Presidential Address: Platinum Perspectives - Introduction
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Jan 1, 2000
Platinum metal was first utilized by the Inca civilization in South America where it was found in alluvial deposits along the San Juan and Atrato rivers that lie between the Andean mountain range in Colombia and the Pacific Ocean. The nuggets found in these rivers average between 77% and 86%platinum, 7%?8% iron and small amounts of copper, gold and other Platinum Group Metals (PGMs). The Incas often alloyed platinum with copper to increase its workability and fabricated various ornaments from it. With the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1700s, platinum was labelled a nuisance for the Spanish in their quest for alluvial gold because it concentrated with the gold and had to be removed by either extended amalgamation or by hand sorting. It was at this time that platinum received the root of its current name for the Spanish referred to it as platina del Pinto, platina being the somewhat derogatory diminutive of plata (silver). Pinto was a river in Colombia where the Spanish first distinguished it. The English eventually adopted ?platina? and it is only in recent times that the Latin name platinum has been accepted as the metal?s common English name. From its first introduction to European scientists in 1740, platinum was unappreciated because of its brittle nature and difficulty of working and as a result had little commercial value. Its ability to be dissolved in gold did lead to some counterfeiting of gold bullion and even to the debasement of gold currency.