The precious metals include: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, osmium, iridium, gold, and platinum. Their precious nature derives from the fact they are very scarce and unique among commodities in the manner in which they are judged as a measure of wealth. The markets for these metals are exceedingly complex and distorted from normal supply and demand laws by several interrelated factors. These include:
1) Gold has a direct link with the monetary system, and most precious metal dealers are inclined to believe in a close connection between the gold price and the prices of other precious metals. This is justified to some extent by their common characteristics of scarcity, uses, easy storage, similar origin (in most cases), and historical association.
2) Most precious metals are by-products or co-products of the manufacture of other, less rare metals. Thus, supply and demand rules for the different elements may not coincide and may make production of a particular precious metal uneconomical during those time when the less rare metal is in over-supply, temporarily or permanently.
3) Industrial uses for precious metals involve some 86% of manufactured products even though they have been mostly used as components in highly sophisticated areas of technology or expensive jewelry, where the value of the metal in the equipment or system might be insignificant. A manufacturer is often forced to buy the metal at almost any price because of its unique and unsubstitutable properties. Furthermore, when continuity of supply and quality are important to the industrial consumers of such precious metals, the consumers often pay higher prices than the free market price.
4) The Soviet Union and South Africa account for the production of more than half of the world’s precious metals (an exception is silver), implying governmental politics play a much greater role in precious metal markets than in other commodities.
5) All the precious metals are used in the manufacture of jewelry, the demand for which is very much dependent upon the vagaries of fashion and taste.
6) Precious metals, historically, have demonstrated an ability to retain their value even in periods of extreme economic dislocation. Many investors use precious metals as an investment hedge during times of economic uncertainty.
7) Precious metals are now being actively and aggressively researched for their potential medical benefits. Laurence Gardner  has provided considerably evidence in this regard by showing that these metals in their Monoatomic Elements, ORME, state are capable of amazing and astounding actions.
Precious metals have important physical characteristics which make them indispensable to modern industry. For example: one cubic centimeter of palladium is capable of absorbing 900cc of hydrogen; silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any metal; gold is the most ductile metal and one gram of it can be drawn into a wire 2,300 meters long; iridium is the most corrosion resistant of all elements; osmium is the heaviest metal; and the platinum group, in general, contains the hardest metals.
The supply and demand laws in the gold market is highly dependent upon gold’s role as a medium of exchange. Decorative uses (jewelry and art objects) account for about sixty percent of demand, owing partly to gold’s unique physical properties and partly to its interchangeability with money. To facilitate the mechanical processes of turning gold into robust articles, it is almost invariably alloyed with other less expensive metals, such as copper, zinc, silver and nickel. Important commercial uses include wiring in electronics, semi-conductors in tiny computer chips (when combined with silicon and/or other metals) and printed circuits. Dental work accounts for significant gold consumption, while several other minor uses in the chemical industry and medicine account for smaller amounts. In one typical year gold consumption and its use was apportioned in the following manner: Jewelry 62.5%, electronics 5%, Dentistry 5%, other industrial 5%, coins (official, medals, medallions, etceteras) 15%, and increase in investments/holdings 7.5%.
The primary use of silver (approximately 20%) is in jewelry, silver plate, cutlery and art objects -- often alloyed with copper (sterling silver contains about 7.5% copper). Coins accounts for about 3%. Silver is much more sought than gold, however, in industrial usage. Photographic materials accounts for some 36% of usage, while silver's ability to conduct both heat and electricity better than copper makes it widely used in computers, switchgear, thermostats, and other industrial uses -- about 41%. The latter includes use in solders, brazing alloys, catalyst, batteries and pharmaceutical products.
In addition to its use in jewelry, platinum has many applications as a catalyst, either in its pure form or as an alloy with rhodium. This allows a large range of chemical reactions such as that of reforming petroleum, producing nitric acid, producing pharmaceutical products, and for removing hydrogen and chlorine (particularly in organic chemical synthesis). Platinum is also used in electronics, while its incorruptibility makes it ideal for crucibles (along with Rhodium and Iridium additions) and retorts used in handling high corrosive chemicals or where resistance to high temperatures is required. The latter makes it also valuable for use in machines which run at high temperatures.
