Today I Learned (TIL) Platinum Early History

We at have come across the full spectrum of Platinum scrap, but recently we received a call for some scrap that sparked my interest in some of the early history of Platinum. The call was about some very old bronze bars from a shipwreck, and since they were from the 1600’s might contain platinum.

Platinum was really an unknown metal as far as refining and uses up until the 1800’s, over 300 years after it was first discovered in mexico by the Spaniards who were gold mining. The Spanish named it Platina, meaning little silver. Platinum originally was believed to be immature gold, since it shared many of the same physical qualities, but was considered a nuisance metal for a long period of time. Because platinum was not of value, but was very close in density to Gold and was also nonreactive to reagents, it was primarily used as counterfeit when gold coins were used. Platinum coins would be produced and then plated with gold, and this lead to the early banning of the use of Platinum.

In 1874 Emil Wohlwill created a process to effectively separate Platinum, gold, and silver from each other. This process produced the first pure platinum and the rise of industrial uses stems from there. Before the discovery of this process, Platinum was contained in varying amounts in gold, copper, and silver products because it was unable to be removed effectively. The Wohlwill process is still in use today in an large industrial scale, and while it is extremely expensive to set up and run, it is extremely effective.

While your average copper/bronze/ect. scrap is probably just that, it is interesting to me that Platinum at one time was not of value, and even went so far as to try and disguise it as other metals.