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Modern Uses of Precious Metals

Precious metals are no longer used only as a form of currency. In today’s world, they have interesting uses in a variety of industries, from medical technology to electronics.

Let’s look at 5 precious metal uses in today’s age.

Modern Uses of Gold

Gold has been sought after for its beauty and value throughout history. This precious metal is desirable to many due to its pliability and ability to conduct electricity.

Some common uses of gold in the modern world include:

  • Fine Jewelry – Gold is a durable precious metal that’s resistant to tarnishing. Most of the gold purchased around the world is used to make jewelry, as it has been for thousands of years.
  • Medical Technology – Gold is non-allergenic and chemically inert, which makes it an ideal material for dental crowns. Scientists have also created artificial muscles using gold.
  • Making Electronics – Small amounts of gold are used to help conduct electricity in computers, televisions, cell phones, and other electronic devices.
  • Space Travel – Many of the vehicles used to reach outer space have interiors lined with gold to shield astronauts from radiation and dangerous heat levels.

Modern Uses of Silver

Less expensive than gold, silver is still a valued and unique metal. It’s been used in coins and jewelry for centuries and is now studied in the scientific and medical communities.

Today, silver is often used for:

  • Energy Generation – Silver aids in harnessing the sun’s power and is used to create solar panels. It’s also used in nuclear reactors to slow fission rates.
  • Medical Imagery – Although we’ve moved on to using digital photography, silver is still an essential part of developing x-ray images in the medical industry.
  • Treating Infections – Non-toxic and a killer of bacteria via the oligodynamic effect, silver is used in making antibiotic medication and preventing the spread of infections in hospitals.
  • Electrical Conduction – Silver easily conducts thermal and electrical energy, and it’s used to make batteries, electrical switches, and superconductors.

Modern Uses of Platinum

The ancient Egyptians used platinum on an industrial scale to craft art and jewelry. This precious metal is still a popular choice for collectors and jewelers.

The most common modern uses of platinum include:

  • Fine Jewelry – Resistant to tarnishing and with a high luster, platinum is one of the most desired precious metals for fine jewelry and engagement rings.
  • Catalytic Conversion – Possibly the most common use of platinum is in the automotive industry, where it serves as a key material in the making of catalytic convertors. These integral car parts convert harmful emissions into water and CO2.
  • Oil RefiningPlatinum has many industrial uses, including the ability to extract gasoline from crude oil.
  • Computer Storage – Used to boost magnetic properties in hard disks, platinum is in high demand for computer manufacturers who want to offer plenty of device storage to consumers.

Modern Uses of Palladium

Palladium is very similar to platinum in catalytic capabilities, hardness, and coloration. This means these two precious metals are often used for comparable purposes.

Today, palladium is often used for:

  • Charging Electronics – Palladium is used in ceramic capacitors, which are added to some laptops and cell phones to help the devices hold a charge for longer.
  • Catalytic Conversion – Car manufacturers who are looking to save on catalytic convertors turn to palladium as a cheaper industrial alternative to platinum.
  • Medical Technology – Palladium can be combined with gold to create orthodontic and dental devices. Palladium isotopes are also being researched as a new treatment option for cancer.
  • Fine Jewelry – Although it looks like platinum, palladium is less dense and more affordable. And the fact that it won’t tarnish is making palladium a new favorite material for jewelers.

Modern Uses of Rhodium

Rhodium is in the same group as platinum and palladium, but is rarer and more expensive.

Common modern uses of rhodium include:

  • Catalytic Conversion – Rhodium is frequently used to make catalytic convertors, which allow cars to change dangerous exhaust emissions into less noxious gases.
  • Electrical Contacts – Rhodium is resistant to corrosion and provides little electrical resistance, which makes it a popular choice for making electrical switches, relays, connectors, and circuit breakers.
  • Jewelry Plating – Pure rhodium jewelry is rare due to the metal’s expense, but plating jewelry with rhodium is common among fine jewelers. Rhodium gives white gold and platinum a high shine, and it also helps to prevent the tarnishing of sterling silver.
  • Industrial Manufacturing – Used to harden platinum and palladium, many manufacturers turn to rhodium as an alloying agent in making furnaces, thermocouple elements, and aircraft spark plugs.

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