Of an approximate one million troy ounces of platinum used annually, slightly over half is used by the automotive industry. Other users are the chemical (12%), petroleum (7%), glass (5%), electrical (9%), dental/medical (4%), Jewelry (3%), and miscellaneous (8%). The use by the automobile industry is primarily for catalytic converters (virtually required by law to reduce levels of toxic fumes emitted by automobiles).
Almost totally corrosion-free, palladium is used in alloy form with other precious metals in electronics (such as electrical contacts, particularly in telephone systems) and as resistance windings, especially where high precision is required. It is also used as in electrothermal fuses - particularly in electric furnaces - as well as thermocouples and as a catalyst for the production of such things as ethylene, vitamins A and E, brazing, welding (particularly jewelry), and other uses. Palladium differs from platinum in that the normal forces of industrial supply and demand are much more important, but nevertheless production of palladium is only about 80% that of the level of platinum. Palladium is often found with nickel, and this affects its supply.
With an extremely high resistance to corrosion, rhodium is used to plate steel and brass in order to prevent corrosion from sea water and other elements. Such coatings must be extremely thin and used only when the cost is justified (rhodium sells for about five to six times that of palladium). As an alloy with platinum (containing about 1% rhodium), it is used in thermocouples, electrical equipment and man-made fibre production. It's used as a catalyst in producing nitric acid from ammonia, along with several other catalytic uses. Rhodium has a very high optical reflectivity, which is particularly useful since it is almost untarnishable. Use as thin layers on optical equipment is advantageous and widespread.
A hard, brittle metal which is difficult to work mechanically, iridium is usually alloyed with platinum (with iridium being less than 20%). The alloy is then used in robust electrical contacts, precision resistance winding, and in jewelry, especially for setting diamonds. Alloys of iridium with osmium (osmiridium) and ruthenium are used extensively for making the tips of fountain pen nibs and other products of powder metallurgy. Iridium can be used in sensitive equipment where contact with mercury is necessary, as the metal is not ‘wetted’ by the liquid metal. The most corrosion-resistant of all elements, iridium is also used to make crucibles and high temperature lab equipment. Iridium sells for about 40% of the value of rhodium (making it about four time more expensive than gold).
Unlike most of the other precious metals, osmium oxidizes quite easily in air, and can give off poisonous fumes. Osmium is extremely hard and heavy, and has been useful in some applications. None of these uses, however, are exceptionally important. Nevertheless, it sells for about the same price as palladium.
Ruthenium is primarily used as an alloy with platinum in jewelry and electrical contacts. It has limited catalytic use, and sells for about 1/4 or 1/5th the cost of palladium.
The precious metals are also becoming very prominent in two other major usage areas: In energy generating fuel cells, and the treatment of a large number of ailments in medicine. The latter has generated a great deal of interest as it has become evident that the precious elements are integral to health, and provide unique healing characteristics. The former is important in that the technology of fuel cells has progressed rapidly from a scientific or engineering viewpoint, but has been heavily constrained by the expense of the precious metals essential to fuel cell operation.
(6/1/05) One further extension on the subject of precious metals is their geometry. While most mineralologists are well aware of differences in crystal shapes -- which is another way of saying they have their own geometries -- the idea of human intervention in order to have precious metals transformed into varying shades of sacred geometry may be a bit more original. Admittedly jewelers have been twisting precious metals into even more precious artistic presentations for years. But instead of purely artistic creations, there is the combination of using precious metals and sacred geometry simultaneously. A good example of this is ka-gold-jewelry, whose website combines a presentation of various shapes and forms of gold and other precious commodities with excellent articles on what these shapes and forms mean or imply. My favorites include the dodecahedron (Christ Consciousness) and The Seed of Life. The dodecahedron shape has some really profound implications, and the Seed of Life symbol provides a very nice two dimensional picture which is fully compatibility with Halexandria's Tree of Life (for example, see left side frame).
Meanwhile, there is always the plethora of art depicting sacred geometry, but not everyone is using precious metals to make the point.
 Laurence Gardner, Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark; Amazing Revelations on the Incredible Power of Gold, HarperCollins, London, 2003.
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