When assessing precious metals like Gold, Silver, and Platinum from a chemical standpoint, we can see that there’s more to them than meets the eye. These metals have practical value. They are resistant to corrosion and are grouped with noble metals. 

The properties, industrial uses, scarcity, and cost to acquire each of the metals listed below contribute to their value, making them an attractive investment.

The Most Expensive Metals in the World

While Platinum sold for the highest prices in the past, you’ll be interested to know that Rhodium is currently the most expensive metal in the world. 

The metals Rhodium, Iridium, Palladium, Platinum, Ruthenium, and Osmium, make up the platinum group metals (PMG). These metals are often extracted from the same mineral deposits and are some of the most valuable metals found on earth.

The most expensive metals in the world
The most expensive metals in the world

Gold and Silver are known as coinage metals, due to their use as coins. They’re also widely used for art and jewelry.

We dive into each of the most expensive metals and the price per troy ounce below. If high price items interest you, discover the world’s most expensive wines.

8. Silver 

As one of the most well-known precious metals, Silver (Ag) has many practical uses and has a history of being one of the most valuable substances in society. It is used in jewelry, water filtration systems, solar panels and is manufactured into bullion coins. While more common than other expensive precious metals, it can add diversity to your investment options.

It is white with a lustrous appearance. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of all the metals and is resistant to room temperature oxidation. These properties are favored for use in electrical circuits and conductors. It is also used as a catalyst to create industrial chemicals in converting ethylene to ethylene oxide.

Price: $23.79 per troy ounce – lower than the most expensive spice in the world.

Macro silver ore from a silver mine
Macro silver ore from a silver mine

7. Osmium

Osmium (Os) is the world’s densest metal. It’s also one of the rarest metals. Osmium is not harder than a diamond, but it is stiffer. It is hard and brittle and has a bluish-grey appearance when used in jewelry. 

It is used to reduce friction in areas like the tip of ballpoint pens, vinyl player needles, and electrical contacts. It has a reflective surface and is used on mirrors in spacecraft.

While it has common uses, it is not a practical metal to manufacture due to its toxicity and high melting point. The rarity and high cost of the material have limited its use.

Osmium is amongst the most expensive substances on earth and has sold for the same high price for more than two decades. 

Price: $400 per troy ounce

Osmium metal pieces. The heaviest metal is osmium.
Osmium metal pieces. The heaviest metal is osmium.

6. Ruthenium

Ruthenium (Ru) is a rare metal used as an alloying agent to harden other metals, including platinum and palladium. It has the appearance of platinum but is rarer, harder, and more brittle.

The global use of ruthenium is nearly 20 tons and is expected to increase with a growth in the manufacturing of electronics. Other uses of ruthenium include microelectronics and dye-sensitized solar cells. It has ferromagnetic properties at room temperature, making it useful in sensors and hard drives.

Price: $700 per troy ounce

Half of a high-purity (99.99%), electron-beam-remelted ruthenium bar
 Half of a high-purity (99.99%), electron-beam-remelted ruthenium bar

5. Platinum

Platinum (Pt) is one of the least reactive metals. It has reflective properties and is found in platinum ores such as sperrylite, copperite and as a by-product from ore refined for copper and nickel. These ores appear in the Vredefort Dome in South Africa, Sudbury district in Canada, and Oktyabrskoye copper-nickel deposit in Russia.

The primary use of Platinum has been in catalytic converters in diesel vehicles. Platinum has taken a dip in price following the Volkswagen emissions scandal of 2015.

South Africa is the most significant contributor to newly mined platinum and went into lockdown in 2020. As a result, decreases in short-term supply saw the prices of platinum increase.

Price: $958 per troy ounce

A platinum nugget
A platinum nugget

4. Gold 

Gold (Au) is a yellow color metal with attractive brightness and a lustrous look. Historically, South Africa was the dominant gold producer, unearthing 32 million ounces of gold in its peak year of 1970. It is no longer in the top ten countries, with China, Australia, and Russia producing the most gold.

If you happen to find yourself in South Africa’s City of Gold, you can learn about the discovery of gold in the area of Johannesburg during a gold reef heritage tour

The purity of gold is categorized using the karat system – measuring the ratio of gold to other alloys. Gold is naturally found in its highly malleable and purest form.

The price of gold is fairly stable as it is seen as a safe haven for investments. In fact, gold prices tend to go up when the economy is in recession.

Price: $1789 per troy ounce

Pure gold ore found in a mine
Pure gold ore found in a mine

3. Palladium 

Palladium (Pd) is the second most valuable precious metal and is used in jewelry to create a white gold alloy. It also has many industrial applications, being used in electronics, dentistry, and exhaust systems in petrol vehicles. The amount of Palladium produced per year has been lower than the demand for the past ten years.

The majority of Palladium comes from Russia, South Africa, Canada, The United States, and Zimbabwe. South African contributes 40% of the world’s annual Palladium production. However, its contribution has seen a decline in recent years.

Price: $2195 per troy ounce

Palladium is a rare chemical element and one of the most expensive metals
Palladium is a rare chemical element and one of the most expensive metals

2. Iridium 

Iridium (Ir) is one of the rarest elements and is the second most dense metal on earth. The product of nickel mining, irridium is the most corrosion-resistant metal.

This rare metal has a silver-white appearance in its pure form. Iridium is found in higher quantities in meteorites than in the Earth’s crust.

The largest deposits of iridium are in the Bushveld igneous complex near the Vredefort crater in South Africa. The increase in the demand for iridium has lead to a rise in the price since March 2021. It is used as a catalyst for electrolysis in the production of green power using hydrogen.

Price: $5000 per troy ounce

Iridium elements
Iridium elements

1. Rhodium

Rhodium (Rh) is non-radioactive and is the most expensive metal in the world. It is a rare member of the platinum group with a global annual demand of 32 tonnes.

The largest producers are South Africa, which produces most of the world’s 21 tonnes of Rhodium a year, and North America. In addition, South America and Canada produce Rhodium as a by-product of copper and nickel refining.

As a noble metal, it resists chemical reactions and is often used in platinum alloys to protect metals from oxidation at high temperatures. It is a hot commodity with prices trading higher due to an increase in demand. International trade is also an influence on the commodity’s availability and, therefore, its price.

The use of Rhodium in the automotive industry has maintained a high level of demand. It is used in jewelry to electroplate gold with an alloy metal such as nickel or palladium. Other uses include coating electrical contacts and the electrodes for spark plugs.

Price: $15450 per troy ounce

A Rhodium nugget
A Rhodium nugget

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Most expensive metals in the world
Most expensive metals in the world

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