Science, Tech, Math › Science A List of Precious Metals Here is what makes them valuable Share Flipboard Email Print Mr.nutnuchit Phutsawagung / EyeEm / Getty Images Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated July 02, 2019 Some metals are considered precious. The four primary precious metals are gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Following is a look at what makes a metal precious compared with other metals, plus a list of precious metals. What Makes a Metal Precious? Precious metals are elemental metals that have high economic value. In some cases, the metals have been used as currency. In other cases, the metal is precious because it is valued for other uses and is rare. The most widely known precious metals are corrosion-resistant metals that are used in jewelry, currency, and investments. These metals include: 01 of 10 Gold Alchemist-hp (talk) www.pse-mendelejew.de/Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA-3.0 Gold is the easiest precious metal to recognize because of its unique yellow color. Gold is popular because of its color, malleability, and conductivity. Uses: Jewelry, electronics, radiation shielding, thermal insulation Major Sources: South Africa, United States, China, Australia 02 of 10 Silver Alchemist-hp (talk) (www.pse-mendelejew.de)/Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA-3.0 Silver is a popular precious metal for jewelry, but its value extends well beyond beauty. It has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all the elements and has the lowest contact resistance. Uses: Jewelry, coins, batteries, electronics, dentistry, antimicrobial agents, photography Major Sources: Peru, Mexico, Chile, China 03 of 10 Platinum: The Most Precious? Harry Taylor/Getty Images Platinum is a dense, malleable metal with exceptional corrosion resistance. It is nearly 15 times rarer than gold yet widely used. This combination of rarity and functionality might make platinum the most precious of the precious metals. Uses: Catalysts, jewelry, weaponry, dentistry Major Sources: South Africa, Canada, Russia 04 of 10 Palladium Jurii/Wikimedia Commons/CC-3.0 Palladium is similar to platinum in its properties. Like platinum, this element can absorb an enormous quantity of hydrogen. It is a rare, malleable metal, able to maintain stability at high temperatures. Uses: "White gold" jewelry, catalytic converters in automobiles, electrode plating in electronics Major Sources: Russia, Canada, United States, South Africa 05 of 10 Ruthenium Periodictableru/Wikimedia Commons/CC-3.0 Ruthenium is one of the platinum group metals, or PGMs. All metals of this element family are considered precious metals because they are typically found together in nature and share similar properties. Uses: Increasing hardness in alloys and coating electrical contacts to improve durability and corrosion resistance Major Sources: Russia, North America, South America 06 of 10 Rhodium Purpy Pupple (talk)/Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA-3.0 Rhodium is a rare, highly reflective, silvery metal. It exhibits high corrosion resistance and has a high melting point. Uses: Reflectivity, including jewelry, mirrors, and other reflectors, and automotive uses Major Sources: South Africa, Canada, Russia 07 of 10 Iridium Hi-Res Images of Chemical Elements/Wikimedia Commons/CC-3.0 Iridium is one of the densest metals. It also has one of the highest melting points and is the most corrosion-resistant element. Uses: Pen nibs, watches, jewelry, compasses, electronics, medicine, automotive industry Major Source: South Africa 08 of 10 Osmium Ryoji Tanaka / Getty Images Osmium basically is tied with iridium as the element with the highest density. This bluish metal is extremely hard and brittle, with a high melting point. While it's too heavy and brittle to use in jewelry and gives off an unpleasant odor, the metal is a desirable addition when making alloys. Uses: Pen nibs, electrical contacts, hardening platinum alloys Major Sources: Russia, North America, South America 09 of 10 Other Precious Metals MarcelC / Getty Images Other elements are sometimes considered to be precious metals. Rhenium is commonly included on the list. Some sources consider indium to be a precious metal. Alloys made using precious metals are themselves precious. A good example is electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold. 10 of 10 What About Copper? Noodle snacks/Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain Copper sometimes is listed as a precious metal because it is used in currency and jewelry, but copper is plentiful and readily oxidizes in moist air, so it is not particularly common to see it considered "precious."