchase prices. Your goal is to locate a refiner who will pay you for the “residual” values in your scrap alloy. The key is that you will need to guarantee that you’ll be providing a minimum of 10 to 12 Troy ounces in order to be paid for all your metal rather than just the 90% platinum.