Platinum is a rare precious metal that sees significant demand from the jewellery sector, as well as being used in the manufacturing of electronic components and various other industrial applications.
It forms part of the platinum group of metals, alongside palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium. Generally unaffected by corrosion, even at high temperatures, platinum is often referred to as a noble metal due to its unreactive qualities.
Mined predominantly in South Africa - accounting for 80 per cent of global production - platinum is found in some copper and nickel ores, with smaller producers including Russia and Canada.
It has many uses for industry, most notably in the manufacture of catalytic converters for the automotive sector, as well as use in electrical contacts and electrodes due to its high conductivity.
The metal is approximately 30 times rarer than gold and global commodity prices for platinum reflect this fact, with platinum prices often as much as twice the value of gold during times of economic stability. However, due to a lack of demand during more uncertain financial periods, its value can sometimes drop below that of gold.
Factors that can have a significant impact on the price of platinum include demand from the global automotive sector, with a sharp fall in car sales in 2008 coinciding with a 65 per cent reduction in the value of the commodity.
However, its position as a safe haven metal means that when financial times are tough investors will often flock to the commodity and this can have the effect of pushing up the price - as was the case in 2009 after the onset of the global economic downturn, when platinum prices increased by 87 per cent during the first quarter of the year.
Other uses for the precious metal include applications in medicine, with dentistry equipment one such use, while some platinum compounds have been employed in chemotherapy in helping to tackle certain types of cancers.
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