History of Platinum

Platinum history - Achard Franz Karl
Unlike silver and gold which are highly valued precious metals since the ancient times, platinum does not have such long history and does not have such long tradition of being precious metal. For a long time it was considered worthless although today platinum is more valuable than gold and is normally at least twice the gold price.

Platinum was first discovered by Spanish Conquistadors in Southern America in the 16th century while searching for gold, while first written record of "an unknown noble metal found between Darien and Mexico" dates from 1557 from the writings of Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scaliger. However, platinum was already known and used by pre-Columbian Native Americans, while the modern knowledge of platinum dates from about 1735 when Spanish general, explorer, astronomer and first Spanish governor of Louisiana Antonio de Ulloa reported over existence of platinum while he was on the French Geodesic Mission to Peru.

Although Ulloa is accredited the discovery of platinum he did not continue with research of the new metal. However, platinum soon attracted attention of numerous European chemists such as Charles Wood, Torbern Bergman, William Lewis and many others, while Henric Scheffer published a detailed description of platinum in 1752 describing it as "white gold". Despite that platinum was for a long period regarded as undesired impurity in silver by the Spanish who were mining silver.

Due its rarity and greater difficulty to work with it platinum was used only in a limited way in jewelry by the end of the 19th century. However, that changed after the development of method for processing platinum ore by English chemist and physicist William Hyde Wollaston in 1803.


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