Written by Kathleen Gagne
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It might surprise a lot of people to discover that platinum was mined and refined as far back as the days of the Egyptian Pharoahs. Thousands of years before Rome's glory days, this mysterious metal was prized by the wealthy for its exceptionally rich beauty. Even before the birth of Christ, South American Indian cultures blended platinum with gold to make various types of jewelry.

When platinum was discovered by conquistadors in 16th century Equador, they thought it was silver that had not "ripened." They called it little silver (platina), and tossed it back into the rivers to age. In 1790, a French goldsmith created platinum jewelry for King Louis XVI. He later declared platinum "the only metal fit for kings," and platinum mania swept through Europe and the Far East.

Platinum Facts

Platinum may look lightweight, but it is a very heavy metal. A six-inch cube weighs in at 165 pounds. It takes ten tons of mined ore to produce one troy ounce of platinum. In a year, 118 tons of platinum are produced worldwide, an amount equal to the number of tons of steel produced in the US alone in a single day. Platinum stands up to the passage of time. Its density makes it more resistant to wear than either silver or gold.

Talk about flexible! One gram of platinum can be made into a fine wire more than a mile long. Platinum has more industrial uses than gold and silver combined. Did you know that most automobile catalytic converters in the world are made with platinum? Platinum is also used widely in medicine and industry.

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