Platinum and palladium are often likened to cousins, as they bear many similarities. Both metals have a naturally white appearance. And, like family, they have a similar makeup, which causes them to react as catalysts to the same chemicals and elements.
So what’s the difference between platinum and palladium?
It really comes down to two main factors: density and price.
Platinum is denser — and stronger — than palladium. It’s also resistant to rust and corrosive materials. Palladium is durable, too, but less so than platinum. Another interesting fact about both metals is that, when they get scratched, they don’t lose any metal. This makes them an ideal material for jewelry, such as wedding bands.
Historically, platinum has typically been the bigger-ticket metal — costing twice as much as palladium, per ounce. Why? Platinum is easier to manipulate minutely without breaking, due to its density. In 2017, however, palladium surpassed the price of platinum for the first time in 16 years.
The value of platinum and palladium is due, in part, to the rarity of the metals. (They’re actually rarer than gold.) It’s also a result of the many applications in which they both can be used.
Both platinum and palladium are commonly used in jewelry, due to their ability to maintain their brightness over time, without tarnishing. Platinum is also used in the systems that control vehicle emissions in our cars. Other common uses include electronics, spark plugs and cancer-fighting medicines. Palladium, on the other hand, is used in vehicle emissions equipment and electronics. It’s also a critical element in fuel cells.
Which is the better metal? It really depends on the application and, in the case of jewelry, personal preference. Both have much to offer, which is what’s earned them a spot on the precious metal list in the first place.